THIS TIME WITH ZING
IF ZING hasn't created a signature look when it comes to fashion, perhaps he does adhere to one: tall, slim, his ears studded with mini-marble size diamonds, large-framed glasses and a Chanel jacket. 'I love to wear Chanel,' he says. His private studio is littered with Chanel bags choking with other designer embroidered jackets. 'They fit my frame. I don't wear make-up ever, I really don't care for it on my skin, but I do love Chanel.'
His make-up school is in the heart of Central, long corridors festooned with frames of the famed and the fortuned, coated with distinctive make-up styles that vary from the exotic to the quixotic - yet each unmistakably gorgeous. Zing, 41, the one-named man and brand has been touching-up the faces of Asia's most beautiful women - and men - for the past two decades, their visages providing a remarkable canvas for his creative bent.
'Like all faces, the beautiful ones I can enhance, the plain ones provide a blank canvas,' he says. 'I have no preference between a celebrity or a model. With models, I choose the subject as they have faces of a certain proportion, symmetrical faces I can work with to create whatever's on my mind. When it comes to singers or actresses, they choose me; they ring me to do their make-up and I get to work with them to enhance their looks. Working with singers is interesting as you have to enhance the persona, keeping in mind their image.'
When he started in the 1980s, Zing was not following in the footsteps of any particular role model. 'I had no idea why I wanted to get into make-up. I knew nothing about it,' he says. 'I just knew I had to do it. I learnt through trial and error. There was no one to train me, no school to educate me.'
Zing says he would go to discos and clubs and ask models and other beautiful girls if he could do their make-up. 'They all said yes; there were no divas back then,' he says. 'We'd do test shoots, and the models would introduce me to photographers. One thing led to another and I'd keep on working.'
Although Zing came to Hong Kong from Singapore in 1989, there was another connection with the island that elevated him from the flock, a project he distinctly remembers. 'There was a quarterly, high-end magazine in Singapore that every model wanted to be in, every photographer wanted to shoot for,' he recollects. 'They flew in the gorgeous Janet Ma from Hong Kong. She was the 'it' girl on the scene. That shoot got me noticed.
'In Hong Kong, people do the work for the money. In Singapore, the pay wasn't great, but the credit was. Your name in print meant something - like it does in Paris or London. I always tell aspiring make-up artists to do their job, put blinders on and focus purely on the work; the money and fame would follow.'
Zing refuses pinpoint a favourite face from his vast list of high-profile artists he's worked with, such as Carina Lau, Faye Wong, Kelly Chen, Sammi Cheng, Shu Qi and Zhang Ziyi (not to forget French actress Sophie Marceau, business tycoon Pansy Ho or Hong Kong socialite Claudia Shaw). 'I've enjoyed working with every one. The only time I've thrown down my brushes and walked away is when someone won't sit still, is busy talking on the phone, or chatting with others around, when I'm trying to do the work. But with age I've mellowed; I used to be much more prima donna,' he confesses with a toothy grin.
And, of course, there are the men he's worked with. He mentions that there are actors and male singers who feel that they can get anyone to do their stage make-up and don't want to pay extra for a good make-up artist. 'They always looked caked-up and over-powdered. You can see that their cheeks are one colour, neck a different colour and hands a different colour! They don't understand the value of a good make-up artist who can make them look like they have no make-up on. 'Nude' make-up is an art.'
Like seasons of fashion, there are trends in make-up that come and go. 'I foresee a lot of metallic this year,' says Zing. 'Bronze, gold, silver or gun-metal shades. In the '70s and '80s, the times influenced make-up and psychedelic colours were all the rage. When the health and gym rage started, people wanted to look in the pink of health, so the make-up was more natural and nude.'
Zing says that everything can influence the look he creates for a person, whether it's the outfit they're wearing, their hairstyle, the season, or the event they're going to. 'Everything informs the work I do.'
A comprehensive collection of the looks Zing has created can be seen in the book that was released last November, The Most Beautiful Women in Hong Kong Wear Zing, in which a bevy of Asian beauties made their presence felt. 'The main reason I came to Hong Kong - and didn't go to Paris or Japan - was that I wanted to engender a culture of recognising Asian beauty. I wanted to work here with Asian faces. I'm not overawed by Western celebrities and their Hollywood glamour,' he says. 'When people say, 'I want an Audrey Hepburn look' or a 'Marilyn Monroe look', you understand that vocabulary and immediately have a reference point. Similarly, when I say, a 'Sammy Cheng look' or a 'Faye Wong look', I want people to get it instantly.'
An adage says one learns more from one's mistakes than one's successes. Zing nods emphatically. 'I made a mistake. I learnt from it. I used to do faces with what I considered a lip or an eye should look like. Finally, I learnt to step back, look at each individual and recognise what works and doesn't work for that face. Sometimes a disproportioned lip works - they shouldn't all be perfect 'M' shapes. Perhaps the eye should look a little less dramatic, because it suits their personality. There is no one mould of what beauty is,' he says.
'I can see people are being creative for the sake of being creative and really, making the person look bizarre. The essence of make-up to me is to make someone look beautiful with touches of creativity. Return to beauty.'