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The MAB Journal


Personal, Success

The MAB Story

Behind the beauty scene…

Aloha! Wow, so glad you found me! MeiLi here 🙂 the girl behind the insta, the MEILI inside MeiLi Autumn Beauty…

My parents named me MeiLi- which means Beauty in Chinese, and Autumn is my middle name, also the season I was born. I’m a Maui girl, born and raised (one of the few!) – My love for makeup started when I was 5 years old and my mom put some black kohl in my waterline and I couldn’t stop staring at myself. (Maybe I was Cleopatra in a past life 😉 The mesmerizing transformation of eyeliner had me hooked – makeup lover for life

Let’s see…I was a good student, one of those over achiever types- and even though I wanted to go to Fashion Design school, I was encouraged to try out for Ivy League… So I did and crazily enough I got into Brown University, in Rhode Island. Between the culture shock of East Coast living, dealing with Seasonal Depressive Disorder, and a developing eating disorder, somehow I got through 4 years of university and graduated with a degree in E. Asian studies. I learned how to speak, read and write in Mandarin and spent my first summer in China in 2002. I spent a few semesters abroad in Shanghai, Kunming, and Harbin and ended up living in Shanghai.

I was 23 years old, managing a wine bar during the week, and private tutoring english to the kids of Chinese Moguls on weekends. I zipped around on a vespa, and I knew all the local dumpling vendors by name. But my future self knew I had some goals to accomplish- she sat me down and had a talk with me – And she said “You got your degree, you proved you could do it, now its time to do what you really want to do. You’ve always said you wanted to be a makeup artist- You have no kid, aren’t married, and have to real obligations- in 5 years if you don’t pursue this you will always regret it”.

So I broke up with my older French boyfriend, and moved back to Maui. I figured the best way to get training was to work for a cosmetic company- and of course, my absolute favorite brand was MAC (which are also my initials)- I remember going in for my interview thinking I was already a makeup artist, feeling it in my bones that I was a makeup artist, remembering my future as a makeup artist- I’ve never wanted something more in my life. And trust me, for me to graduate from and Ivy League school and be working at Macy’s on a small island where everyone would question what I was doing, was just the first of many humbling moments in my life. I didn’t care. I had a vision, and getting training was the first step. Back then MAC had the budget to really pour into their artists- They flew me to Oahu and I spent a week in a hotel conference room doing makeup bootcamp that consisted of product training from 9-5pm and we learned all the ingredients, colors, and techniques that still makes up the foundation for my skillset today. That week of being elbows deep in shimmer, glitter, shadow, blush, and gloss was a dream come true. I can still remember it so well. I felt so aligned with my purpose. My inner artist was finally getting her time to shine.

My time at MAC will always hold a special place in my heart, I learned the importance of working as a team, and although there was the typical girl drama, we all became very close, I even picked up a minor smoking habit so I could go on mini smoke breaks with them. I got to dress up like I was clubbing every day and in the morning Starbucks line at the mall, I was the girl with the thigh high black boots, purple lips, and false lashes that touched my eyebrows. I loved it.

We slayed at that counter. I did every kind of skin tone, face shape, nationality, and style you name it. It was the best training I could ask for simply helping out every type of woman that came to MAC. I did makeup-up on the crazy lady that would come in daily trying on all the lipsticks, and the shy Mahu who would secretly come by and want me to try out eyeshadows on him and then quickly take it off. I concealed plastic surgery scars on older women, I did dozens of proms, and I started to do weddings on the side…

After 2 years working in corporate cosmetics, the reality of the company I was working for became really apparent. See, at the core, I’m an artist- not a sales person. So I was waaaaaaayyyy more interested in spending an hour doing someone’s makeup than I was actually selling them the makeup. I was not the best employee- I was notoriously late, and often would come to work still wearing the clothes I had been in from partying the night before. But! I was the best artist at the counter, I can say that… and I was promoted to team Trainer after my 1st year…

I could have stayed with MAC as a lifetime career- They have certain paths you can go a dream of mine was always to be a Sr. Artist that travelled around the world, but I just couldn’t really fit in with corporate culture. The sales goals, the pushing at least 3 products on to every woman (when I could show them how to achieve the look with just one), the reviews, and the weird catty MAC vibe that seemed to be a pervasive part of the brand.

At this time I was already gaining a small freelance wedding clientele, I bought my first car, I was living in a brand new house with my sister and my MAC bestie Liz (Maui Makeup artistry), I was 26 and had a younger surfer boyfriend… and my future self had another talk with me- She said “You could easily live this life for the next 40 years if you wanted. You are comfortable, you could marry, you could easily do more weddings… but we both know you gotta go to the next phase… It’s time to go back to China and be a makeup artist there- maybe even start your own makeup line, who knows, but Maui will always be here… you gotta go”….

So I sold my car (actually I totaled it texting and driving before I could sell it), I moved out, I packed up all my stuff into 2 suitcases- 1 full of black clothes, and 1 full of makeup, and I moved to Beijing in 2007 before the olympics. The next 5 years of my life was a complete blur of anxiety, progress and opportunity, and faking it till I was making it. I landed a 30k gig with the Westin chain of hotels teaching their entire staff how to groom and do makeup/hair before the olympics started, I did fashion shows, and editorials, music videos, American consulate members, and rich housewives- I did bar girls in fancy clubs, I did car shows, I did commercials, body painting, living art installations, and corporate trainings- I did makeup anywhere and everywhere it was needed. I even did a full feature movie as the lead hair/makeup artist having never worked on a movie before in my life and taught myself special FX makeup, mixing instant coffee grinds and cough syrup to make fake blood on set. My one consistent gig was writing a bi-monthly article in a magazine called Beijing Fashionista and I orchestrated 100’s of photoshoots of Beijing’s artists, designers, and fashionistas- from China’s first drag queen, to rich bougie house wives with designer closets.

And yes, I did weddings too. I did Chinese weddings where from sunrise to sunset they expected me to hang out all day following them around and doing touchups. I did American weddings and Korean weddings, and weddings on the Great Wall. Out of all my random gigs (I did it ALL), I loved weddings the most…

And slowly, I made a name for myself…

5 years of this and I was ready for another change. I couldn’t fathom another season in Beijing- the air pollution was so so bad. And having just turned 30, the party scene that was so exciting when I first moved there was feeling blasé and toxic. I used to joke that I drank so much free Dom Perignon that if you lick me I’d still taste like champagne. I was living in a gorgeous renovated penthouse apartment, I had a little puppy I named Chairman Maui (haha, get it), and I had a team of 4 other stylists I was representing with my brand MeiLi Style… we were about to get a real studio space…

This time, my future self didn’t have the answer… Maybe New York she said… Her voice wasn’t as secure as it was before.. Maybe it was the 5 years of MSG laden food, or the heavy drinking, or the masked heartbreak of an unrequited love, or the unsettling feeling like I didn’t really have a purpose after all… but my intuition was silent… and I was unsure of what life had for me… maybe New York, she said…

SO summer of 2012, I visited New York- I figured I had an impressive portfolio at this point, and I could get in with an agency… I was planning on being there for a few weeks to get some contacts with the hope of working New York fashion week in September…

But really I felt kinda lost…

During that Summer I got pregnant and everything changed….

I closed the China chapter in my life

I used all my savings to ship back some art and antiques

I moved back to Maui

I went back to work at MAC at the local mall, broke, pregnant, humble af

I got on WIC food stamps at one point bc I qualified and I didn’t want to live off my parents

I re-designed my website to be solely bridal focused

I called up my old wedding coordinator contacts

I freelanced for other teams

I gave birth to Keziah Mei on March, 10, 2013…

I did my first wedding as MeiLi Autumn Beauty that fall

I got sober

And the rest as they say… is history.. and still unfolding…

Thank you for reading my story… there is so much more I can unpack about motherhood and running a business and being a single mom and slaying the demons of self doubt and perfectionism and I’m still on the ever challenging journey of self-love. I’m not an overnight success, I’ve just leaned into what I love over and over again and I’m just so grateful that even in the days I didn’t think I could go on, the voice inside who I believe is Jesus, kept telling me I could… and I fall back on that voice everyday. My one constant, the one true thing I know is that God is good, and that your life here matters, even if you don’t think you have a purpose, or you don’t think you are ‘ready’… you are exactly where you are supposed to be, and your life can change in an instant. All you have to do is be willing. The world needs your gift, your unique fingerprint, don’t play small and live in fear of what people might think. And really… as cliched as this sounds… we are really just here to break all the barriers within that stop us from accepting that love… especially for ourselves.

If I’m the MUA on your wedding day, or if it’s one of my amazing team members, this is something I can absolutely say- we can’t wait to meet you, and thank you for choosing us to be a part of one of the most memorable days of your life… And if I don’t meet you, and you just want to say hi and connect, I’d love that too…

With Aloha

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