(Originally written for AsianceMagazine.com)Asian women are obsessed with making their eyes look bigger. No shock to those of us who are Asian. We all have secret tips on how to make our eyes appear bigger with makeup and in more extreme cases with the popular “eyelid” cosmetic surgery which creates that desirable double-lid crease that Western eyes are naturally born with. Although I am not against cosmetic surgery as a theory, I AM against it when a woman’s self esteem becomes reliant on surgery instead of her intellect. Don’t get me wrong. I was not immune to the burning desire to enlarge my eyes when I was growing up in Texas in the land of blonde buxom Barbie dolls with long, long eyelashes and big round blue eyes. I went so far as to wear eyelid tape for a long while during junior high and some of high school despite strange looks from peers and questions such as, “Um... what is that on your eyes?” I have to give the younger me props for doing as I pleased and fearlessly going against the grain, or er I should say, against the eyelid I was born with.
|Eyelid tape - very popular in Asia|
When it comes to doing burlesque makeup on Asian eyes, bigger is better. Burlesque makeup is essentially stage makeup which means it is designed to be visible from far away. Your makeup should be visible to the person sitting WAY in the back of the theater. If it looks “too much” to you in the mirror, it is probably almost right. If you start looking like a drag queen, then it is perfect. To me doing “burlesque makeup” is not the same thing as “pin-up makeup” which is less exaggerated, does not use as much glitter, and is probably what most people think of when they think “burlesque”. For example, I would do “pin-up makeup” if I am attending but not performing in a show or if I am going to a vintage-inspired party. I do full “burlesque makeup” when I am performing. You can see the difference below in my picture:
Bigger is better especially when it comes to false eyelashes. Falsies will actually help you create that double lid effect if you apply it as close to your eyelash line as possible. There is no secret trick on getting it on other than practice, practice, practice. I DO recommend using black lash glue instead of the clear one - because for our coloring, the dried black glue actually looks like a line of liquid eyeliner which enhances the dark color of our eyes. I use Duo in Dark tone:
There are a lot of false eyelashes out there. The ones you get at drug stores are fine for day wear, but for stage wear, I would get the longest length and double them up on top of each other. YES. It’s very common for burlesquers to “customize” their favorite pair of lashes by combining 2-4 pairs together, trimming the bits you like and pasting them together.
|The Shanghai Pearl|
My friend The Shanghai Pearl (Seattle) wears these lashes that she adhered tiny little Swarvoski crystals on the ends. For her burlesque makeup routine:
"I tend to draw on a dramatic and thick wingtip with liquid eyeliner. I prefer the ones with the softer brushtip with inkpot over the stiffer 'pen' types, like Almay Amazing Eyeliner. I've also used gel eyeliner with a nice brush, I liked that as well."
I do NOT recommend Asian eyes to use the false eyelashes with long, droopy ends. This will drag our already smaller eyes down and make you look "sad". Like these feathery ones:
I recommend getting ones that sweep UP and OUT on the corners like these:
Another tip World Famous Bob taught us in her class was that once you put the glue on the lashes, leave it alone for at least 5 minutes for the glue to dry before sticking them on your eyes! This has proven invaluable. It makes the application process SO much easier when the glue is tacky than wet. I apply the glue on the lashes while I’m doing foundation and primer on my face, then by the time I am done with my eyeshadow (always do your eye makeup first then lashes after), I put the lashes on. By then, they just stick on easy breezy. You will find that some of the heavier lashes once on will “force” your eyelid to crease - this is what happens to my eyes but I think it’s gravity that’s helping me have that double lid appearance. So now, eye makeup.
|Liz at work on set with Gordon Ramsey|
One can create an illusion of a crease with a shadow that is a shade or two darker than your skin tone. First you should always apply primer, especially for "show" makeup because then the makeup will stay put and increase its longevity.
Then you gently sweep a light neutral color over your eyelid up to your brow bone followed by using the darker shadow in your crease. The trick to blend, blend, blend, until it looks seamless. To finish this look you can apply a lighter color on your brow bone so it will give your eyes depth. For more intensity, like performing in shows, you can use darker colors.
