Awkwafina’s Makeup Revelation in the Subway: ‘I Looked Insane’

Awkwafina’s Makeup Revelation in the Subway: ‘I Looked Insane’


Forget demure ingénue. The actress-rapper Awkwafina has found success in Hollywood through her sharp comedic timing and bold personality. Fresh off a heady “Crazy Rich Asians” run (in which she nearly stole the show as the best friend Peik Lin Goh), she is now trying her hand at indie drama, with “The Farewell,” out July 12.

Before she was Awkwafina — a name she chose for herself as a teenager — she was Nora Lum, a native of the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens. In addition to “The Farewell,” she has a voice part in “The Angry Birds Movie 2,” scheduled for theaters in August. And a Comedy Central show is in the works.

With that kind of schedule, who wouldn’t need some pampering?

I was never into a strict skin-care routine. But in the past couple of years, I started to discover that world. There are things I never used before, and now I don’t feel right if I don’t have them on.

For face washing, I stick to the Dermalogica Cleansing Gel. Sometimes, if I have a lot of makeup on, I also use the PreCleanse. I never really knew what toners or essences or any of that stuff was. I had all of these products but didn’t know how to use them.

Then Jenn Im, she came over one night, and she explained it all to me. I also met the Allure editor Michelle Lee when I did a podcast for Allure, and she taught me a lot of stuff, too.

Before, I hadn’t tried a lot of brands. Recently I was able to try La Mer. I’d seen it and knew it was insanely luxurious. Now I dabble in the cleanser. It smells really good.

I also love Joanna Vargas. I started going to her for facials and using her products, like, a year ago. After I wash my face, I put her serum on. For moisturizer — I have really dry skin — I have to go for something concentrated. I once got one by this brand Belif in a goody bag. It was the Moisturizing Bomb cream, and I like that one a lot. But honestly, the normal Neutrogena Water Gel works, too.

I’m into eye treatments. I walked into Neiman Marcus in Atlanta recently, and this salesperson at the Sisley counter, she talked a sick game. She totally sold me on this eye cream. The one I bought even comes with this little roller. I got started on rollers because of my makeup artist Kirin Bhatty. She gave me one that’s real quartz. I started doing it so much that I actually broke it. So I’m on my second quartz roller. I keep it with me on the plane.

Sure, I’ll put a bit of makeup on. I’m really open to everything. I’m always changing foundations. Currently I’m using KohGenDo. I actually mix Koh Gen Do with Charlotte Tilbury, and then I throw a little Tarte in there. Isn’t that weird? I’m sure I’m doing it wrong. And also I’ve learned I have to be careful with mixing some things because then the formula pills.

I used to be one of those eyeliner people. I didn’t put on anything but eyeliner. I was heavy into that. I was probably 20, and one friend, when we were in China, remarked to me, “Why do you wear eyeliner only there?” That’s because I would just put a line on the bottom, and that was it. Why didn’t anyone else say anything?

Now I take a thin brush and use one of the colors in the Charlotte Tilbury palette as an impromptu eyeliner on my upper lash line. Then I do some nude eye shadows from the same palette. I don’t wear mascara because I don’t have a lot of eyelashes. It’s pointless — like painting nail polish on your pinkie toe.

Asian eyes are difficult to do makeup on because of the lid. Some days I have a monolid, and some days I don’t. Some days only one is a monolid, and the other one isn’t. When that happens, I still don’t know what to do. But YouTube is fire for Asian-girl makeup tutorials. I’ve learned not to do too much on my eyes now.

For a long time, I had a habit of laying on the blush really hard. I’d look like a pageant girl but have no other makeup on. One day I was riding the subway and saw my reflection in the window, and it was a moment. I looked insane.

From that day onward, I stopped using a lot of blush. Instead I started using bronzer. I had a Nars stick with a highlighter on one side and a bronzer on the other, but I can’t find it now. So now I use a Charlotte Tilbury bronzer.

I think there’s this idea that all Asian hair is stick straight. I’ve yearned for that hair so much. My hair, after I shower, it’s a little frizzy. So when I was in Singapore, I got it relaxed. I was shooting “Crazy Rich Asians,” and I was wearing a wig, so I could pretty much do what I wanted with my hair. I went and got the treatment, and it was way too relaxed. I really wished it was more lively. I missed its life.

After I came back to the U.S., somebody said, you should go blond. So I went to this fancy salon in downtown L.A. I never told them I’d just had my hair relaxed. When we did the strand test, my hair literally fried. It looked like pubic hair! Now all of that is growing out. My hair does grow fast, which I never like to admit because it seems like I’m bragging.

I wore Le Labo Santal for a long, long time. Then I did a movie with Emma Roberts, and I asked her about her perfume. She always smelled really good. It was Molecule 01 by Escentric Molecules. It’s like pheromones — I’m so dedicated to it.

I’ve been wearing it for a year or two. It’s good that I asked Emma because left to my own devices, I’d choose something crazy fruity, and everyone would hate it. I’m talking a full papaya. I don’t know subtlety.

Before I moved to L.A., I thought I would go to the Korean spas all the time. Nope, that has not happened. The only thing I have done is go see Joanna Vargas for facials. She’s based in New York, but she has this spa in the Sunset Tower. The skin-care thing is really addictive.

I’m in that boat where I’m like every other woman in 2019. I want to eat well and live that healthy life, but inevitably it doesn’t happen. I wish I could follow one method, but when you travel a lot, it really messes with that routine.

I have one friend who will do meal prep and lay it all out for a week. It seems so industrious, or great. I’ve never been like that. It took having to date a vegetarian to understand how hard it is. I also don’t cook, so that’s an issue. I’ll eat anything.

I have worked with trainers. They are often very hard-core, so it doesn’t really last long with me. I try to do stuff at home. I’ll do nighttime yoga. It’s basically lying down and putting a leg in the air, you know. I really don’t do much.



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