Deep down, makeup artist Emily Cheng knew that she probably wouldn’t be returning to a traditional university after taking a break to try a makeup course in her hometown of Vancouver back in 2005. “I’d always liked doing makeup and hair and ended up loving the freelance makeup course,” she recalls. “Then I got a job at the Laura Mercier counter at [Canadian luxury department store] Holt Renfrew and ended up not going back!” Her risk paid off: She thrived in the wedding and commercial makeup circuit after graduating from renowned Canadian cosmetology school Blanche Macdonald and eventually set out for Hollywood.
It’s been six years since Cheng arrived stateside and she’s already risen through the ranks to become an in-demand artist working with A-listers like Yara Shahidi, Janelle Monáe, and Julia Garner, while her work can be seen in Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, and many more publications. “I feel like the luckiest person,” she says. There’s a lot of inspiration to glean from Cheng’s work in 2020. Her ability to marry seamless, soft lines with impactful pops of color is captivating, as is her ability to translate top beauty trends—which often sacrifice function for flair—into ultra flattering, timeless looks.
Hers is the kind of pared-down glamour that feels especially wearable in the COVID-19 era, when many of us are celebrating the holidays from a distance this year. For these reasons and more, Rose Inc. is delighted to feature Cheng in this month’s special two-part holiday Artist in Residency.
Her Residency Inspiration:
Working alongside hairstylist Bobby Eliot and Chanel nail artist Betina Goldstein on Australian actress Alycia Debnam-Carey—whom you might know best from Fear the Walking Dead—this abbreviated Residency felt more like a homecoming than work. “We were itching to get creative and do something,” Cheng says, noting that the pandemic has slowed much of the industry over the past nine months—but it also inspired the looks. “I don't think people are planning massive parties this year so we wanted to do two achievable looks.” A lesson on bold-yet-wearable lip color came first: “I do this blurry, stained lip all the time on my clients,” Cheng says. “It’s fresh and fun, but still easy to recreate.”
Sometimes you want to feel very done, but I love this very sexy, soft look.
Behind This Look:
To begin, Cheng prepped Debnam-Carey’s skin with a plumping cocktail of products: Sisley Express Flower Gel Mask to first hydrate the skin, Augustinus Bader The Cream to lock in the moisture, and Dr. Barbara Sturm Sun Drops to protect the actress during the shoot, which took place at the star’s Los Angeles home.
Cheng called upon a light application of Pat Mcgrath Labs Sublime Perfection Foundation and Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer only where Debnam-Carey needed coverage, then warmed up her complexion with Dior Backstage Contour Palette—focused along her jawline, under her cheekbones, and in the creases of her eyes—before applying Fenty Cheeks Out Cream Blush in Rose Latte to the apples of her cheeks.
“Alycia loves winged liner,” Cheng says. “So I did a little baby wing.” Using Chanel Longwear Intense Cream Eyeliner in Hyperblack, she implemented a less-is-more approach. “A lot of people start at the inner corner and try to draw it out, but if you're not comfortable and don't know the best shape for yourself, getting the wing first is easiest,” she adds. The trick, she says, is to follow the angle of your bottom lashline to draw a tiny wing before lining your top lid—and keep the bottom lash line bare. “This keeps the eyes lifted and looks more youthful,” Cheng adds. She then defined Debnam-Carey’s brows with Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz in Medium Brown and its Duo Brow Powder in Soft Brown before coating her top lashes with Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara.
“We wanted a deep, rich lip, but I'm not a fan of a dark liquid lip, which can look dry—and almost like it's floating on your face,” Cheng says. “This is a more lived-in, sheer red.” Using Chanel Rouge Allure Velvet Matte Lip Color in Chestnut, Cheng applied multiple thin layers with her perfect brush. “I used a very dense eyeshadow brush,” she explains, noting that it delivers a softer application, as opposed to a synthetic lip brush. Concentrate your product in the center of the lips, she says, then buff the pigment outwards as you add more and more color. “I would never take a fully-loaded brush to the outline of the lip,” Cheng says. “It's always the color being pushed outwards.”
Meanwhile, Eliot raked Debnam-Carey’s loosely-waved strands into a soft ponytail and Goldstein massaged a mix of Chanel Le Lift La Creme Main and Huile De Jasmin into the actress’ hands before tapping into a burgeoning trend. “I went with an updated micro, black French tip to give an effortless, cool-girl vibe,” she says. Working over a coat of Chanel Le Vernis Longwear Nail Colour in Ballerina, Goldstein added a thin line of Chanel Boy de Chanel Nail Colour in Black and topped with Chanel Le Gel Top Coat. “It’s important to use a thin brush [or] tool to keep the line as thin as possible,” Goldstein says. “Trace a thin line from one corner of the nail to the other... and sure to cap your free edge.”
“Sometimes you want to feel very done,” Cheng says. “But I love this very sexy, soft look.”