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How Gia Seo Finds Beauty Inspiration In Color Theory & Roald Dahl

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 latest subject is Gia Seo, a creative director, stylist, and sometimes-model known for her bold approach to color and self-described "sockfluencer" status. This story was told to Rachel Krause and edited for length and clarity.
Growing up, my mom didn’t allow me to wear makeup. I was 18 the first time I tried it, and it was a Christian Dior mascara, the same one I wear to this day. I was just focused on really simple skin care — Cetaphil, Noxzema one time when I had a pimple. I didn’t even know what toner was, had never used an oil or a serum. In my adult life, my beauty routine is still quite minimal. If I do a crazy eye, I’ll go completely bare on my skin; if I do a heavier lip, I’ll be sure to keep my eyes really simple. I like the balance of less extreme and more extreme.
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Photographed by Elizabeth Wirija.
I think because makeup wasn’t a part of my life until later in my teen years, it’s more of an accessory to me. There are definitely days where I look to beauty to boost my confidence, but I try not to use it to mask my insecurities — I think that would lead me down a road of constantly running away from my flaws and insecurities. It’s so easy to use beauty to make yourself look beautiful, right? That’s why it’s called beauty. As I get older and I feel a lot more sure of myself and more positive with the person I'm becoming, I use beauty more as an accessory or a mood booster than something to cover up.
Photographed by Elizabeth Wirija.
Communicating In Color
When I first moved to New York, I was just a small-town girl from Alaska. I started working for this company that only sold black or white clothing, and I didn’t know what color was for a few years after that. Then one day, I tried a little bit of gray, a little bit of brown, decided the brown looked really cool with the yellow… it started small. I really do love color so much. I struggle with language because my mind works faster than my mouth, and I tend to think faster in Korean, which doesn't translate to English a lot. So I use my style and the colors that I choose on my face to be the language that I don't always speak.
Photographed by Elizabeth Wirija.
In the last few years, I’ve become a lot more experimental with the type of beauty that I showcase. Before, the more extreme makeup was when I was on set and talented makeup artists were creating the looks, but at home I was keeping it pretty minimal. A year or two before Euphoria, I discovered this brand called Suva Beauty that does these Hydra Liners, a powder pot you wet with a brush and it turns into liquid. It was the first time I found an eyeliner that was really easy to use. Before that I’d been afraid to use anything extravagant — I couldn’t do an even cat eye, couldn’t get my eyebrows to look even when I filled them in. When I found that eyeliner, it opened the world for me in terms of what I can put on my face. On top of that, now I don't really care about it matching so much. I think that symmetry is in the eye of the beholder.
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Photographed by Elizabeth Wirija.
Finding Inspiration — Or Not
With COVID, my beauty has changed in the sense that — I'm almost afraid to admit this, but sometimes I'll focus very much on my eyes, because that's really the only part of your face you can see most of the time. But if I were to take off my mask, you would laugh, because it’s just totally bare skin and my eyes are super, super done up. Now that masks are coming off, I wonder if my beauty routine will change. I've become so comfortable with literally no makeup. I feel like so many more women have embraced that, and I don't know if that's part of being in quarantine or in a pandemic. It's definitely fun to experiment with makeup and skin care, but I think my mind tells me, like, you know what you're comfortable with and what works for you. So I kind of stick to that routine.
Photographed by Elizabeth Wirija.
I only look at beauty for inspiration when it comes to my work, if a client is hiring me to build a project for them or I'm creative directing a concept. I don't really look at a lot of inspiration for beauty for myself personally. When I’m building my own look, I have no real process. I’m not someone who has the mind or creativity to sit down every day and come up with a really beautiful look, so it really happens for me when inspiration strikes. Smells trigger visual imagery for me a lot: If I smell something in particular that reminds me of a certain product or even a type of food or something, I’ll think, Yellow smells like a specific spice I grew up with in Alaska, so maybe I’ll do a full yellow look. I read Roald Dahl a lot during quarantine, and for a while there all my beauty looks were somehow related to Roald Dahl book covers. But I stopped pretty soon after I stopped reading Roald Dahl.
Photographed by Elizabeth Wirija.
I’m a huge believer in color theory. I have a lot of color theory books and I’m constantly looking for inspiration there. For a while I was just doing pairing colors blindly, but one day I just hit a wall. When you’re a creative or a content creator, there are only so many ways you can do the same thing. I started to realize that I was not excited about the creative I was doing at all, then I remembered how much I enjoyed my art classes in school and how little I use them now. One thing that really stuck with me was that my sculpture professor was a huge color theorist; he talked about it every class. I went back to my curriculum and bought a few books he had made us read in school. Sometimes it works; there are definitely times where I’m like, Who let me out of the house looking like this? But learning those lessons is the only way you can grow.
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