Accomplished and highly sought-after makeup artist, Nam Vo, has just a few obsessions—dewy skin, Vogue Paris, sexy women and classically beautiful hair. And while the first three passions seem like obvious fixations for Nam, it also comes as no surprise that the last obsession snuck into the mix. Hair is in her DNA. “Both of my parents are hairstylists, and growing up around salons gave me a deep appreciation for the art of hair,” she said. So when Oribe Hair Care needed a makeup artist to pull off some magic behind the scenes at our January event, Front Row, Nam, whose signature look is a combination of glowing natural beauty and subtle sexiness, was the perfect fit. “I am the painter and the hairstylist is the sculptor, so it makes total sense for me to join the excitement of the Oribe segment at Front Row,” said Nam. And whether she is backstage in Miami or halfway across the world putting final touches on a cover look, Nam keeps the goal of her art simple. “Makeup is what you want it to be. It always comes down to whatever makes you feel pretty.”
How did you get your start in the industry?
Like many other makeup artists, I started behind the counter at my local mall. I worked for MAC, NARS and Shiseido, but eventually realized that my career would be stunted if I stayed in San Francisco. I decided to be like Madonna and move to New York City with $35 and a dream. Well, I had a little more than the $35, but I like the drama that brings. It was the wildest and riskiest thing I ever did. New York has always been my favorite city as well as the creative capital of the world, so in 2008 I made the move as the economy was collapsing. New York brings out highest highs and lowest lows, but it has made my career what it is today. This city is a big part of who I am now.
What do you consider to be your big break?
Honestly, nothing stands out as my “big break.” My entire career has been slow and steady. I started assisting at small, local magazines where I was able to book my own beauty teams and eventually the Elles and the Vogues came calling. This is when I got the opportunity to really develop my portfolio and make it next level.
Who is your makeup inspiration?
My makeup inspiration is a what, not a who. Vogue Paris is my editorial go-to. I like to make women look and feel sexy with makeup and Vogue Paris perfectly describes my esthetic. I want to make women look like women.
Give us your best makeup tips.
It all starts with beautiful skin. To be frank, genes play a big role—products can only take you so far when combatting lifestyle and stress, so hopefully you win the DNA lottery. But for those of us who didn’t get lucky, I suggest investing in a skin care regimen, sun block and facial massages. When you take care of your skin, makeup will glide onto the face better and just look better overall. Moist, dewy skin is a great canvas to work on. After great skin, I always suggest picking your favorite feature and making it the focal point. It could be your eyes, lips, cheekbones, anything. Learn how to make that feature stand out. And if you are absolutely goofy with makeup, a clean, simple look is the way to go. Finally, I want to caution against the ’90s makeup and contouring tricks that are back in style. There is a place for contouring—red carpets and photo shoots—but people are taking it a bit far. Tasteful contouring is great, but too much can actually age you.
What is your favorite look for winter?
I’m a dewy skin groupie year round. To me it doesn’t matter if you are sunbathing in the Caribbean or freezing on the slopes in Aspen, luminous, healthy skin is a must. But for the winter season, I love a beautiful berry-stained cheek and a sexy eye. Holiday parties are the perfect time to play up a few features.
Is there one shoot that sticks out as your most memorable?
I did a recent photo shoot with photographer Gavin O’Neill where I tried a new makeup technique that I am calling oil painting. I massaged the model’s skin with oil and mixed gold oil into the foundation for an incredibly incandescent, glowy editorial look. I love the way it turned out and think oil painting is the next big thing. No matter what shoot I’m on, I always try to see what is out there and what I can do to make it better and add my #NamVoGlow touch. It’s important to know where we came from in order to know where we are going.
What is your biggest career accomplishment so far?
Being able to inspire and open up doors for others has been what I am most proud of to date. When assistants write to me or meet with me for advice I tell them that there is no big secret or new formula to success in this business—be nice to people, work hard and love what you do. If you show up on time and exude good energy, people will want to work with you and doors will open.
Why did you decide to collaborate with Oribe Hair Care?
Oribe’s image of a powerful, sexy woman is a vision that I believe in. When a woman feels confident there is a positive shift in her energy. Throughout the ’80s and ’90s when grunge and extreme makeup were popular, Oribe set himself apart by continually making women look sexy and feel strong. Trends come and go, but beautiful, poised women are always in style.
What is your favorite Oribe Hair Care Product?
I live and breathe Dry Texturizing Spray. This product changed the game. Every photo shoot I walk into has at least one bottle of Dry on set. I use it for added texture, sexiness and grit. I like dewy on the face and Dry on the hair. I also love the shampoos and conditioners. Oribe products are little bits of luxury. When I use them I feel like a queen.
Why did you decide to join the Front Row creative team?
Throughout my career, I have worked most intimately with hairstylists. We share the same design space and feed off of each other’s creativity and energy. The elevated editorial looks that have been created by the talented Oribe Education Team are very much in my wheelhouse. I’m excited to be apart of it. Where are you pulling inspiration from in order to create the looks that we will see on stage in January? Every show segment is unique and individualized and each hairstylist has a very clear vision of what they would like to see. I will go in and add the sugar and spice until we get exactly the look we want. This time, I’m inspired by the actual show vision of glamorous, bold, dramatic style.
What are you most looking forward to during the four-day event?
I’m most excited about being backstage and being apart of everyone’s unique esthetic coming together to create something beautiful. The energy and excitement is going to be invigorating. I’m ready for a room full of creative minds to kickoff the New Year.