Stella Tu is a name that resonates deeply within the Australian fashion and beauty industries.
Starting her career in 2009 at the beauty counters of prestigious brands like Giorgio Armani and Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, the makeup artist honed her skills to truly understand the art of makeup and hair. After several years in the corporate beauty world, she took a leap of faith to become a full-time freelance hair and makeup artist. The gamble paid off magnificently, making her one of the go-to artists for iconic brands such as Frank Body, Innisfree, Fila, and Kmart, among others.
Stella doesn’t just stop at makeup; her five-year hairstyling journey has been equally transformative, giving her a multifaceted perspective on beauty. Her aesthetic leans toward natural yet modern, balancing age-old techniques with contemporary flair. The makeup artist’s dual expertise allows her to tailor her work to any client’s vision, a skill that has landed her partnerships all across Australia. Her professionalism and penchant for perfection have been her hallmarks, solidifying her reputation in a fiercely competitive industry.
Beyond her freelance work, Stella is also an entrepreneur. She founded Tu&kit in 2020, a brand designed to help makeup artists and enthusiasts alike organize their arsenal of beauty products. Her venture echoes the same level of meticulous care and thoughtfulness that Stella applies to her artistry.
As someone who has been active in the beauty and fashion scenes for over a decade, Stella Tu still exudes the same zeal that kickstarted her career. In our interview with the makeup artist, she delves deeper into her creative journey, offering a firsthand look at the person behind the impressive portfolio.
Hey Stella! Can you tell us how you got started in beauty?
My journey into the beauty industry was inspired by someone very dear to me — my wonderful mother. She saw something special in me long before I even realized it myself. Growing up with my siblings, I was the odd one out, always fascinated by getting dolled up and experimenting with makeup.
I have a vivid memory of a trip to Thailand when I was just five years old. Despite my mom’s suggestion of wearing pants for a horse ride, I insisted on dresses and even some lipstick! As I got older, around 12 years old, I started playing around with full makeup, and my signature look quickly became the bold blue eyeshadow. For me, eyes have always been the most stand-out feature, and mastering eye makeup boosted my confidence like nothing else.
However, as I approached the end of high school, I found myself uncertain about my career path. I played it safe and pursued marketing at university, but it didn’t fulfill my true passions. Two years into the marketing course, I was still unsure about what I wanted to be at 21. That’s when I had a heart-to-heart with my mom, and she suggested studying makeup. And that’s when everything clicked. I found my true passion!
My journey officially began when I landed my first beauty job, working at a beauty counter. This experience allowed me to experiment with makeup on all sorts of people, and I was utterly fascinated by how different techniques and products could transform someone’s look.
Seeing how different skin tones, textures, and eye colors could be accentuated with makeup was like magic to me. It was then that I knew I wanted to dive deeper into this world of beauty. In 2017, I decided to take the leap and become a full-time freelancer dedicated to pursuing my passion.
Now, here I am, embracing my love for beauty and makeup, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s not just a job; it’s my calling, my way of expressing creativity and helping others feel confident and beautiful in their own skin. I’m grateful for the journey that brought me here
I know that you started your career in 2009, which is incredibly impressive! At what point did you feel like you finally made your breakthrough?
It’s been quite a journey since I started back in 2009. As for breakthrough moments, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to collaborate with some amazing brands, whether it’s creating content or doing photoshoots. Every single client I’ve had the privilege to work with has been a dream come true, and I’m truly grateful for those experiences. Even with all these achievements, I still feel that I haven’t quite reached the exact point I aspire to in this dynamic and ever-evolving industry. It’s a continuous learning process, and each project brings new lessons and growth.
One moment that really stands out for me was when I got the chance to be a part of Sephora’s recent Summer Campaign. It felt like a dream come true, especially since the opportunity came about via a recommendation of another artist who was unavailable. This experience reinforced my belief in the power of community and supporting one another. I’m so fortunate to be part of a close-knit community here in Melbourne, particularly within the beauty industry.
Overall, my journey has been marked by gratitude for the opportunities I’ve had and the people I’ve had the privilege to collaborate with. While I acknowledge how far I’ve come, I’m also excited to continue this rewarding journey of learning and growth in an industry that I’m truly passionate about.
Makeup can be a crowded market, but you’ve successfully carved out a niche for yourself and built quite the following along with it. What are your secrets to success for other MUAs and creators?
I’ve found that building a successful niche in the crowded makeup market involves staying true to your unique style and brand. Embrace your creativity and individuality, as this will attract a dedicated following who appreciates what you have to offer. Keep refining and perfecting your craft, always seeking to improve and learn from every experience.
