Gorgeous, talented, and down-to-earth, makeup artist and stylist MeiLi Autumn is one of the best in the industry – and her successful business MEILI STYLE has a reputation for professional, quality talent that keeps her team in high demand.
I met MeiLi almost 4 years ago and have had the pleasure of collaborating with her on a number of projects since. Watching MeiLi at work – transforming the ordinary to the extraordinary – is truly mesmerizing!
I’m very excited to finally be able to tell you about our most recent collaboration – a project to create three distinct makeup looks based around stunning designs by WillowWillow‘s Alicia Lee, and shot by talented Italian photographer, Mirko Iannace from Sharpen Studio. Maria Vittoria, the newest member to MeiLi Style, also played a big part in the make up and styling of the shoot – her skills and creativity produced stunning results! She is definitely an added star to the MeiLi Style crew
Read on to learn more about MeiLi’s story, her makeup tips and advice, and a behind-the-scenes video of the shoot filmed by Ollie Accompanying MeiLi’s interview are photos of the first look we shot – ‘The Faded Mermaid’. I hope you like it!
What was it that attracted to you the world of makeup artistry – and how does a Hawaiian-Alaskan makeup artist end up in China?
I was always a very artistic person – I loved drawing and painting in high school. I saw makeup artistry as a way to combine my creative talents with fashion, and as a tool to help women. And I love it! Even after graduating from Brown University with a BA in East Asian studies, I knew I wanted to be a makeup artist. I was living in Shanghai studying Mandarin and working odd jobs, when I realised if I didn’t drop everything and pursue this dream I would regret it. So I moved home to Maui and got a job working at Macy’s, learning as much as I could from my job at the MAC makeup counter. The training was fantastic and despite the fact I was working at a mall, I felt like I was doing exactly what I was destined to do. After gaining a solid background in makeup artistry, I decided to move back to China to continue learning Mandarin and further my career as a makeup artist in Beijing’s exciting and dynamic fashion industry. Now I’ve been in Beijing for almost 5 years! It hasn’t been an easy ride, but at the end of the day I get to do what I love and have built up a business I am proud of.
Tell us about MEILI STYLE and what your team does.
MEILI STYLE is an international team composed of the finest bi-lingual makeup artists, hair stylists, and wardrobe stylists whose main prerogative is to inspire, create, and provide professional beauty services for every occasion. MEILI STYLE crew members are unique in that not only are they skilled stylists, but they also understand Western and Eastern beauty aesthetics. We use only high-end beauty products and have been trained in international institutions all over the world to offer our clients top-rate styling. From ‘at-home’ styling services for private clients, to commercial shoots, and large-scale productions like fashion shows and big-themed events, MEILI STYLE crew can solve any style solution.
What is it about your work as a makeup artist that you enjoy the most – what are the things that make it worth doing?
The most valuable reward by far is helping women feel beautiful. I love doing artistic creative shoots for magazine editorials and working on fashion shows, but when I help a woman bring out her best features and see her eyes light up when she looks in the mirror, it is hugely fulfilling and reconfirms my love for the work I do! I am not saying that every woman should or needs to wear makeup, but there is no doubt a makeover is like an instant pick-me-up, like a new haircut. As women we should support each other and help build each other up. If I can help a woman lift her self-esteem and let her see her natural beauty with the aid of a little makeup, then I find that hugely positive and empowering. I call it ‘Beauty Therapy’!
What is it about China that made you decide to base yourself here?
What makes China both so amazing and so frustrating is what I call the ‘boot-leg’ mentality. It is a kind of ‘anything goes’ ‘hustle and get it done’ philosophy that sometimes ends up being awesome – or can be a complete disaster. I’ve had hugely varying experiences in China – from working on a movie in Xiamen, to having to do makeup for 40 models for a fashion show in the dark because the lights were inadequate. It’s a very exciting time to be in China however – a lot of creative people in the industry such as photographers and designers are also just getting their footing so we are growing together. In America the fashion industry is so saturated and it takes years to climb to the top – here in China I’ve been able to accomplish a lot in a shorter period of time – the sky is the limit!
What are your ambitions for MEILI STYLE – where do you hope to take the business over the next 5-10 years?
