Celebrity Makeup Artist Hyewon Ahn: “I advise people to be more confident and less self conscious; We are all different and our differences are what make us all unique”

If I could, I would advise people to be more confident and less self conscious and self critical. We are all different and we all possess different qualities. Our differences are what make us all unique… I had the pleasure to interview celebrity makeup artist Hyewon Ahn, founder Studio Ahn. With over 17 years professional experience […]

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If I could, I would advise people to be more confident and less self conscious and self critical. We are all different and we all possess different qualities. Our differences are what make us all unique…

I had the pleasure to interview celebrity makeup artist Hyewon Ahn, founder Studio Ahn. With over 17 years professional experience in the TV, film, fashion, photography and theatre, Hyewon, who recently moved to Los Angeles from the UK, is a leading figure in international beauty for her work in make-up, body painting, wig design and special effects. Career highlights include her work being presented to the President of Korea on television by the country’s leading make-up artist association, spending eight years at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from the London College of Fashion and being invited to teach and lead Master Classes around the globe. Hyewon has worked on such feature films as “Harry Potter,” and on the popular BBC series “Dr Who.” She has firsthand experience working at some of the most prestigious theatres in London’s West End and at the world renowned Madam Tussauds. Hyewon began her make-up career in 2001 with the KBS Broadcast Network and at the Opera House in South Korea. After moving to the UK to study at the London College of Fashion, she graduated with a degree in costume, technical effects & make-up for the performing arts. She was a finalist in the 2007 BBC Vision Design Competition for Make-up, and in 2012, became the World Champion at the International Body Painting Festival in Asia. Since then, she has been engaged to teach body painting, special effects, theatrical and air brushing make-up at Suwon University, SBS Broadcast Academy and the Korean Make-up Artist Association, as well as at the London College of Fashion, Ealing Studios and the Delamar Academy in London. A passionate and dedicated professional, Hyewon has maintained a high editorial profile working with clients that include Madame Tussauds, Ealing Studios, BBC, ITV, Channel Five Productions, Warner Bros, Momentum Pictures, Samsung, Tatler, Vogue, The Guardian, Ray-Ban, Christian Dior, Alexander McQueen, Alice Temperley, Michael Clark and Vivienne Westwood.

Thank you so much for joining us Hyewon. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I was born in Seoul, South Korea, and lived with my family up until the age of 15, and then my love for traveling began. My father is very artistic and also has great creative abilities, and thankfully that was passed on to me. From a very young age, I was fascinated with make-up and I used to play at my grandmother’s makeup station for hours trying the products and attempting to glam myself up. I’m guessing this had big influence on my future and career choice.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

Initially, I started my creative work painting pictures which I really enjoyed. I worked mainly with canvas and then I started to win competitions and awards for my work. The next stage in my career was working as a nail technician, my first real paying job, and from there I started to work on theatre and TV makeup in Seoul. I then wanted to study more, so I moved to London to study makeup, costuming and technical effects. After my studies, I stayed in London and worked in theatre and television doing makeup and special effects for the performing arts. Finally, I began to assist the number one body painter in Europe and from there, I continued on my solo career, leading me to where I am today.

Hyewon Ahn with Alicia Vikander

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

One of the most interesting moments so far was halfway through body painting a model, I left him for a few minutes. When I returned, he was being intimate with his co star. It was a little awkward to say the least!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Early on in my career, I accidentally gave an actor the wrong wig for an entire week. Nobody noticed, but I was very embarrassed when I realized!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Currently, I’m building my own personal brand and have plenty of new exciting opportunities on the horizon that I plan to announce soon.

I’m very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

Being from a different country and culture, I embrace ethnic and cultural diversity. The United States’ population is extremely diverse and I think this needs to be represented in all aspects of the entertainment industry and the arts.

From your personal experience, can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do help address some of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?

I believe cultural diversity is important in the entertainment industry because the U.S. is a very multicultural country. Also, it helps to break down cultural barriers and create multicultural cohesion, as well as allows others know that the industry accepts and embraces all walks of life in our culture and elsewhere in the world.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why.

  • Practice and perfect your skills.
  • Keep up to date with trends and products in your field and related fields.
  • Have a positive attitude in your work and towards your clients. Bring your best game.
  • Get a formal education. You need this for depth of knowledge and the skills to be top in your field.
  • Network as much as you can to promote your brand and get the word out.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Have realistic goals and expectations and be aware that this is a long-term career and can take years to achieve recognition.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could, I would advise people to be more confident and less self conscious and self critical. We are all different and we all possess different qualities. Our differences are what make us all unique, and I appreciate this fact.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Assisting Caroline Kwan in London most definitely was a massive inspiration to me and gave my career a huge jump forward, and I am grateful to have worked with her.

Hyewon and Paul Sorvino, Photo by Piero F Giunti

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My life lesson is that hard work pays off and you just need to keep trying. Life has its “ups and downs,” but staying true to your ultimate goal is really important.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to have dinner with the famous designer, the late Alexander McQueen. I knew him and worked with him, but would love to sit down for dinner with one more time. He was a true creative genius.

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