@Meicrosoft not the rolling fields of green desktop screen and the shrill start-up noise of Windows XP kind but the self-confessed over-sharing internet kid and make-up artist known as Mei Pang a name youll definitely recognise from your FYP if youre a TikTok fanatic. In just over two months, the Canadian star has amassed an audience of over 700k followers on the platform, documenting her eccentric and ethereal make-up looks from butterflies to barbed wire.
Launching my TikTok felt like the next organic step for me, she explains, following on from the success of make-up on Instagram and YouTube. I was so scared starting my TikTok because I know its a younger demographic, I know there are so many eyes, that when I stepped into the game so late, and looking like this, I didnt know how well received I would be.
Revered for her 80+ tattoos each of them symmetrical and her shaved head, Pang is using her image to overcome the restrictive structures she felt growing up. I lived in a primarily Caucasian town outside of Toronto, and I was one of the only Asian kids in my high school. I know a lot of people get bullied in school, but for me, it was very racially charged I always say Im too Asian for the white kids and too white for the Asian kids. Im this weird mix because my family didnt teach me Mandarin or anything about my culture because they wanted me to be as Western as possible, she tells us.
From sharing her yoga practices, her intricate portraits to her virally acclaimed cat Latte, Mei Pang talks on her journey to becoming a make-up artist and the virtual beauty world.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what it was like growing up in Canada?
Mei Pang: I grew up in a very hyper-religious all-girls private school and figuring out my identity in such a structured environment, I felt like I had no choice but to rebel. I was always getting into trouble, but beyond that, I never really had the time to figure out who I was and that made me angry on the inside. So I left home when I was 14/15, I bounced around a lot and after graduating high school, I got accepted into art school in Toronto and Ive now been here for six years.
What was your time like as an art student? Was it during this time that you got into make-up?
Mei Pang: I didnt finish Im your classic art school dropout. I went to school for drawing and painting with a minor in screen printing, but thats pretty much all I got out of it. Going to art school made me realise it wasnt my lifelong dream, more of a creative release, and I think art school itself killed my motivation because of the structure. I felt those restrictions again like I did in school and so when I left, I still wanted to pick up a brush. But this time, rather a brush on a canvas, it was a brush on your face.
I still wanted to pick up a brush. But this time, rather a brush on a canvas, it was a brush on your face Mei Pang
Can you remember when you first started using make-up? Whats your earliest beauty related memory?
Mei Pang: It was definitely through the internet; through MySpace, DailyBooth, Tumblr. The internet made me realise that theres more to make-up than just simple eyeliner and pink lipstick. I was your typical MySpace scene kid. I was such an emo, with the black eyeliner and every single colour of hair. Im one of the lucky ones who first experienced the rise of make-up on YouTube with people like Michelle Phan and RCL Beauty 101. Then I got my first make-up retail job maybe five years ago and I was a stock girl so I wasnt even on the floor. I was seeing all of my co-workers glammed up in these beautiful looks, when I didnt have that much experience. I was so inspired by them I started to come to work with more fun looks and then rose through the ranks, got on the floor and its all been uphill from here.
Where do you find the inspiration for your looks?
Mei Pang: Definitely from my friends on the internet world. We push each other. Also, most of my inspiration comes from fashion. I take so much from graphics and prints, especially animal print or retro looks from a couch that Ive seen on the side of the street and I think to myself, I can probably put that on my eyes; it gives me the most chance to play with colour.
Youre recognised on TikTok for your make-up but also your tattoos. Is there a message behind them?
Mei Pang: The quick run-down about all my tattoos is that theyre symmetrical. What you see on one side, you see on the other. When I got my second tattoo, I walked out of the shop and I felt a bit lopsided and heavier on one side and the biggest thing I try to tell people about getting them is that I have a strong belief that not all tattoos need to have meaning.
You talk candidly across your platforms and share your life from your yoga practices to your cat Latte. How has it helped you grow creatively and how does it feel sharing your life through the internet?
Mei Pang: The reason why I didnt start my TikTok for the longest time is because when I opened up the app, maybe over a year ago, I saw the platform itself and the editing features and thought Im too old for this, I don't understand what Im looking at. And I see all these people do like these amazing, amazing things with the videos because for me, my bread and butter is my Instagram and thats just still photos, then YouTube its long-form content of me talking. So Im like, let's challenge this whole 60-second thing. I think its helped me grow up a lot, just trying new things with transitions and now my music taste! I probably get all my new songs on TikTok. I've definitely grown in that aspect of just being able to now try new short-form videos.
Do you find it hard to switch off?
Mei Pang: As a Virgo woman with an Aquarius moon? Absolutely.
What advice would you give to somebody who wants to hone their skills as a creative/MUA?
Mei Pang: I probably say this maybe once every couple days to myself and its from my Dad. He always told me: try everything once. If it sticks, it sticks. If it doesnt, at least you tried. And thats essentially my whole mantra, thats why I shaved off my hair, why Ive gotten all these tattoos, and Ive worn some pretty questionable things. If I try and dont like it, at least I know. My advice to MUAs would be not to get discouraged. Ive seen a lot of my friends trying to grow online and its just not happening. When I started my Instagram, I got one follower a day or then lost a bunch and then one day it just changed. Its just learning to be patient. Try everything once, go out of your comfort zone and just experiment with different makeup styles.
How do you think the beauty industry has been impacted by TikTok and social media?
Mei Pang: Its insane. One person can say one thing about this one product and next thing you know its sold out instantly. I feel like the beauty industry has also grown in that if we didnt have social media, Im not sure wed have the diversity. Whereas before it, even going into drugstores and looking for your foundation shade would be so difficult. Whereas with social media, theres so many different faces and voices; its expanding and giving so many opportunities for so many. What I hope for during this time that people are stuck at home is that while theyre baking bread and making pottery, I hope that a lot of people have started playing with makeup and having fun. I hope to see new faces on my Discover page.
Try everything once, go out of your comfort zone and just experiment with different makeup styles Mei Pang
If you could collaborate with anyone dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Mei Pang: Definitely be Leigh Bowery, the icon of the Club Kid era. Theres one look where Bowery had acrylic paint just dripping from their head down and I thought it was the sickest thing Ive ever seen in my entire life.
What does beauty mean to you?
Mei Pang: The concept of beauty to me is whatever makes people feel comfortable and cosy. I dress quite subtly but this is just how I feel beautiful its having no hair and having a bunch of tattoos that makes me truly feel like myself and at peace.
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