Another vital aspect of success is nurturing relationships with your audience and clients. Engage with your followers, listen to their feedback, and show them genuine appreciation. Your community is your biggest asset, and they can become loyal supporters and advocates for your work.
Lastly, never stop learning and evolving. Trends change, techniques improve, and the makeup industry is continuously evolving. Stay curious and open-minded, always seeking new inspiration and knowledge to elevate your skills.
Considering how often things change, what has been the most challenging aspect of being in the industry?
One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned on my journey as a makeup artist is the importance of self-care and knowing when to take a break. The makeup industry can be demanding and competitive, and it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and pressure to keep going non-stop. However, I believe that taking care of your mental well-being is crucial for long-term success.
When you find yourself feeling burnt out, don’t hesitate to step back and take a break, whether it’s for a week or a month. It might seem counterintuitive, but it’s during these periods of rest that you can recharge, refocus, and come up with your best ideas. Taking time off allows you to clear your mind, gain fresh perspectives, and renew your passion for your craft.
While it may feel like you’re missing out on opportunities during your break, remember that the right opportunities will still be there when you are ready to jump back in. Don’t be afraid to say no to projects that don’t align with your values or will push you over the edge of burnout. It’s okay to prioritize your well-being because, in the long run, a healthy and inspired you will produce better work.
By prioritizing self-care, staying true to your unique style, building a supportive community, and embracing lifelong learning, you can thrive as a makeup artist and creator in this competitive industry. Remember, success is not just about the numbers but also about finding joy and fulfillment in what you do. So, take care of yourself, stay passionate, and let your authentic talent shine!
You’ve also worked with a lot of brands and people over the past decade. What are some of your most memorable makeup looks or projects?
One of the most memorable projects would be working on the Boost Juice campaign. It was definitely one of the most unforgettable projects in my career! Boost Juice hadn’t included talent in their campaigns for the past seven years, so being chosen as the makeup artist and hairstylist for this shoot was a huge honor.
The challenge was that we had to manage ten hair and makeup looks in just a 10-hour day shoot, and due to budget constraints, it was just my assistant Yuri and me handling everything. But I saw it as an opportunity to showcase our skills and creativity.
The best part was that the client gave us the freedom to experiment with colorful makeup and unique hairstyles while keeping in mind the outfit and scene of each talent. They trusted my expertise and wanted me to bring my artistic vision into the project, which was incredibly exciting!
To ensure we nailed the looks, I thoroughly researched and referenced the shot list, which helped me conceptualize the makeup and hair designs. Collaborating with my assistant Yuri, we executed each look flawlessly, and the client was thrilled with the results.
It was a whirlwind day, but the positive feedback and the satisfaction of having delivered excellent work made it all worthwhile. Being able to bring the client’s vision to life while infusing my own creativity was truly gratifying. I’m grateful for such opportunities to showcase my skills and make a meaningful impact in the world of makeup and hairstyling.
What’s the first thing you do in the morning, beauty-wise?
The very first thing I tackle in my morning routine is sunscreen application! It’s quite amusing how I only got on the daily sunscreen bandwagon after hitting the big 3-0, but over the past five years, I’ve become a true advocate for it. I can’t help but acknowledge the noticeable difference it has made — not just in terms of skincare but also in how I approach my overall beauty regimen.
Lastly, you launched Tu&kit some years ago during the pandemic — what products do you always keep with you in your makeup bag?
Launching Tu&kit during the pandemic was an incredible journey, and I’m thrilled that the magazine has taken the time to delve into my brand.
I am incredibly grateful for how much people have embraced Tu&kit and find the bags so useful for their makeup essentials. The love and support my brand has received is truly heartwarming. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that my products have found a place in the makeup kits of individuals, helping them stay organized and stylish on the go.
As someone who is continuously refining my marketing strategies to enhance sales while also passionately pursuing my makeup artistry, it’s been an exciting endeavor. I’m especially looking forward to the upcoming launch of two new products later this year.
In terms of my personal makeup bag essentials, I always ensure I have a few key items with me. Pressed powder is a must — it helps me maintain a fresh and flawless look throughout the day, no matter how busy my schedule gets. Lip balm is another staple, ensuring my lips stay moisturized and comfortable. Of course, a versatile lipstick is essential for those quick touch-ups and to add a pop of color. Lastly, my trusty eyeliner is a game-changer, allowing me to effortlessly define my eyes and create different looks.