Makeup is a global business, and few artists demonstrate that as eloquently as Fashion Makeup Artist Jerry Kuo. Jerry’s Makeup adventure has taken him from his home in Taiwan to Vancouver (to study Global Makeup at Blanche Macdonald, naturally), to New York Fashion Week and back to Asia where his work has featured in the Chinese editions of international titles including Vogue, Elle, FHM, GQ and Harper’s Bazaar. It turns out that determination and a willingness to follow your dreams can take you a long way. Literally.
“Growing up I originally wanted to be a fashion designer,” recalls Jerry, “but every time I would walk past MAC counters in department stores, I would always find myself fascinated by those beautiful makeup products and brushes. One day I watched the Taiwanese movie ‘Touch of the Light’ about a pianist and dancer chasing their dreams. That totally inspired me to do something I really want to.
“After I finished my military service, I got a good job as a buyer at a trading company. After about a year and a half, I knew the job was too comfortable and cosy for me. I could see what life would be like if I was still doing this at 50. That’s when I told my family that I wanted to go abroad to study something important to me.”
Determined to make Makeup his career, Jerry studied English before approaching a school in Sydney, Australia. He had one foot Down Under before complications with his application shut down his plans to head south. Every cloud has a silver lining however, and this particular disappointment allowed Jerry to reset his sights on Western Canada.
“I had a friend who lived in Vancouver. I asked him what he knew about Blanche Macdonald. He told me that the school is famous which prompted me to contact Zoe Cheng, who I knew had won the Prosthetics competition at the Vancouver IMATS. She told me that if I wanted to learn fashion makeup I should go to Blanche Macdonald.”
Blanche Macdonald subverted my imagination and ideas. Timothy Hung showed us a demo that totally broke my thinking about makeup. Makeup shouldn’t be limited.
Jerry’s second attempt at enrolling at an international Makeup School went smoothly, and one flight later he was nervously sitting in Lesley Opheim’s Makeup Fundamentals class.
“Back then my English wasn’t so good. I was afraid that I wouldn’t understand, but Lesley was like a mother to us. I remember her getting us to clean our brushes before class and how she would check them every day. She taught us how to set up our stations and keep everything hygienic. Once I started working in the industry I realized how important details like these are.”
As the weeks flew past, Jerry’s creative and career paths expanded before his eyes.
“I’m a naturally conservative person. Blanche Macdonald subverted my imagination and ideas. Timothy Hung showed us a demo that totally broke my thinking about makeup. Makeup shouldn’t be limited. The way you’re layering, shading and texturing can all create hugely different effects.
“We were lucky enough to have Jenna Kuchera as our fashion instructor. She rocks with her amazing skills and ideas. Jenna invited me to be her assistant on a Marianas Trench video and at the Backstage with Pat McGrath competition, which she won!”
Inspired by his instructors, Jerry also made a special connection with one fellow student, future makeup superstar, Mimi Choi.
“Mimi is like my sister. We’re very similar. We both left our original careers and jumped into studying makeup. She’s a very positive person, and has often encouraged me not to compare myself with anyone. It’s more important to find out my own way and own style. I’m not surprised that she’s so successful now. She’s worked so hard. She totally deserves her success. Even though she’s so busy now, she still cares about me and is always sending me messages. I have to admit that I really miss those days after class when we’d go to the beach, relax and discuss makeup.”
Jerry’s immersion into makeup in and out of the classroom led him to volunteer opportunities, including backstage work at Miss World Canada and multiple shows and shoots during Vancouver Fashion Week.
“I was able to work with some of my favourite photographers and, most importantly, learned the importance of communicating with a team.”
All the lessons Jerry took from Blanche Macdonald have been employed on his dazzling career since graduation. He was brought onto the makeup team for Laurence and Chico’s show at New York Fashion Week 2016, and with high profile shoots in Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, GQ, FHM and an ever-growing list of underground fashion magazines, Jerry is rapidly on his way to becoming one of China’s new makeup stars.
“My most memorable memory would probably be when we shot Vogue magazine. Because it’s VOGUE! I admit that I screamed the moment I got booking from the editor.
Makeup should be fun, so open your heart and forget the rules! Have confidence in yourself. Don't be afraid to fail. It’s more important to try.
“I remember every single shoot deeply. They’re all a part of my experiences. I really like what I am doing now. Even though it’s a dream come true after each published photo I’m still looking and thinking about where I can improve or how I could make it better next time. Of course I have my own sense for beauty but I think a lot of my success is because I have a good personality and can communicate. A good idea is always welcome but it’s even better to have good communication with the team so you can find a balanced way to show those ideas and make your clients happy.”
Makeup skills and communication go hand in hand with the underrated art of preparation, especially when working with editors, models and photographers for the first time.
“When I get booked the first thing I do is check the details on the editors’ callsheets. Sometimes there’ll be a request to provide makeup reference photos. In that case I’ll research and take a look what on trend. I’ll talk to the editors and look of the models’ cards to give me ideas. I’ll check the photographer’s shooting styles, the lighting effects they use and whether we’ll be shooting indoors or outside. Makeup products can look very different under different lighting conditions. You will never want to open your makeup case and realize you don’t have something you need when everyone is waiting and watching you. It’s hard to have information about every single detail, especially when you’re working with someone new, but the more you’re prepared the more comfortable the entire experience will be.”
The makeup journey that continues to take Jerry around the world has only just begun but he’s still happy to share the wisdom that’s taken him so far so quickly.
“Makeup should be fun, so open your heart and forget the rules! Have confidence in yourself. Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s more important to try. Just paint, even if you’re using your fingers!”