Effervescence is a personality trait that usually translates best in person, but Xiao Wen Ju seems to radiate it in every medium. The Chinese model sparkles in Fashion Week street style photos; in editorial shoots (styled as Warhol’s Marilyn for Italian Vogue); and on her massively popular Instagram feed, where she recently posted a mermaid-esque video from a steaming Icelandic lagoon. It’s exactly that X factor, together with a chameleonlike versatility, that has caught the attention of the fashion world, and now the beauty industry: Today, L’Oréal Paris announced Ju as its newest face.
Displaying a weakness for black eyeliner, poppy red lips, and skin-nourishing face oil, she’s certainly a natural for the job. Speaking by phone from Manhattan on the cusp of New York Fashion Week, Ju talks about the beauty traditions in her native Xi’an, the makeup trick she’s still hoping to master, and why confidence is a woman’s best asset.
What Chinese beauty secrets informed your upbringing?
In China, growing up, my mom never allowed me to wear makeup. She always asked me to eat vegetables and all the good things for your skin, and my father always cooked up pork bone soup, [also] for the skin.
What were the ideals of beauty in your hometown, and how do you define a beautiful woman today?
It’s funny because in China people like big eyes, a high nose. There are so many surgeries that open your eyes and give you that nose. But I think things change; people see the world and no longer think that. Now, for me, beauty is all different kinds. It’s also about the inside, the confidence. I think the girl who is doing something is really beautiful.
Who have been beauty icons for you at different points of your life?
When I grew up, of course it was my mom. My favorite, favorite person was [actress] Maggie Cheung. Some people think we look alike. I think she’s great and looks really elegant. At the beginning [of my career], I really liked Gemma Ward. All the girls I like have a strong personality; the first time you see them, you can remember them forever. For me, I like a kind of special-looking [model]. Gemma Ward is still on my computer screen. Every time I turn it on, I always see her face.
What was your reaction when you heard you were signed with L’Oréal?
It’s kind of like a dream come true! When I was little, I always watched TV and [remember] the advertising—translated in English as “You’re worth it.” I always copied those words, and I always used their hair products—the hairspray, the shampoo. Now maybe one day my face will be on them! [laughs]
What’s the best makeup trick you’ve learned from the pros backstage or on set? Is there anything you’re still hoping to master?
I’ve learned that they’re using everything differently. They’re not only using the lipsticks on your lips; they also use it on your cheeks. Now, for me, [there’s an] eyebrow color that I always use as eyeshadow. But I’ve never had the ability to learn [how to do] the foundation they’re putting on me. It’s really natural; you can never see the product! There are so many brushes and so many colors while they’re working on your face, and after, you have, like, perfect skin. I really want to know how to do that! I need to make a video.
You’re a master of the selfie. Any tips?
The first thing is the angle. The person who knows your face [best] is yourself, so you know which angle is good. If you want to make the picture special, always look for some interesting [expression]—like a monkey! [laughs] It’s funny, it’s alive. I feel like different expressions are the real makeup. I remember my first selfie—I was in college, actually. The phone quality was really bad, but I still have the picture. Looking in the mirror is kind of like the first selfie, though. You make different faces, and then you stop [and gaze] for a long time—it’s like a picture.
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