I Moved To NYC & FINALLY Started To Wear Makeup The Way I Wanted To

For some, a lipstick is just a lipstick. But for others, it's a source of strength, creativity, and expression. In our series Power Faces, we'll explore the relationship between strong women and the makeup they choose to wear — or not. Our sixth subject is Alice Longyu Gao, a 23-year-old DJ and creative producer based in New York City.

My birth name is Longyu Gao, but when I moved to the United States five years ago, I named myself Alice after Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. I'm from a very conservative family in Bengbu, China, so it wasn't until I came to New York when I was 18 that I started wearing makeup the way I wanted to.

Here it doesn't matter what makeup I wear; there are so many different kinds of people in New York. At first, I started with just false lashes, then I started wearing more colorful falsies and eyeshadow. Now I wear rainbow makeup everywhere.

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Bright Idea

I became really inspired by Japanese culture after living in Kyoto during college. If you go to the Harajuku district in Japan, everyone has colorful hair and vibrant makeup. Harajuku and Kabuki theater are two of my biggest inspirations.

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.

When I was living in Kyoto, I discovered a cosmetic shop for Geishas. They have handmade brushes, like Yayoi calligraphy brushes, and I bought this multi-use red watercolor cream to use as eyeliner. In many Asian cultures, the color red is seen as a shade that brings fortune, so I wear it all the time. After I apply that to my eyes, I use a white eyeliner pencil and gold liquid eyeliner on my waterline and lower lashline — it makes my eyes look bigger and brighter.

Power Play

Even though outwardly, it may look like I'm bursting with confidence, when I see my peers and models in magazines, it can feel like I have so many problems to fix. I hate my asymmetrical eyes. I have a double eyelid on my left side and a single eyelid on my right. Some days, I don’t give a damn about it. For photoshoots though, I choose to use double eyelid tape.

At the end of the day though, I know makeup is an essential outlet for me and a way to show how I'm feeling inside — externally. It’s not about just covering acne or dark circles; it’s part of who I am and a way for me to pursue creative freedom. Why should I give a damn about my eyelids?

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Free Hand

I don't just play with makeup; my acrylic nails are an important part of my style, too. In fact, I feel insecure without them. I like being creative and designing styles with my go-to nail artist at the Japanese nail salon, Rounge. I pull inspiration from the seasons, my travels, art, and pop culture. The ones I'm wearing here are inspired by winter. I am so used to the length that I have no problem typing with them.

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.

I also have a really ballsy attitude toward my hair, so my hair color often changes. My hair colorist Yuki at the salon Kaminotech understands my aesthetic and he does my hair once a month. This bold yellow shade was inspired by Akihiro Miwa, a legendary Japanese entertainer who was born in 1935. I am wearing a yellow MAC eyeshadow as blush to match.

I've done a ton of hair color combinations over the years. I've had purple hair with pink and blue highlights, bright blue mixed with red and fuchsia shades, and pumpkin orange with green and brown running through it, too. I take care of my hair, but I can’t be bothered to spend a fortune on hair products. If my hair gets unhealthy I will just shave it all off. I think having a shaved head would make my eye makeup pop even more!

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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.

Work Hard, Play Hard

People have a lot of misconceptions about me when they see the way I look. It was hard to get a job after college because people didn't take me seriously. Even now that I'm in the creative industry working as a DJ, on-camera personality, and event producer, I still get negative comments. People are surprised when they find out that I'm organized, driven, and business-focused.

Having a wacky look doesn't mean I'm not committed to my career. I embrace it and use it to push myself forward. In fact, DJing is only half of what I do — I also curate and produce events myself. I just launched a new event series called Yoga Brunch Club to bring together lovers of music, wellness, and art.

To me, dressing up from head-to-toe is part of taking care of myself. Fashion helps me stand out, and if my face doesn't go with what I'm wearing, the entire ensemble just won't work. Sure, people judge me every day, but all I can do is let go. Every morning when I wake up, my motivation is to prove them all wrong.

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