Airin Lee

On Creating Your Own Path

Makeup, for the longest time has been something that was used to hide flaws and ensure that models and actors looked flawless on television and magazines. These days, makeup is definitely more accessible and as a result, we see an influx of makeup artists, sharing their creations and routines to a large audience.


However, more than a tool to make you look good, makeup is something that makes you feel good too. We spoke to Airin Lee, a Singaporean makeup artist and content creator, who graduated from The Makeup Room and is passionate about sharing her knowledge with the world.


With your experience, you have started a brand on your own, tell us more about, ARLY.

“ARLY in a sentence will be: Looking good naturally. I started ARLY with a fellow makeup artist because we firmly believe that continuous learning and exploration is the true mainstay in beauty. We hope to provide transparent knowledge and support where makeup is used to enhance, not mask one's inherent features.”


Enhancing one’s natural beauty is certainly a positive message to promote. With many people augmenting their features with makeup and apps, it can be damaging to one’s self image to constantly compare oneself with the influences online. By ensuring that your message towards beauty is uplifting, it can foster self-love which is important in maintaining balance and sanity. 


Speaking of the myriad of content creators out there, it must be hard to differentiate yourself. As a makeup artist trying to build your brand on instagram, how do you decide which brands to feature on your feed to ensure the authenticity of your content?

“In the current era of social media, most recommendations online are unfortunately transactional. Building a brand means only working with other brands which align with our brand values. We are learning to be more conscious when it comes to brand partnerships as to provide our community the transparency that we promise.”


As a content creator, or anyone with an audience really, the number one thing to have is credibility. To be an advocate for any brand that engages in dubious activity is unwise. Especially with call-out and cancel culture, it has never been easier to boycott brands that are not performing up to standards. Being a content creator is not as easy as people think.

As someone who is a self-employed creative, how do you stay positive when there are dry periods?

“Based on my experience, I embrace dry periods because we have to be accepting that there are seasons where we should pause and reset. During dry periods, I will not take in any creative work and head out to explore. I get inspired when I live consciously in the moment or when I'm close to nature.”


The first thing any self-employed person would tell you about being self-employed is that working for yourself, comes with a ton of sacrifices. What are some sacrifices that you have made along the way?

“The biggest sacrifices I made is my health, I was admitted twice for overexhaustion. Falling sick is part of the deal when you hustle, I learnt the hard way that Health is Wealth. My social life has likewise been compromised as I would pick last minute job assignments over spontaneous gatherings. I have lost some friends along the way. Those that stuck around are truly supportive and I am thankful for them.”


The ability to be “off the clock” is often taken for granted as being on payroll with stable working hours, it is much easier to plan your time, be it with friends or family. For those who work for themselves, work is always on their mind because they are always thinking of the next step. Without proper rest, there can be enormous mental pressure. 


From a creator’s perspective, do you think Singaporeans value content creation? Why or why not?

“No, I don’t think Singaporeans value content creation as much as they should. There is definitely a demand for it, but compared to global audiences, Singaporeans are unwilling to pay for content. I think we are in an interesting zone where we view content as part of our lifestyles. I'm starting to feel that shift with my followers where they appreciate content and desire authenticity.”


There is a responsibility on the creator to express views that are genuine because the community does look to the creator for honest opinions and reviews. This can often be pressuring because there will be times where the creator would have to choose between a great opportunity and remaining true to their personal brand. This balance has to be maintained or the consequences could be dire. 


Between managing brand relations and networking, how did you manage relationship expectations with your family and friends when things get busy? Were they supportive of this path you have taken? 

“Communication is the key to maintaining a good relationship with my family and friends. I'm truly blessed to have amazing family support where they understand that I'm working towards something beyond me. As for my friends, I always try my best whenever I can to meet them and to show them love here and there to ensure them that I miss and love them very much.”


In this day and age, self-care seems to be the topic of discussion. In order to ensure a healthy body and mind, it is recommended that we take breaks to recharge and pursue our interests.

Having said that, do you have time for yourself? What do you do when you need a break?

“I always assumed that 1 long holiday a year is enough to keep me going but in recent years, I realize that taking time off for yourself every other week is more productive than a long break. Therefore, I'm back to working out 3 days a week to keep myself fit and happy.” 


While we are on the subject of self-care and support, what do you wish people knew about your line of work?

“The path is a lot less glamorous and whimsical than many think it is. Also having anxiety is a very real thing in my line of work but society isn't comfortable speaking about it yet.”


We are moving towards an age of more transparency, especially with topics that used to be considered taboo. The first step is acknowledging that issues such as anxiety can happen to anyone and that it does not mean you are weak for experiencing such feelings. As we grow older and experience more things, we are then able to adapt to change and work towards having a healthier mindset. 


Looking back on your journey, we are sure you have seen yourself mature and grow over the years, what is the most important lesson you have learned from your journey? 

“Having grit is very important if you are seeking an adventure in your journey. Most of the time, we lose patience because of being in the rat race but to be something great takes time. Oh, and always be kind”


Being in the middle of a rather competitive industry, it may seem normal to try and “one-up” your competitors, after all, it is a rat race. It takes a lot of strength and discipline to pick being kind over certain opportunities that come your way. As the Founder of VF+c, Amadea Choo likes to say, “Foster a culture of collaboration and always strive to do good because not all money is good money”. 


At the very core, businesses should work on promoting an ecosystem that benefits the larger community, and not solely on profits. However, as good as this sounds, having the freedom to do what you love is not always a bed of roses.

Do you think that having the freedom to choose your work is a double edged sword?

“Yes. Most of the days we have to work long hours and there are days where you'll fantasize about reliable paychecks and regular work hours. To devote most of my days to creative work is worth the challenge and the unknown. These are the things that make it so fulfilling and memorable. If you've decided to have the freedom to choose what you love, it has to be worth it. You have to always show up with open arms to both sunshine and the cons of it. It's a lot like love.” 


As Oprah Winfrey once said: “The key to realising a dream is to focus not on success but significance, and then the even smaller steps and little victories along your path will take on greater meaning.” No one said that following your dreams would be easy, but sometimes, focusing on the journey, and not the end goal, can bring about a wonderful experience. 


UNDERCOVER is a social series brought to you by VF+c and STATE Creative. Through the series, we seek to impact the lives of our community through authentic stories of inspiring individuals. Each edition, we partner with a social enterprise to shed light on the issues that matter.

For the first edition of UNDERCOVER, we partnered with The Lion Mind, a non-profit organisation (NPO) whose mission is to promote mental wellness and positive psychology through education and partnership with the community. Due to the rise of mental health cases around the world, we endeavour to do our part to normalise conversations around mental health issues through the subjects featured in our campaign.

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