Vivien Loh is the Beauty Creator of the Year for our 2023 BURO Impact Awards, and it’s a title that is well-deserved. You may recognise her work from her stunning Instagram portfolio (often shot by her fellow creative friends, photographers Daniel Adams and Raisa Azzam). Alternatively, you’ll be more familiar with the wisecracking, sardonic, yet earnestly helpful influencer persona from her TikTok and Reels content. As far as content creators go, she’s a rarity. Not only is she incredibly gifted in makeup artistry, but she’s also a natural at content creation—two things that don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. So, what got her here? Ahead, we chronicle Loh’s journey from beauty enthusiast to award-winner.
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve always gravitated towards makeup,” says Loh. Even as a moody tomboy teen, she recalls lingering around makeup aisles, looking through eyeliner pencils and silver eyeshadows. It was a pre-Instagram world back then, or, as she describes it, a time before fleeky brows and snatched contour. Soon after, she found herself binge-watching makeup content on early-days YouTube—back when creators like Michelle Phan, Bubz Beauty, Manny MUA and the like ruled the platform.
That interest in beauty soon evolved into a passion for makeup. By the time college came around, Loh was a regular at photoshoots. “I was the go-to girl when anybody needed a makeup artist for their photo or video projects,” she explains. However, there was one era that served as a major turning point for Loh—a trend that converted makeup from a hobby to a passion.
It was the era of overlined lips and lip kits. The OG boom in makeup content creation. The conception of the Instagram face (and its eventual downfall). The era in which social media would revolutionize content creation forever. This shift in the accessibility of the enthusiast-to-influencer pipeline would allow Loh to pursue content creation casually, with no strings attached.
“This has always been more of a creative outlet for me, even until today!” Loh explains. She had never deliberately made the decision to become a content creator, nor does she have a goal for her content creation even at present. “Maybe I was heavily influenced by the first wave of beauty YouTubers; maybe I enjoy hearing my own thoughts,” she muses. “Or maybe I just love the attention.”
“Even before TikTok, and when I only had a couple hundred followers on Instagram, I would upload content so frequently,” she continues. “It was 2018, that I started posting my makeup looks online—when I had earned a bit more money and could buy more makeup.”
“If I hadn’t posted the looks, it would have been a waste of my makeup purchases,” she jokes. “I had to make it worth every cent that I had spent, you know what I mean?”
Not only has she been able to indulge her love for makeup artistry, but she has also been able to keep her passion for the craft burning bright. How? Loh works a day job as a copywriter, and she likes it that way. “My day job is somewhat creative too, which means I’ve turned one passion into work,” she remarks. “I do like my day job, but I’m not necessarily passionate about it anymore because I’ve lost all creative freedom. That’s why I’m keeping makeup purely as a passion—so that I can have a cute little escape to express my creativity, without having to seek the approval of others. If I were to pursue makeup full-time, I’d likely have to hear ‘that’s not nice’ or ‘please change this’, which would not feed my soul very much,” she laughs.
BEHIND THE LENS
So, what does a day in the life of content creation look like? According to Loh, the creative process is nothing short of chaotic: “I begin by feeling FOMO for not creating enough content or joining in on trends. Then, I stress-scroll on social media and stress-compile inspiration. Then, I block out a day in my schedule to film that look. Then, I film and edit all on the same day, often forgetting to drink water or eat. Then, I upload and rewatch my content for about two hours straight. Finally, when I get a headache, I put down my phone and start taking care of myself again.” Then, once all is said and done, she rinses and repeats. Better yet, she does so for absolutely no tangible return nor sensible purpose (her words), before concluding that “passion really is so weird”.
It’s hard to churn out content, and it’s very easy to hit a wall. That’s why Loh tries not to box herself in. “I don’t think I have a set art style,” she admits. “I find it hard to curate and stick to a theme or aesthetic. I just do what I feel like doing in the moment.” What she feels like doing at any given moment ranges anywhere from cutesy to ethereal to grungy to illusion and beyond.
She wears many hats, and it’s what makes her so compelling as an artist. “Maybe that’s why my profile doesn’t blow up,” she wonders, going into a minor spiral. “I feel like if I were to be able to stick to one niche, my profile might grow bigger, faster. That, or maybe I’m not as great as I think I am.” She resolves that ultimately, it doesn’t really matter. “I’m at peace with my pace and creative work right now.”
Still, creator burnout is real, and it’s hard to stay inspired as a content creator. That’s why Loh has found solace in one particular yearly challenge: Peachtober. “Art prompt challenges are always fun to follow because it has already figured out the hardest part of the creative process—starting. Instead of asking myself what to do next, I’ve already got prompts to work with,” she explains. “The absolute best part about Peachtober is finishing it and looking back at all the looks I’ve created. I have so many that I’m happy with!” It’s true for us, too—we’ve been following Loh’s journey for a few years now, and we’re still blown away by her work.
STAYING ON TRACK
That said, Peachtober takes up just 31 days of the year. It’s an intensive month, for sure, but it’s still just a small fraction in the grand scheme of things. So, how does Loh stay motivated the rest of the time? Here are some nuggets of wisdom she’s gleaned since becoming a content creator. “Firstly, never confuse engagement numbers for your or your art’s worth,” she warns. “In the past years, the numbers affected me quite a bit. It made me feel less confident about the work that I did. But this year, I was able to completely ignore that and just focus on playing and expressing myself and just uploading and rolling with it!”
On the note of boosting one’s self-confidence, she suggests “side-eyeing anyone who goes out of their way to minimise your confidence”. In addition, she recommends getting yourself a great hype man. Hers is her husband, who she credits with making her “obnoxiously confident”. In addition, she says a great support system is key to staying sane as a content creator: “Make friends with like-minded creators so you’ll have a cute little support group to share the ups and downs of being a creator with!”
As for any advice she has for other budding makeup content creators, it’s all sage: “Trust the process! Keep building or tweaking the look, and don’t bother starting over. Even if you personally don’t like it, just upload it anyway because someone somewhere will love it. That’s the beautiful thing about art!”
Editor-In-Chief / SARAH HANI JAMIL. Creative Direction / SARAH TAI. Text and Interview / REDZHANNA JAZMIN. Styling / SARAH HANI JAMIL AND SARAH TAI. Assisted by / EVE LYN LAU. Photography / HERRY CHIA EE | HERRY STUDIO. Assisted by / EURI ERFE, BIRDY LEE AND DAVID ONG. Videography / JIMI RAZAK FOR STUDIO KARYAWAN. Video Editor / DENNIS KHO. Makeup / AYANG KAMELL. Hair / LEX SE FOR GHD.
Check out the 2023 BURO Impact Award winners here.
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