In the fields near Yuen Long, dressed in an impeccable cashmere jacket, trudging through the mud at our photo shoot, Alexa Bui doesn’t seem perturbed by the demanding and unfamiliar environs. Setting up station on the back of a hired van, she pulls out the tools of her trade and sets up shop; make-up brushes, kits and designer paraphernalia come rolling out. She’s got a new hair-do, and by the time these words appears in print it could be entirely different. But when you’re in the business of air kisses and make-up, change (and passion for the job) is the only constant.
“I’ve always loved make-up,” Bui says, glancing over her tableau. “One of my earliest memories of make-up was watching my grandmother apply it every morning after breakfast. She still wears a full face to leave the house now – at age 91.”
As with many in the profession, her career in the fine art of make-believe (smokey eyes and mirrors all the way) just happened. “I graduated with a major in history and minors in East Asian studies and sociology,” she says. “Nothing I studied prepared me for a career as a make-up artist.” A hobby morphed into a profession. “My mother always found me in her closet in her evening gowns, high heels and her make-up. Those are still my favourites when the occasion allows it.”
Inspiration now comes from industry big-wigs. “Kevyn Aucoin was a pioneer in the field. When I became a make-up artist, two of the first things I bought were his books, Making Faces and Face Forward. I still refer to them today. Pat McGrath is an absolute legend and I love that she changed the make-up game. One of my dreams is to work for her for a season. Heck, I’d do it for free! I adore Lisa Eldridge’s YouTube videos.”
One question she asks anyone in her chair: “‘How do you feel?’ Because I strongly believe that to get those amazing shots, you must feel confident and good about yourself. I love that I play a major part in that and that’s why, after 12 years, a marriage and two kids, I’m still doing what I do.”
SEE MORE: Summer Make-up Tips from Alexa Bui