Interview by John Legaspi
“I love the sun,” says New York-based makeup artist Nam Vo. “Celebrating all kinds of beauty, that’s something we need to do.” Bright and cheery, the famed makeup artist’s spirit of sunshine radiates from the faces she paints.
Raised by her immigrant Vietnamese parents in San Francisco, Nam may not be that close to Kim in Miss Saigon. When she moved to New York City, however, she learned how to work for her goals and bring to reality the movie in her mind.
Famous for her #dewydumplings posts on Instagram, she upped her beauty game by adding a dose of sheen to the faces of famous models and actresses, from beauty influencers Kylie Jenner and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley to Hollywood darlings Chrissy Teigan and Paris Hilton.
With her knack for cosmetics and diversity in mind, Nam was tapped by local fashion brand Bench as it officially launched its cosmetics arm, Bench Beauty.
Dubbed as the “queen of glow job,” the beauty maven sits down with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle as she ponders on her journey to her dream career, from piling up heavy lashes for the hustlers of New York to being a social media sensation in the beauty industry.
How did your interest in makeup start?
As a child, I was never good at school subjects like Math and English. What I liked was to put makeup on the kids in the neighborhood. I was always fascinated by the power of beauty. It’s pretty much all about that my whole life.
Which style icons do you look up to?
I think one of my first style icons growing up was Jennifer Lopez. I remember her first music video. I looked at her makeup and I was like, “Oh my god! There’s light coming out of her skin!” She was glowing. It was something I had never seen before.
You’ve been all over the world. Who is the most memorable client you’ve worked with?
They’re all memorable to me. I can’t choose who the most memorable one is. But you know what’s funny is that I started out doing makeup at a strip club, for strippers. Yes, that was my New York life struggle story. I didn’t have a good paying job, and nobody would hire me when I was starting out. I was living a “starving artist” thing in New York by doing makeup on exotic dancers. Because of that, I learned how to work really fast. I learned how to work with demanding people. I learned how to do a makeup project on stage in a certain way. Strippers are celebrities in their own right. For them it’s all about lashes, lashes, lashes—a lot more, and heavier.
Do you they think it’s vain for women to wear makeup all the time?
No, I think that makeup is so much fun, and it gives you that power to get into different characters. It’s like a veil of confidence, in a way. Not to say that women have to wear makeup all the time. I don’t put makeup on a day-today basis. But it’s almost meditative in a way. It’s my moment when I take 15 minutes to put on makeup. It makes me feel like a queen.
What advice would you give Asian girls?
One, don’t stress. Stress causes breakouts to the hair, body, skin, and everything. Use SPF every day. Next is cleansing. Be mindful of what you’re putting on your face and find out a little bit more about ingredients. Every skin is so different, though. Someone’s skin might react to one thing while other’s skin won’t. I think that skincare should start really at an early age.
I think that makeup is so much fun, and it gives you the power to get into different characters. It’s like a veil of confidence, in a way. It’s almost meditative. It’s my moment when I take 15 minutes to put on makeup. It makes me feel like a queen.
How’s it working with Bench Beauty?
It’s been great. I love the brand. I didn’t realize how affordable it is. It really has beautiful quality and beautiful pigmentation.
What makes Bench Beauty products different from other cosmetics products you’ve used before?
I think that Bench Beauty is well-rounded as well as wearable. I think that the brand really considered the Filipino/ Asian skin tone in developing the line. All the colors are just very easy-to-use and not too trend-driven. It’s just really pretty makeup that can complement the best aspects of a user’s face.
What’s a must-have beauty item for the holiday?
Highlighter. Everybody should pop their highlighter right now because it’s the holiday. Put on the sparkle, the shimmer, and the shine.
What would you advise someone who wants to make it big in the beauty industry?
I have some thoughts on this. As you know, social media is taking over the world. It is a wonderful platform. You could be a girl of 12 living in the country. If you have the internet, however, you can make content reach people continents away.
I think that the only way you’ll succeed and really connect is by being authentic. You have to keep in mind that your content is you. Like, why do you use this foundation? Why do you shop at this particular store? Why do you take these vitamins? Why is this lipstick your favorite? That’s what you have to share because that’s you, your brand identity. It’s almost like you have to curate the content of your own magazine.
What is the main ingredient of a great look?
I think that really beautiful makeup starts with beautiful skin. No matter where you go in the world, beautiful, healthy, radiant skin is not a trend. It’s the base, the most beautiful canvas for makeup. I always go for skin first.
#BeautyEveryDay | #BenchBeautyxNamVo | Instagram: @bench.beauty