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Meet Yuki Nakamura

Today we’d like to introduce you to Yuki Nakamura.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I grew up in Hiroshima, Japan. When I was about four or five years old, I convinced my mother to buy me my own little makeup kit. This is when I started my interest in makeup. My goal was to go to Makeup School once I graduated high school and become a Makeup Artist. My parents did not have enough money for school, so I gave up on my dream to be a Makeup Artist. I decided to go out and look for work. I did many jobs and finally found myself working for various clothing companies doing retail. I joined a company and learned a lot about the retail business. I worked hard and I saved my money.

Several years later, I began thinking about what I was doing in my life. At 27 years old, I thought I should focus on a career, a future and a way to support my parents. Makeup School seemed far away and difficult to achieve. I thought about opening my own clothing store. I was happy and I told my boyfriend my good news. He asked me if this store was what I really wanted to do. He said, before I make this my life work and invest all my time and money, I should know in my heart that this is what I want. I had to be passionate about this work and have no regrets. I thought about passion and regret and Makeup School came back in my mind.

I remembered my goal and my passion for makeup, but most of all, I did not want to look back and regret that I didn’t at least try to do Makeup. I thought about my options and finally made a decision. I packed my bags, I left Hiroshima and moved to Osaka to attend a Makeup School. It was a big change and I had no idea what would happen. While attending classes, I had to work two jobs to pay for school and rent. It was difficult but I was committed and I re-discovered my love for Makeup.

I finished the two years course in Osaka and I moved back to Hiroshima to find work. My goal was to move to Tokyo and work as a Professional Makeup Artist. In Hiroshima, I found work at Bobbi Brown, doing makeup at a local department store. I was working and saving money and doing makeup for a living. After another two years, I decided to move to Tokyo to follow my dream. My family and friends wanted me to stay in Hiroshima but I knew my Makeup Career was only in Tokyo.

Tokyo was far from home, the largest city in Japan, very expensive, millions of people and I had no friends there. I was 31 years old and everyone I met told me that I was too old to start my career as a Makeup Artist. I had been facing adversity most of my life so I decided not to listen to these people. I came to Tokyo to work in Makeup and I was determined to try. It sounds easy, moving to Tokyo and starting over, but it was not. I had to work many part-time jobs to allow me the freedom to work on Makeup jobs when they came along and I had to survive Tokyo.

Living and working in Tokyo is another story to tell, but I did survive and I found work as a Makeup Artist. It started slow but eventually, I was hired to do Makeup on Feature Films, Television shows, Fashion events, Commercials along with Magazine and print formats. It took me ten years, but I did it. At times it was difficult work, but I really love doing Makeup and that kept me going. I was working and doing what I want, this made me feel good. Something happened that made me realize I did the right thing. Many of my friends who watched me start over and follow my dream would ask me how I did it. I told them my story and some of my friends went back to school, started a business and became empowered to do what they wanted to do, no matter how old they were. I feel lucky to have such strong passion for my work and the ability to inspire and support my friends.

My love and passion for Makeup work grew and matured in Tokyo. I look back at that time and realize it was the best opportunity for me to learn and perfect my makeup style. I discovered that of all the different jobs I did, I really enjoyed working in Fashion best. I was working a lot, I had many clients and my career was going well in Tokyo. One day I was wondering what it would be like to go to the United States and try to find work as a Makeup Artist. My friends all thought I was crazy and should not give up my career in Japan. I thought I should try and if it didn’t work, I could always come back and I would have no regrets. I decided to move to New York City.

Moving to New York City made the most sense to me since the Fashion Industry is there. I did not speak English, I had no friends there but I knew this is where the opportunity was. The NYC Japanese community was helpful and I was able to find work as a babysitter for a Japanese family and as a bartender in a Japanese Piano Bar. I shared a one-room flat in Brooklyn with a little mouse and began trying to find work as a Makeup Artist. It was difficult to say the least and the only makeup work came from Japanese clients visiting New York. Living, working and surviving NYC is another long story but after a few years, I got a break. Friends of mine from Japan were visiting Los Angeles and wanted me to come to LA and meet them. I needed a break from NYC and flew to LA.

