updated 16 Dec 2012, 14:44
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Thu, Dec 13, 2012
The Straits Times
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Cutesy mum
by Huang Huifen

When Japanese model-singer Tsubasa Masuwaka met the media at the Mandarin Orchard Singapore last Friday, she drew admiring gasps from a few of her doe-eyed lookalikes.

One was even close to tears when Masuwaka shook her hand.

The brouhaha was understandable. The 27-year-old is creator of the popular Japanese eyelash and eye make-up brand Dolly Wink and is considered the ultimate Gyaru icon whom many Asian girls model their looks after.

Gyaru is a rough translation of the word “gal” in Japanese. Girls dress up to look like Bambi-eyed manga characters with the help of gravity-defying fake eyelashes, iris-enhancing contact lenses, a generous amount of eyeliner, long blonde flowy hair courtesy of hair extensions or wigs and embellished nails.

The petite and cherubic-looking Masuwaka, who rose to fame in the Gyaru scene after modelling for Japanese fashion magazine Popteen, resembles a life-sized doll with her golden curly locks, rosy cheeks and pouty, “kissable” lips.

She was in town to judge the inaugural Shibuya Gals X Dolly Wink Lookalike Contest held at *Scape last Saturday, where 15 women aged between 17 and 28 competed to see who could best emulate Masuwaka’s looks. It was organised by Mandom Corporation Singapore, which distributes the Dolly Wink brand here, and eye make-up manufacturer Koji Honpo Japan.

The winner was 22-year-old physiotherapy student Kelly Tay, the one who was close to tears at the press conference. She impressed the judges with her angelic pastel pink get-up and bubbly personality.

She won an air ticket to Japan and $150 worth of Dolly Wink products.

Masuwaka, who was in Singapore for the first time, told Life! that she started wearing the Gyaru look when she was 16 or 17 years old.

Her style inspiration? Not a celebrity but Barbie the doll.

“I liked how Barbie can pull off any look and I wanted to be as versatile as her in my styles.

So I started reading books and magazines to create the look,” said Masuwaka through a translator. She started by using mascara to achieve the wide-eyed look and soon graduated to making her own sets of fluttery eyelashes by adding extra strips of lashes to an existing pair to create her desired look.

Opportunity came knocking four years ago when eye make-up manufacturer Koji approached her to create a make-up line.

It took her a year to design the range of fake eyelashes, during which she flipped through magazines for inspiration, sketched her designs and tested and made changes to the prototypes.

She did all this while taking care of her newborn son Rion. She is married to Japanese actor Naoki Umeda, 30.

About three million Dolly Wink eyelashes have been sold in Japan since they were launched in 2009, and Masuwaka said she is able to recognise the model of lashes that fans she meets and people on television wear.

“I am happy that many people are wearing my lashes frequently and I am intrigued that somehow, everyone looks different from the image I envisioned when I created the lashes,” she said.

In Singapore, the Dolly Wink range, which consists of 18 types of eyelashes and other make-up products such as eyeliner, eyebrow pencil, eyeshadow, mascara and eyelash cases, are selling well in the Shibuya Gals space carrying Japanese make-up in 15 Watsons store. Watsons is the brand’s sole retailer here. Two pairs of Dolly Wink lashes cost $24.90 while an eyeshadow palette costs $32.90.

Within a week of the test launch in the Watsons outlet at Ngee Ann City in 2010, all 800 pieces of Dolly Wink lashes were sold out. Now, an average of 1,000 Dolly Wink lashes are sold each month, according to Mandom Corporation.

Masuwaka, who also has a singing career under the persona Milky Bunny, believes there is no age limit to the Gyaru look.

“I will continue to dress like this as long as I possibly can, until the day I feel like I am forcing it to make myself look younger. Till then, I will just tweak my look slightly when I am in my 30s, 40s or 50s but the style will not change,” she said.

She added that her secret to good skin is to slather on plenty of mosturiser even in the hot summer months and to keep changing skincare brands as she believes that a product will lose its effectiveness once the skin becomes too used to it.

So what does her son, Rion, who is turning five, think of her style?

“He says I am always so kawaii (cute) and sometimes helps me pick my outfits too,” said the proud mother, who takes just 20 to 30 minutes to do her make-up and does not mind appearing sans eyelashes, wearing just loose powder and blusher on lazy days.

On being a kawaii mum, she said: “Becoming a mother is not a reason to tone down your style. You should still have fun with your fashion and make-up.

“But perhaps women who have just given birth should not wear high heels or keep long nails for the child’s safety. And in keeping up with the Gyaru style, you may actually find new interesting items such as cute ballet flats that are mum- and age- appropriate.”

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