Monday, 24 March 2014

Celebrity make-up artist inspires youth-at-risk

At a sharing and demonstration session today with youth-at-risk who are undergoing vocational training with YMCA Project Bridge, make-up artist Clarence Lee encouraged the youths to pursue their passion and not be discouraged by others.

“Up till my early 20s, I still got disparaging remarks about my work as I was ‘so young’,” shared Lee, who obtained his first professional gig at 17. “But I always replied that since I started young, I already had a few years of experience.”

A veteran with two decades of experience, Lee is highly-regarded and considered to be the best make-up artist in Singapore. He has worked with Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi, Taiwanese model-actress Lin Chi Ling and local songbird Stefanie Sun.

Besides talent and hard work, Lee who is considering to hire an apprentice, stressed that having a positive attitude goes a long way in gaining people’s trust and becoming successful.

Taking my job seriously and working well with the rest of the team is very important as it is always a team effort and not only a display of individual talent,” elaborated the make-up master. “It helps that I am a perfectionist which makes me more meticulous and drives me to attain perfection as much as possible each time.”

“It was personally satisfying to do Zhang Ziyi’s make-up for the 2005 Academy Awards when she had to present an award,” said Lee, who has done Zhang’s make-up since 2003. “The Oscars is the biggest award event in show-business and when I saw my make-up on the international stage, I felt proud to have put Singapore on the map.”

However, the road to success is not a bed of roses, warned Lee. “You will experience hardship, long hours and lack of sleep. You have to start from the bottom and you must be able to take criticism as not everyone will like your work”

To improve, he told the class of aspiring make-up artists to be humble and observant which will “help you absorb and learn without being taught”.

When asked about the best and worst aspects of his job, Lee quipped to laughter from the audience, “Irregular hours! I can have off days when most people are working. But this means that I will be working when most people are resting!”

“You also have to be very confident in front of clients, especially the more difficult ones so that they will be confident in you,” he added.

Other perks he enjoyed were travelling, getting to rub shoulders with celebrities and getting paid to fulfil his lifelong passion.

“I started experimenting with make-up in primary school and practised by doing the make-up for schoolmates during performances,” said the youngest child of four children. “I had a supportive family which helped me a lot."

Although Lee has achieved fame and recognition, he does not allow success to get to his head and understands that luck plays an important role in his achievements.

“I have been very fortunate that other people believed in me and gave me the opportunities to succeed,” he said.

He further shared that he likes to help make-up artists who are taking their first steps into the industry.

“When I was starting out, other established make-up artists helped me, so I should do the same now,” Lee said to the class of youths who had taken up the make-up course organised by YMCA Project Bridge under the Vocational and Soft Skills Programme (VaSSP).

YMCA Project Bridge is a direct service arm of YMCA of Singapore that focuses on helping youths-at-risk and out-of-school youths aged 13-21 re-enter the school system and acquire skills for gainful employment through vocational and apprenticeship schemes. In 2013, YMCA Project Bridge reached out to over 246 youths-at-risk and their families through 42 schools and VWOs in Singapore and over 2,177 hours of counselling and intervention sessions were conducted for youths. 

The VaSSP was conceived in 2009 to combine youth intervention with vocational training. It aims to equip out-of-school youths and youths-at-risk between the ages of 15 to 21 years with job competency as well as specific vocational skills in Hairdressing, Baking, Make-up and Hospitality. In 2014, a fifth vocation, Western Culinary was introduced 

Putting his words into action, Lee proceeded to share his skills and dispensed advice to the students. As he gave pointers for improvement, he said, “Stay strong and positive so that you will remain motivated and be able to follow your dreams.”

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