updated 9 Jan 2012, 09:54
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Mon, Jan 09, 2012
The Straits Times, Urban
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Chou's magic touch
by Hong Xinyi

Known for his sassy, breezy persona and handy skincare and cosmetic tips on popular Taiwanese TV show Queen, celebrity make-up guru Kevin Chou does not disappoint in person.

He was in town last week to endorse cult Korean cosmetic brand L'egere, which is sold here exclusively at specialty cosmetics store Stardust by John Little.

Using the brand's products to demonstrate the steps for achieving a flawless complexion, this self-anointed Heavenly King Of Make-up talks about the art of painting one's face like it was a cross between the enthusiastic mush of a romance novel and a cutesy jargon of a teenager's diary.

Using powder with light-reflecting particles to cover up fine lines, for example, is described as 'shining a light into a dark valley'. As he dabs blush onto a model to create the illusion of a more defined jawline, he quips: 'This way, your face and neck can become good friends but they won't blend into each other.'

Chou, who is in his 30s, does not liken make-up as a 'sort of magic', but it is not simply about covering up tired under-eye shadows either.

'Make-up can create very wonderful effects. Women can use it to role play - by day they can look very gentle, by night they can transform into a very mysterious character,' he tells Urban in Mandarin.

His fascination with make-up began during his national service days, when he was a member of Taiwan's equivalent of the Music & Drama Company. After he left the army, he worked as a visual merchandiser and later, as a stylist for Taiwan's MTV VJ posse, before moving on to

a career as a professional make-up artist.

He became a household name in Taiwan when Queen, sometimes known as Ladies First, started airing in 2005; his two books (Photo 2 & 3) on make-up techniques have sold 300,000 copies to date.

The self-taught Chou is obviously well-versed in his passion: Little insider nuggets of information - from how the founder of Maybelline invented mascara for his sister so she could look good for her prom to how sales for mineral make-up in Taiwan is growing twice as fast as regular lines in Taiwan - pepper his conversation.

Once a naughty boy, who thought nothing of doodling with his mother's Lancome lipstick, Chou says he has spent more than NT$3 million (S$135,000) over the years buying different cosmetics in order to understand each brand thoroughly.

He has also made acute observations. One is the fact that Asian women tend to pile on the foundation.

'They cannot tolerate any blemish; seeing a freckle on their face is like seeing a cockroach.'

Even a noted beauty like Taiwanese model-actress Hsiao Chiang, he says, was horrified when he tried to convince her to appear on camera with a very thin layer of foundation and no eyeliner at all for a skincare ad.

'Like a lot of celebrities, she usually insists on eyeliner and prefers thick foundation, so she felt very insecure with so little make-up,' says Chou.

'But after looking at the footage, she was very happy.'

That was hardly the last time he had to pacify a jittery beauty. Chou has worked with famous faces like Zhang Ziyi and Maggie Q as well as platoons of models and describes the relationship between a woman and her make-up artist as 'very intimate'.

'They need to trust me because I see them without a stitch of make-up on. It's almost like seeing them without clothes on.'

But women need not worry: their secrets are safe with him. Chou declines to spill the beans on which stars have bad skin or make ridiculous demands.

What he emphasises is that make-up is not just for 'celebrities and the catwalk'.

The confidence that comes from having good make-up, he says, is something every woman should enjoy 'as a part of your everyday life'.

This article was first published in Urban, The Straits Times.

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