Little did I know that traveling to Los Angeles would change my life. It was great to see my friends but they could see my unhappiness. NYC was OK but I was not doing makeup work like I had dreamed. One of my friends introduced me to an LA Television Director she knew and when he heard my story and discovered that I was a Makeup Artist, he asked me if I might consider working on a TV pilot he was directing. It was a low budget job in Los Angeles but it was work in my profession so I said yes. I went back to NYC and about a month later, I flew to LA to start work on a TV show as an assistant make up artist. The TV Director, his name is Roger, was very kind to me and helped me while I was in LA. The job finished after ten days and I returned to NYC. Roger and I stayed in touch and it turned out that we both missed each other and wanted to meet again. Our coast to coast romance began and eventually, Roger suggested I move to LA and live with him. I did. It turned out to be one of my best decisions for my career and for my life.

Living in Los Angeles, I was able to focus on my career and start building my portfolio. I worked with many photographers and models, all of us trying to build our careers. I even found work as a makeup artist doing non-union TV shows and commercials. In NYC, my friends and my work were almost all Japanese and I did not speak English much. In LA, I did not have that luxury. I did not have any Japanese friends and the work I was getting required me to speak English. I realized that my English language was limited and I was afraid people did not understand me. I knew that I had to improve my English to build my confidence and get more work. I started teaching myself English.

Los Angeles is the Film and Television Industry in America and I felt that I would be able to find makeup work without too much difficulty. But one of the reasons I left Japan and moved to NYC was to work in Fashion. That was still my dream and I decided to focus on that, even in Los Angeles. I continued to build my portfolio on Instagram and tried reaching out to famous makeup artists to see if they needed an assistant. I knew I needed more training and to learn from a professional Makeup Artist who was working in Fashion.

Last spring, I was with a friend walking in Little Tokyo in Downtown LA. We wandered into a cosmetics store to check some products. I looked over and noticed a man that looked familiar. I recognized him from Instagram. His name is Makky and he is a professional Makeup Artist working in the Fashion Industry. We were the only ones in the store so I walked up and introduced myself. He was very sweet and friendly. We talked and I told him that I liked his work and that I was also a makeup artist. He was encouraging and told me to keep focusing on my work. He said he would follow me on Instagram and then we said goodbye. Makky and I chatted a few times and he was always supportive.

Last Fall, I got a call from Makky asking me if I was available to work as his makeup assistant in Los Angeles. I said yes, and I was hired to work on my first professional Fashion shoot in America. I have now worked on several professional photoshoots with him. I have learned so much from Makky as a Makeup Artist and as a person. I am happy building my experience and confidence in my skill as a Makeup Artist. From Hiroshima to Osaka, to Tokyo, to New York and finally Los Angeles, my dream is just beginning.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I would say looking back on my career that my road to becoming a Makeup Artist has been difficult and challenging. I worked hard to succeed. My biggest challenge now is the English language.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I am an independent Makeup Artist in Los Angeles. I have been working as a professional Makeup Artist for approximately 15 years in Japan and now the United States. My work is mainly focused in the Fashion Industry but I do many different types of makeup.

I think the mixture of my Japanese culture and my new American experience makes me a unique makeup artist. I have always tried to create all kinds of looks, protecting the skin and being aware of the different needs that each model has. No matter what the makeup work is, I want the model’s personality to show through the makeup. I want the models work and my work to blend together and enhance the project successfully.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
When I decided to go back to school and study Makeup it was a huge change for me. In Osaka and Tokyo, I only had the support of a few friends who would listen and give me advice. When I moved to America and eventually Los Angeles, I had the support of my boyfriend who helped me focus on the Makeup work that I wanted to do. Makky gave me the opportunity to work professionally with him and he also became my mentor. My boyfriend and Makky are the main people who have helped me in my career.

Contact Info:

  • Email:
  • Instagram: @yukicorn_mua

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