Meet the Chinese make-up artist who became Mona Lisa - and an overnight Tik Tok sensation
Vlogger He Yuhong explains how she’s been wowing internet users around the world with her stunning facial transformations
A Chinese woman with a passion for make-up is creating a buzz online with a series of videos in which she transforms herself into famous characters from the worlds of music, film and even fine art.
Former teacher He Yuhong, from the southwestern megacity of Chongqing, has been showing off her styling skills online for over a year, but it was only last month that she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time vlogger, using the pseudonym Yuya Mika.
And although the 27-year-old has yet to reap any financial rewards for her efforts, she is rapidly building up an army of devoted fans.
One of He’s most ambitious projects can be seen in a video she uploaded to Tik Tok and YouTube earlier this month in which she transforms herself into the enigmatic subject of arguably the world’s most famous painting, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
While the video runs for only about 25 seconds on Tik Tok, He said the actual process of making up her face took almost six hours. She said she was so tired afterwards that she went straight to bed. Her only thought was whether people might be offended at what she had done.
“I wasn’t sure how internet users would feel about me trying to copy such a famous and beloved painting onto my face,” she said. “I prepared myself for criticism.”
She need not have worried. When she checked her Tik Tok account the following morning, she was stunned to find that tens of thousands of people had given her the thumbs up. To date, the post has received more than 900,000 likes and over 26,000 comments via the app – the number of views cannot be seen by the public – and been seen almost 320,000 times on YouTube.
“I was stunned by how many views it got. It said millions of people had seen my video so I thought something must have gone wrong, so I deleted the app and reinstalled it,” she said.
But when she looked again, the huge numbers were still there.
“I was so relieved. I nervously checked the hundreds of thousands of likes and comments, and found them very supportive,” she said.
One enamoured fan wrote: “Hurry and go before you are spotted, or a museum might hang you on the wall.”
Another said: “I thought I had seen enough of make-up artists on Tik Tok, but I am truly amazed.”
Before tackling Mona Lisa, He had concentrated mostly on trying to recreate the looks of more contemporary figures, such as Oscar-winning actresses Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton, pop stars Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez, and South Korean actress Jun Ji-hyun.
However, after receiving such a positive response to her Mona Lisa lookalike, she decided to try once more to replicate the Renaissance look and turned her attention to the subject of Lady with an Ermine, another of Da Vinci’s great works, painted about 1490.
Despite the omission of the titular stoat, He’s resemblance to the Italian artist’s image of Cecilia Gallerani is uncanny and, not surprisingly, received plenty of positive comments.
“You should work at a film studio,” one person wrote on YouTube.
“This is amazing!! Please, can you try … Marilyn Monroe?”
Coincidentally, He has already recreated the late American actress, who starred in such hit films as Some Like It Hot and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
As a Chinese woman, He said that when working on a Western face, she had to pay special attention to creating the appearance of deeper eye sockets, folded eyelids and a higher nose bridge.
“The most important facial feature is the eyes,” she said. “It’s key to whether the copy is successful or not.
Perhaps surprisingly, He said that one of the most challenging transformations she had ever tackled was recreating the look of the late Taiwanese singer Teresa Teng, of whom her mother was a huge fan.
The problem was that Teng did not wear a lot of make-up or have a particularly strong look, so becoming her mum’s idol was not as straightforward as it might have been, she said.
“There is only a little room to work in when the subject puts on only light or even no make-up,” she said.
“Also, Teresa Teng was from decades ago, when people’s expressions and gestures were different from now. Before starting the job, I spent quite some time researching the way she looked.”
Needless to say, her mother was delighted with the result, saying her daughter’s version of Teng “looked just like her”.
Despite having yet to make any money from her work, He said that for the time being at least she was happy to survive on compliments and positive feedback.
“A lot of traffic but no income so far,” she said. “But, I’m content to be the vlogger who shares make-up tips … for now.”