Ahead of Maxinstitute’s School of Sephora, we chat with hair and makeup guru slash influencer Emma Chen.
She’s one of the cybersphere’s hottest commodities… with over 200k insta-followers, countless client selfies and a flourishing career to show for it.
Having honed her skill-set, business expertise and online presence over the course of her professional career, freelance Hair and Make-up Artist Emma Chen no doubt knows a thing or two about the beauty industry… so when we heard she’d be keen for a chat, we jumped at the opportunity.
Here Emma talks us through her hairdressing beginnings, professional triumphs/struggles and how social media has informed her career to date.
TJ: Talk us through your career beginnings; what first sparked your love for beauty?
EC: Growing up I always had an interest for anything beauty related, whether it was makeup or fashion. I finished school and I wanted to pursue photography, but at the time it was too expensive to enrol; So, my mum enlisted me in a hairdressing apprenticeship, and I became a hairdresser.
After eight years of hairdressing, I began to feel a bit lost within the industry and was unsure about my career. I put myself through a makeup course for fun until I figured out what I wanted to do. Once I finished my course, I realised my passion was in hair & make-up styling.
TJ: What came first… hair or makeup? Was it a natural progression?
EC: Hair came first, and I’m so glad I put myself through an apprenticeship and in-salon training, it helped to mould and shaped me into the artist I am today.
TJ: How did you first begin building your clientele as a freelancer? How did you turn your work into a full-time career?
EC: When I left my last employer, I only had two weddings booked. I’m a big believer in taking leaps of faith and I spent a lot of my earlier years with constant contingency plans. This time I invested fully and gave myself no option but to succeed.
I worked every odd job that I could find where I didn’t have to commit to a roster but could earn extra money, so I was always available for bookings. I did a lot of expos, test shoots, anything to network and get my name out.
After a year of hustling I had enough bookings to work for Emma Chen Artistry full time. Bridal bookings were the backbone of my business and I’ll always be forever grateful for my brides that helped me build my business into what it is today.
TJ: What role did social media play in the growth of both your business and personal profile?
EC: The pivotal point within my career was when I did lots of test shoots, this helped build my profile as I was posting a mixture of bridal and editorial/fashion work.
It wasn’t until I started shooting often that I really discovered this side of the industry was my passion and what I wanted to pursue. I really manifested and worked hard at creating a theme with my social media so when people thought of Emma Chen Artistry they envisioned my aesthetic.
When I focused on creating consistent content that was true to my vision for Emma Chen Artistry, it became a turning point in the growth of my social media.
TJ: We love following your adventures… what prompted your shift from working solely behind the camera to becoming an influencer in your own right?
EC: Initially my page was completely professional, I didn’t share anything about myself or my personal life; however, on the odd occasion that I did post behind the scenes content, people were very engaged and wanted to see more.
I realised early on that my followers were interested in me and my work/life balance and they wanted to get a glimpse into this side of the industry. I’m so grateful for that as it opened up so many opportunities as I love educating and meeting people. I’m also a Leo and naturally love being on stage!
TJ: Favourite job, project or international event to date?
EC: Being the global ambassador for BECCA Cosmetics. The team recently flew me over to NY for the launch of the Limited-Edition Champagne Pop collection. Having the opportunity of going to NY to launch such an iconic product, and being part of the BECCA family, has been one of the greatest achievements of my career so far.
TJ: Walk us through a (typical) day in the life of Emma Chen.
EC: Usually my day starts between 4am-5am, in Australia we tend to shoot early, so if you want to get into this industry you have to be prepared for early call times! There’s nothing glam about my morning routine, when I’m on set it can be quite physical and working in the Australian climate and shooting outside can be tough. I’m usually straight out the door and on set by 6am-7am.
The amazing thing about Brisbane is that we have the most beautiful locations. I get to go to Byron bay or the Gold Coast and usually H&MU is first up in the morning. First hour of shoot is usually the most intense for me.
I’m so lucky that every day is so different to the next – location, models and brands change every day, so there’s no real routine. Some days I can drive up to five hours and shoot for eight hours on set, but wouldn’t change it for the world!
TJ: What is something most people would not know about your work? Any particular challenges or struggles?
EC: I’m not sure if this is something people don’t know about my work, but Its definitely not as glam as it can appear on social media. I’ve never worked harder in my career, than working as Emma Chen Artistry. It’s a physically demanding job with long hours, late nights after you get home, answering emails, cleaning brushes and prepping my kit.
The second hardest thing would be working on my own, sometimes it is challenging without a team and constantly having people building you up and inspiring you. With that being said, I’m very grateful as I have many amazing friendships and relationships with people within the industry.
TJ: Any artists whom you look up to or careers which you wish to emulate?
EC: I’ve followed @nikki_makeup for years, even before she had such a large following and have watched her career explode over the last couple of years due to her enormous talent. I look up to her not only because she is an incredible artist, but because has a great balance between her career and working on projects that are passionate to her. She always has the time to write back to me on social media and I respect her as a person and fellow artist.
TJ: Any advice for other professionals looking to promote their work/grow their social following via Instagram?
EC: Consistency is key. I know the algorithm can be tough, but you will be successful as long as you are putting out work that you are proud of and want to become known for it will attract the right audience to help grow and create a solid clientele. My biggest advice is to only put out what you want to attract. There is no point in posting photo of makeup that you don’t personally like, you need to have a strong vision of what your brand is.
TJ: You’ve worked on so many incredible faces (and manes!), who are you dying to style/apply makeup to?
EC: Margot Robbie – always and forever my dream girl! Also, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.
TJ: How do you keep on the pulse of what’s trending in the hair and makeup spheres?
EC: I am constantly saving photos and creating albums that inspire me on Instagram. I love to travel to LA and NY as the style and beauty there are so fashion forward. But I find speaking to women and hearing about what works for them also really inspires and helps me in my career. Most of the products I have in my kit are because clients have recommended them.
TJ: What’s your favourite makeup look to create?
EC: I’m a big fan of enhancing someone’s natural features and creating makeup looks that still show what that make them unique; Freckles, skin textures, eye shapes etc.
I would be happy to do a natural smokey eye and bronze sun-kissed skin for the rest of my career!
TC: Any advice for creating the perfect base?
EC: Great prep – ensuring that you are using the right skin care and prepping correctly usually allows me to cut out priming all together. Hydrated, healthy skin, that is loved, makes your foundation application so much easier. The reason women find it hard to find a great foundation is because they need to focus on a great skin care routine first.
TJ: Five products that are always in your kit?
EC: Alpha-H Hyaluronic 8 Serum – amazing for all skin types, it’s like a big drink of water for your skin.
- I’m loving the Dior Backstage Face & Body Foundation at the moment.
- Every girl’s best friend – a beauty blender.
- The BECCA Champagne Pop Silk Drops – these are my new obsession for highlighting.
- BECCA Hydromist Set and Refresh Powder – this incredible powder is cooling to apply and offers your skin hydration whilst setting your make up.
Catch Emma at Max Institute’s SCHOOL OF SEPHORA event on Saturday 2nd of November. To secure your spot, head to maxinstitute.com.au.