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Conversations with Maia Liu

Today we’d like to introduce you to Maia Liu.

Hi Maia, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
All my works are heavily related to exploring and defining femininity.

When I was a young kid, I was fascinated with Beauty, anything femininity expressive will grab my attention. Things like makeup products, fashion magazines cover and of course wardrobe. Some of them are very creative. I remember the first time I saw fashion magazines, those visuals blew my mind. My young mind wouldn’t really comprehend what’s really going on with those out-of-ordinary pictures. Those tall skinny women use their bodies to make geometric poses. They have prominent makeup, big accessories, and extravagant clothes. At one point in time, I said to myself “hey, I want to be one of them.” I always remembered when my mom went to work, I would dig out her skirt and high heels to try on to feel her femininity. I used to feel ashamed about it. One day my mom bumped into me feeling myself with her working skirt on in front of the mirror. That almost destroyed me for a while. I am a girl but interestingly, I am drawn to the feminine “pretty” things but also was afraid of getting too close to them.

Fast forward to my first graduate school year, I lived a double life. In the daytime, my style mainly was tom-boy and baggy clothes. In the nighttime, me and roommate would disguise ourselves with heavy makeup, shining body-con dress, and high heels, blending into Boston’s nightlife. Everything felt new and lively to me. I enjoyed every second of dressing up and transforming myself to various new identities. I can wear smoke eye shadows with a shining cocktail dress to get away from the mundane life; I also can wear minimum eye makeup but dark lipsticks because I want to look edgy.

But this is not enough, I want to go even far. I still felt trapped by the socially accepted beauty standards and most are defined and dominated by males, until I have seen the reality show RuPaul drag race. For a long time, I believed what female wears and behaves is determined or shaped by what men would expect what we do. Maybe sex plays a huge role in society and everything is about sex. But seeing a bunch of sassy homosexual men trying really hard to be the woman is fun and also mind-blowing. They push every female feature to the extreme. The hair must be big and the nose must be narrow. The eye makeup only serves to make them twice big as they are supposed to be. I have to say. I also want to be one of them.

So I opened an Instagram account and gave myself a drag name, chinky Ling Ling. It is racially derogatory and fits into a stereotype but the whole point is to make people uncomfortable. Somehow I want to be aggressive. I started to experiment with the look I always wanted to try, such as no brow with heavy dark eye-shadows look and ombre eye makeup. I got a few wigs online and studied drag transformations.

I guess I was tired of people telling me what to wear and what should I look like. There are millions of articles telling people what’s trendy style and what’s the color of the year. If beauty is about feeling yourself the best, why should I follow in others’ footsteps instead of creating my own?

After I moved to LA, I realized my real passion is to create edgy visuals. I want to explore my imagination and creativity on not only femininity but also beauty.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
It has not been a smooth road.

Creating edgy and visually appealing photos requires a lot of resources. For one photoshoot, I need a model, a shooting studio, makeup products, and clothes, sometimes I even need to purchase some props to make the shoot interesting.

I am still working on gaining recognition among the community. It took me a while to realize my dream job is being a creative director/fashion director of one magazine. However, sometimes I felt pretty alone walking down this path. It is a whole new territory to me and I just started. This is the biggest struggle right now. I have a lot of ideas that are stuck in my mind but executing them is a different story.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
My work focus on creating edgy portrait photography. I consider myself a visual artist.

I specialize in makeup and post-production, such as retouching skin, color correction, and photoshop. I also collect ideas for the shoot. I work with models and photographers to coordinate and direct the shoot.

I am most proud of my creativity. They are both co-exist in my works. I think fashion is elevating but also being rebellious and challenging norms. It’s an attitude. I enjoy using my imagination and creativity to create attention-grabbing and unorthodox images.

In the meantime, I believe there is a deeper purpose in creating arts. It shouldn’t be limited to just looking pretty. Recently I am doing a series of experimental portraits that are heavily influenced by Cindy Sherman. I transformed myself into various female characters we see every day, such as ABG, AKA Asian baby girl, grunge, gen-z, TikTok kids, and Shanghai-based Chinese office lady, etc. The purpose of this project is to explore people’s appearances being socially constructed. I want to discuss how much we look every day depending on who we want to be or just the pressure of being socially acceptable.

Are there any books, apps, podcasts or blogs that help you do your best?
I learned all my skills from school and Youtube. I learn makeup, photoshop, and lighting from youtube. Most of my inspiration is from historical books and other photographers’ and makeup artists’ blogs, such as Art history and fashion history-related books.


  • $350 for a shoot, (including makeup, photographer, shoot and postproduction)

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

Model by: Nick Nguyen, Lizzy Liu, Maia Liu

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