I also recommend getting a set of good makeup brushes for your eye makeup application process. Invest in a set of decent quality ones, not the drug store types. I wash my brushes every 2 weeks with warm water and gentle soap, and they do not shed or lose their integrity. I start off using a dark color as Liz describes along the top lash line and moving outward with a slight sweep up to create a longer eye. Then I use a color that matches my costume (deep plum, turquoise blue, pinks, golds, bronze) and layer that along the top of the dark base color. I find blending is most effective when I use my finger tips. I blend the two colors gently together in the area where they overlap and finish off with a light color (shimmery white or shimmery nude) along the top brow bone (the bottom part of your eyebrows).
I also asked my friend Tina Turnbow, who is a well-known celebrity makeup artist and also the beauty blogger for The New York Times, on her professional tip for Asian women who want to create a rounder eye effect:
For bigger eyes its all about subtle shading. Lighter shades graduating into deeper shades to create an almond or rounder shape. A smokey eye that starts darkest around the lash-line and then gradually diffuses up and out, can make the eye appear bigger. Use single lashes at outer corners of the eye, for a wider eye. Make sure your eyebrows are shaped well to give the eye an instant lift.
I can not emphasize the importance of shading and shaping your eyebrows! No one should be going for that thin, over plucked eyebrow shape anymore unless you are trying to achieve a vintage, old Hollywood glamour look like Greta Garbo who is famously known for her expressive thin arches.
|Greta Garbo (L), Marlene Dietrich (R)|
I think thicker eyebrows frame one’s eyes and face better, and they can make Asian eyes look more intense. I’ve gone through a thin eyebrow phase and in every picture I saw, I looked perpetually surprised AND I thought they made my eyes look squinty. For shows, I use a thin brush and dab a little bit of black/dark brown eyeshadow and drag the brush carefully through my eyebrows - and I ALWAYS extend the ends. In Liz’s list of simple eye makeup tricks she also emphasizes the importance of brows:
Definitely fill/define your brows because your brows frame your face! I find that less is more on Asian women. Eyeliner does wonders, up and outward to open up the eyes.
Lastly Liz gives her top four tips:
Shanghai also "keep it pretty classic and retro. The bigger eye thing for me is a necessity for stage. After I draw my wingtip I set my lashes a little bit above my natural lashes and line the bottom of my eyes with a white kohl."1. Instead of rimming your eyes with dark eyeliner, use a light color and rim the bottom of your eyes2. Curling your lashes instantly opens up your eyes (for more info on what kind of mascara to use to make the most of short, spare Asian eyelashes read my previous post "Eyelash Deficiency & Mascaras")3. Using eyeliner4. Fill/Define your brows
The last stop for my burlesque makeup transformation is the tell-tale, ultimate symbol of a burlesque performer - glittery red lips!Women ask me all the time how to get that effect and the answer is quite simple. Cosmetic glitter. I’ve written about this on my blog before which you can read about more here.
Tina, who often surprises me with her generosity with bags of top quality cosmetics, will include various types of red lipsticks for me to try. She says:
A true red lip color is always striking. For a more nude lip, try one with more yellow under-tones to blend in with your skin. Or if your lips have a good deal of pink in them naturally, just pump that up with a plum lip stain.
The most recent color that I was introduced to via Tina is Buxom Big & Healthy Lip Tarnish in Busted. This lipstick comes with a sharper attached and because it is shaped like a big marker, you can apply it easily. It stays on for a long time as well and it is really my favorite shade of red. Shanghai agrees that finding the right shade of red is critical in achieving a polished look. "My staples are a good red lipstick and a wingtip. Fancy foundation I love is Dior Skin Forever and drugstore foundation I like L'Oreal True Match," she adds.
I hope this has solved some mysteries about the trickiness of doing makeup on Asian eyes. As Liz says, "If you look at most Asian eyes, we don't have as much eye area as Western eyes to play with. Many Asians go through cosmetic surgery and spend a lot of money with the possibility of it coming out right. Eyelids are a very delicate area to tamper with, if the surgery goes awry or happens to heal incorrectly etc, it's irreversible."I am envious of teenage girls growing up nowadays because when I was growing up, YM Magazine and Seventeen Magazine never talked about how to do makeup on other eye shapes. Sometimes they might mention Latin skin, but it was predominantly all Caucasian models and tips for fair skin and Western eyes. If I had YouTube and the Internet as an invaluable research too back then, I wouldn't have made my mistake of walking around with big patches of frosty eyeshadow in the most horrible shade of blue!