I want to promote my team more strongly because I believe in them. They are talented, hard-working, creative, and good hearted and I want them to succeed. I want to bring on more people who want to work as stylists and continue to foster and train my team to be the best they can be. I want MEILI STYLE to be known as a THE premier style team for private clients, fashion shows, and big-theme events. Corporate training is another huge and untapped industry that needs addressing – helping 5-star establishments train their staff how to present themselves in a stylish, clean, professional manner. We offer in-depth corporate training and this is an area I’d like to develop further.
What are most common beauty ‘looks’ requested by clients?
It depends on the occasion but often women want to learn how to do ‘the smoky eye’. There is something sexy, glamorous, and alluring about charcoal around the eyes and I think every woman is curious to know what they would look like and how it would make them feel. That is the great thing about makeup! You can play around and simply take it off at the end. Of course brides want to look ‘natural’ and ‘glowing’ – which ironically often takes just as much makeup as a dramatic smoky eye!
What product lines or beauty products would you recommend or consider essential in a beauty kit?
My new obsession is Hourglass makeup. Created by Madonna’s makeup artist, it is really well made – it’s expensive, but is a really good (and hard-to-find) combination of being both good for the skin, and a great cosmetic in terms of colours and application.
In terms of bang-for-buck however, the best deal in town is still MAC cosmetics. Their products are lead-free, and can always get you the look you desire.
For the busy, working woman such as yourself, what steps do you suggest for achieving a fresh, clean look without spending hours in front of the mirror?
Just follow these five simple steps:
1. Start with fresh, clean, moisturized skin.
2. Dab some concealer under the eyes, around nose, and on any blemishes.
3. Apply a warm bronzer under the cheekbones and around the temples, adding a pop of pinky peach blush on the apples of your cheeks.
4. Use a volumizing mascara on your lashes (curl your lashes first if you need to).
5. Add a slick of creamy lipgloss (not too shiny, not too matte).
It should take no longer than 10 minutes – and voilà!
What about the sexy, smoky eye look?
For any look, it’s important to practice – my advice would be to take a personal lesson or to learn the basic techniques. Then it’s just a matter of practicing, so you train your hand how to blend and paint the perfect smoky eye!
For a quick and dirty smoky eye, take black eyeliner and rim your entire eye – smudge with a brush and add dark shadow to set.
How important is technique or knowing your face’s specific features in putting together a great look?
Technique is very important. If you don’t know which colour to place first, or what products to use to achieve the look, then you will end up either looking like a hot mess or having your makeup fade or slide off your face within an hour. Women also need to appreciate their own distinct characteristics and not try to conform to a celebrity or a model. I tend to find a look that accentuates a client’s best features and play with that – instead of trying to force a look on them that will only end up making them feel like they are wearing a mask.
In addition to running your business, you also write a fortnightly fashion column for City Weekend. In terms of style, what catches your eye – what makes you select the fashionistas you feature?
It’s funny because I don’t necessarily consider myself a very fashionable person but I can definitely recognize it in other people! So I guess you could say the people I choose ‘have it’!
How would you describe your personal style? What do you look for in the pieces you purchase?
I like comfort first and foremost – clothes I can sleep in if I needed to (a quote I’ve borrowed from one of my fashion icons, Donna Karan!). I like feminine clothes that are soft and forgiving and show off a woman’s figure. Tight, restrictive clothes that make it hard to breathe, or make you overly conscious of your body are not fun. I believe you have to feel beautiful as well as look it – so for me feeling beautiful means un-constricted, free flowing, and lovely natural textures like silk, cotton, and cashmere. I can’t wear heels – platforms maybe, but heels and I don’t mix! I also love the colours purple, teal, black, and orange.
Outside of fashion and makeup, I understand one of your hobbies is participating in running events. What other interests do you have?
Yes I’m not sure if I enjoy it, but for some reason I make myself do a lot of running events! I enjoy spending time with my cute dog, cooking, doing bikram yoga, snowboarding and scuba diving, and being in the ocean in any capacity. I can also spend all day in bed with a good book and my love for sleep sometimes gets in the way of my love for life
I hope you guys enjoyed the interview and video! If you want to check out more of MeiLi’s work, check out the MEILI STYLE website here or the crew’s blog here. Huge thanks to MeiLi and Maria Vittoria for the amazing job they did on this shoot, to Alicia Lee for her beautiful clothes, and Mirko Iannace for his skilful photography!
Massive thanks must also go to Ollie who managed to film, edit, and produce this great video in such a short time for me! (If anyone in London is looking for a film-maker, get in touch – Ollie is your man! )
Stay tuned for looks two and three, which I will be posting soon!