Welcome to Take Pride, a weekly series that celebrates Pride Month by showcasing the beauty of self-expression through makeup. We’re highlighting influencers from the LGBTQIA community, sharing their stories from what makes them feel most beautiful to their must-have desert island products.
There’s no question that Von Nguyen, better known as Kimora Blac, knows their way around an eyeshadow palette. While you may have caught them on RuPaul’s Drag Race, the Los Angeles-based professional Makeup Artist, Beauty and Fashion Influencer, can be regularly seen on YouTube, sharing their beauty tips. There’s plenty. Scroll through their feed and you’ll see one dramatic transformation after another. With experience as a Senior Makeup Artist for MAC Cosmetics and pro-artist for CHANEL Beauty for 10 years, their makeup expertise, creative vision and bold personality has gained a legion of followers, wide and diverse audience, male and female, inclusive of LGBTQIA.
1. What drew you to makeup and beauty?
KB: I remember being about 10–12 years old watching my mother put on her Red Dior lipstick and I loved how she looked putting it on. It was like once she had it on, she became powerful! I told her daily how pretty it looked and one day I had a blemish that I did not like on my cheek, my mother called me over and put a bit of foundation on the blemish and when it disappeared, I was obsessed… that was the start of my love for beauty.
2. What makes you feel most beautiful?
KB: What makes me feel most beautiful is my ability to transform from a male to female. I have always loved the art of transformation and I feel I’m in my purest state when I’m in glam. There is something about having the ability to have moments where I’m living a different life where I’m the “Most Beautiful Girl: in the room knowing that I’m a cis-male that allows me to truly bend the rules of gender conforming. On a more personal note, what truly makes me feel beautiful is my ability to show my raw self on camera via my YouTube channel and show the process of getting in glam and inspiring people of all ages, all sexes and all genders to feel comfortable enough to do the same in their own skin.
3. How did makeup help you find yourself?
KB: It has really helped me find who my most inner self is — not only as an artist or a creative but really down to the core of who I am and what my deepest purpose, values and beliefs are. At first it helped me be more confident. