Celebrity MUA Olivia Song on Representation in Beauty Biz
Celebrity makeup artist Olivia Song is one of the most sought-after makeup artists of her generation. With over 11 years of professional experience, Song has secured a customer base of The Real Housewives of Atlanta reality TV star Porsha Williams to rappers Kash Doll and Asian Da Brat. While Song unfortunately had to pivot during the pandemic and was unable to serve her customers in person, she created the 7-figure beauty brand Super Natural Cosmetics to give her customers the power to feel beautiful in completely safe.
âI had seen makeup tours before, but never with different celebrity models. This was important for my students because they could choose which model they wanted to see me demonstrate on, in terms of certain skin tones they wanted to improve. It gave them options, âSong told For (bes) The Culture of his tour, featuring rapper Latto, who was selling platinum. As a half-African-American and Korean makeup artist, Song wanted to use her six-stop tour to demonstrate the nuances of representation in the beauty industry while training her students as professional artists. âThey were able to ask my models directly how they find glamor, what they look for in someone’s work and their expectations. Many of my students aspire to be celebrity makeup artists so putting them in the room with my models was a nice addition to the whole experience.
After her tour stop in Atlanta, For (bes) The Culture caught up with Song about the diversity in the beauty industry, how beauty has changed during the pandemic, and the importance of feeling like a woman. color makeup artist.
For (bes) Culture: As a half-black, half-Korean woman in the beauty industry, why was it so important for you to use your MUA skills to represent other women in the industry who may not feel right? views?
Olivia’s song: I was a woman who didn’t feel seen. It’s intimidating trying to navigate an industry where you don’t see a lot of women, especially women of color, at the top. Some of the most famous makeup artists and hairdressers are men. For this reason, I am very transparent about my journey as a single mother. I want to prove that you can be very successful in this industry no matter what your circumstances or what you look like.
For (bes) Culture: How important is diversity and inclusion in the beauty industry, and what should it look like?
Song: Minority consumers have enormous purchasing power and it goes without saying that brands must keep this in mind, making diversity and inclusion a priority and a reflection of their company’s values. I would like to see a more diverse product offering, branded partnerships with makeup artists and influencers from all walks of life, models from all walks of life, and a greater diversity of employees within each company.
For (bes) Culture: What do you think are the most difficult parts of being a color makeup artist?
Song: The biggest challenges are the lack of representation in big box makeup stores such as Ulta and Sephora, and the lack of representation in brand partnerships. I would love to see more black owned brands on the shelves and more diversity when it comes to makeup artists as the faces of these big brands.
For (bes) Culture: How do you think the beauty industry has changed during the pandemic?
Song: I saw a lot of virtual classes and a lot of people who wanted to learn how to do makeup themselves. It was important for cosmetics retail because it creates more customers. It was a huge fear for independent artists like me, thinking that there might never be big events again. The salons were forced to close and that left me trying to find ways to generate income without being behind the brush. As a result, I published a virtual course and launched a product line. I believe this forced all artists to think outside the box.
For (bes) Culture: When did you first know that the beauty industry was something you wanted to pursue, and when did you notice that the industry wasn’t exactly at the forefront for minorities?
Song: Make-up was my side job during my styling studies. During my third year of college, I realized how good I was at makeup and preferred it to styling. That was eight years ago, before the 40-shade foundation line became standard. You could just tell by looking at the shelf that the industry was not at the forefront for minorities.
It also seemed like the biggest makeup artists didn’t look like me. I didn’t have too many artists to find who I could personally relate to. I didn’t have any formal training and I didn’t live in a big city at the time. It seemed to me well engraved that I could reach the level of success that I have. I didn’t dream this big at the start of my career because of the lack of representation.
For (bes) Culture: When it comes to movements like #PullUpOrShutUp, how did it shake up this beauty industry by calling out different industries for their lack of representation in boardrooms?
Song: It was huge for the beauty industry. People found that the biggest cosmetics companies were not diversified when it came to their employees at the company level. This called on these companies to start hiring people of color because as clients we would like to know that we are represented in these rooms where decisions are made.