Trading faces

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 December, 2011, 12:00am


Hong Kong's preeminent make-up artist may be known for pushing the boundaries of creative expression but when it comes to Christmas, he is all for following tradition.

'I distinctly remember the stockings at the end of the bed with the presents in them,' says Zing, 41, of his childhood in Singapore. 'The extended family would gather around the piano and sing carols. None of us were Christians or Catholics but we would celebrate it very festively just as we would Chinese New Year.'

The singing and festivities didn't end there, though. Growing up, 'we were all very involved in all sorts of performing arts. So of course I was always backstage and around the make-up and things, and I was performing as well.'

Zing - 'it's a pet name from my classmates in junior college and it just stuck' - originally considered a career in set design having been inspired by the musical Cats and the idea of working with Andrew Lloyd Webber.

'I actually didn't know what a make-up artist was when I decided to be one,' he recalls. 'I just said to someone, I want to study set design and I also want to do make-up. They told me to pick just one. I decided to stay and be a make-up artist, not really realising what was involved.'

The young Zing started going to discos and approaching models, who would then introduce him to photographers and art directors. Test shoots led to magazine work and TV commercials and soon Zing had built a strong portfolio and decided to try his luck in Hong Kong, where he had always been fascinated by the entertainment scene.

Soon after his arrival in 1992, Zing was pioneering trends in the make-up industry. 'I saw the mould in Hong Kong and I wanted to break it. Not because I want to break stuff but because I just want to go with what I think is exciting,' he says. 'When I first came here and it was all this thick heavy make-up with contouring, and I wanted to do this really natural look. Then I thought the natural thing was getting boring and I wanted to do funky creative stuff.'

Working with MTV and a host of local celebrities, Zing made a name for himself with such creations as singer Faye Wong's 'teardrop' look for her first tour in 1995 and Sammi Cheng's 'Nike eyebrow,' also for her first tour. He has done countless magazine and album covers, as well as commercials and editorial shoots with everyone from Carina Lau to Zhang Ziyi.

Other projects include books (such as last year's The Most Beautiful Women in Hong Kong Wear Zing), columns in weekly magazines, shows and collaborations with major cosmetics brands, a line of make-up brushes and a make-up school in Causeway Bay. After more than 20 years in the business, Zing continues to thrive on bringing out the beauty of each individual face.

'I don't really think about where my ideas come from,' he admits. 'It really depends on the person. I have to start on you and once I do one step, I know what comes next. I would stop and really think what looks good for you.'

It's the same approach he advises women take when applying their own make-up. 'First of all, [you need] honesty when you look in the mirror - whether you look better with what you've added to your face,' he says. 'Technique-wise, if you're not sure, pile on whatever you want and when you're done take a piece of soft cotton and buff it in circular motions so you remove any excess. It's kind of a foolproof way of making sure everything is blended.'

To glam it up for party season, he adds: 'I think mascara is for everything, for glamour. If you want to have the least make-up on your face, you can keep everything else clean and just focus on your lashes. You can even use it as a liner, just knock it on your eyelid so it forms this little layer at the base of your lashes. It gives a good spark to the eye.'

Zing also loves gold, 'but only as a hint. If you have a purple, velvety eye shadow you can just a touch of gold at the corner of your eye.' And you can't go wrong with a one of the traditional Christmas colours. 'The colour red is my favourite,' he says. 'It's such a powerful colour, especially in glamorous situations.'

For his part, Zing will mark Christmas Eve on tour with Faye Wong in Xian before returning to Hong Kong on Christmas Day to celebrate with his mother, aunt and a few close friends at his new apartment.

'The decorating will be simple, just balls and lights. I like to have a tree for the smell more than anything else,' he says. 'That sweet sap is just wonderful.'

Having spent the better part of his career creating funky, eye-catching make-up looks, Zing is also looking to return to simplicity in his work. 'That's my mission, to bring back classic beauty. Can it be creative? Yes. But the beauty comes first.'