China makeup artist recreates youth, takes years off actor, 57, transforms ordinary women into cover girls, becomes smash hit online

Online star builds nationwide makeover makeup brand on back of Douyin videos. Style of 20-something makeup specialist splits online opinion in China. — SCMP

A makeup artist in China who uses her exceptional skills to dramatically improve the appearance of her clients – in some cases make them appear many years younger – has become a major hit on mainland social media.

With 5.5 million followers on Douyin, the 20-something cosmetics expert known as Tuzi, or Rabbit in English, boasts an impressive list of clients.

It includes celebrities such as famous comedian Tang Jianjun, also known in China as Xie Guangkun, actress Jin Jing, actor Yang Di, famous male host Zhang Dada and KOL Grandma Tian.

Tuzi pictured with one of her clients, a number of whom are celebrities in China. Photo: Xiaohongshu

Tuzi is based in Yunnan province in southwestern China, where she runs the Starlight Rabbit Portrait Studio, which offers makeover services.

Many customers of the studio have been drawn to Tuzi thanks to her “Extreme Makeover 100 People Challenge” videos on Douyin, while many others seek to learn her makeup techniques.

She has taken on dozens of apprentices, whose makeup skills, after training, are almost on a par with those of Tuzi.

They live-stream makeup tutorials on Douyin every day at 8.30pm and attract an average daily audience of 1 million.

Tuzi’s style embodies one of China’s most popular makeup aesthetics.

Strange but Tuzi: the makeup artist transformed 72-year-old internet celebrity Grandma Tian into a blond and blue-eyed young princess. Photo: Xiaohongshu

This is characterised by a radiant, translucent complexion, shimmering eyelids, vibrant pink or mauve blush, and frequently bold, glossy, or semi-matte gradient lips.

One of her most popular videos, which saw Tuzi transform the 72-year-old internet celebrity, Grandma Tian, attracted nearly 800,000 likes.

The elderly online personality was turned into a blond-haired, blue-eyed European-style princess, prompting comments like “Tuzi helped Grandma regain her youth.”

In another video, which received 1.1 million likes, Tuzi made over 57-year-old classic comedy actor, Tang Jianjun, whose wife was so stunned by the change that she exclaimed: “I don’t recognise you!”

The transformation of 57-year-old actor Tang Jianjun was such that his wife did not recognise him. Photo: Xiaohongshu

She also transformed Du Bo, the 46-year-old director of the Bureau of Culture and Tourism in Heilongjiang province in northeast China into a “Dark Queen”.

Tuzi does, however, have her critics.

One unhappy client said her makeup did not cover facial flaws and made her look older while another said Tuzi’s apprentices tend to stick to rigid templates, rather than adhere to a client’s specific preferences.

Tuzi’s main studio is in the autonomous prefecture of Xishuangbanna in China’s southwestern Yunnan province and she has 17 branches in renowned tourist destinations across the country.

Each studio offers makeup styles that incorporate local characteristics, such as ethnic minority styles, ice queen aesthetics, Hanfu-inspired looks, and more.

Prices for a photoshoot package range from 699 to 2,888 yuan (RM464 to RM1,917), a makeup-only service costs 399 yuan (RM264).

Opinions on Tuzi’s makeup skills vary on mainland social media.

One person wrote: “I travelled almost halfway across China to have Tuzi do my makeup because she can make me look like I never dared to imagine, and make me a better version of myself.”

Others said that Tuzi’s “assembly-line style” makeup style makes “everyone looks the same”.

One customer, who spent 1,599 yuan (RM1,061), even accused her studio staff of having an “extremely poor service attitude”.

The young makeup artist also turned 46-year-old tourism official, Du Bo, into a “Dark Queen”. Photo: Xinhua/Douyin

However, one of her apprentices said: “Teacher Tuzi really loves makeup, and I can feel her passion.”

There are over 20 million makeup industry practitioners in China, with an average age of between 20 and 25, according to Chinanews.

The average monthly income for Chinese makeup artists is 6,300 yuan (RM4,182) but others can earn more than 20,000 yuan (RM13,277) a month, according to a survey by Ruishang Chuangmei Makeup Training Company. – South China Morning Post

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