When meeting Zing, you can expect to be stung at least once or twice by the sharp-tongued celebrity makeup artist. And during our interview with the Singaporean-turned-Hongkie at the launch of Benefit Cosmetics‘ new eyeliner in Hong Kong, it came as no surprise.
“I don’t usually answer this question, but I’m going to humour you,” he sighed wistfully, a response to our opening question of what’s the favourite look he’s ever created.
“Do you remember the one with the four colors on the face?” he quizzed. “It was an ad for spring colors — a palette for a cosmetic brand — and the idea came to me literally when I woke up in the morning. It’s a cliché, I know, but it’s true.”
“I was thinking of those beautiful churches in Europe and their stained glass windows. When the sun shines through, it might cast a colorful shadow like that.”
Starting his career in 1989, Zing broke into the scene with his barely-there makeup style, followed by his extravagant use of glitter on Faye Wong in 1996, which made him (and glitter) a household name.
Today, he’s one of Greater China‘s most sought after makeup artists for the stars, whether it’s a concert series, advertisement or CD cover for Cantopop royalty including Joey Yung, Karen Mok, Kelly Chen and Sammi Cheng.
“I didn’t really know what I was getting into — I just loved it,” he said of his beginnings. “Then of course, you work on building on that because it’s a career.”
“A lot of people are smitten about how successful or glamorous makeup artists can be, but they just want to be in the limelight or have a good life. That’s not the right approach — not just for makeup but for any profession. You have to have a passion for it and not just want to be a makeup artist.”
He continued: “I believe in being very focused in what you do [to be the best]. If you do makeup, don’t dabble in hair. Even if you can do it, I’m sure there are other people who are better than it than you are.”
“So … are you saying you’re the best at doing makeup?” we asked. Pausing only for a brief second, he replied, “I’m the best at makeup, compared to me doing hair.”
Speaking of hair, Zing has none. His trademark appearance of being a tall, stickly, bald Asian with thick-framed glasses is instantly recognisable, if you don’t notice the guy wearing head-to-toe Chanel first (“Chanel on the outside, Ralph Lauren on the inside” is how he puts it). After all, when you’re a celebrity makeup artist, you’ve got to look the part.
“It has nothing to do with stardom or status,” he remarked. “I just wear what I like. I’m flashy because I like to be flashy. It’s not calculated.”
Regarding his hair, or lack thereof, he said, “I used to have red, pink and orange hair, and even dreadlocks when I was younger, and then I got really tired of sitting in the salon. So, I just shaved it all away and loved it. The best thing is that this (pointing to his head) goes with any outfit. When you don’t have a hairstyle, it’s easy to wear anything.” And by “anything”, he means Chanel.
“I love its clean cut silhouette — it’s like a suit with more interesting fabrics and details,” he said. “Their women’s clothes have a slightly higher waistline and armhole, so it sort of lifts a person up. I’m a very serious and intense person and I want to look sharp.”
But enough about him, let’s get back to the makeup. We ask Zing whether there are any makeup trends that he’s noticed recently.
“I make trends, I don’t follow them,” he snapped. “People get bored when you do something for a long time. We did the natural barefaced look in the 1990s, which became a huge trend, but after a while, we got bored and started doing crazy stuff again.”
“The only trend I can say now is, maybe five to 10 years ago there was a rule that if you focused on your eyes, you’d have to tone down your lips and your cheeks, and vice versa. But now, the focus is on your whole face and there’s no rule that you can only do one part.”
And given where he is now, is there anyone that Zing still dreams of doing makeup for?
“No,” he replied immediately. “Maybe 10 years ago, but not anymore. It’s a boring answer, but I’m sorry.” And just like that, our interview ends with a zing.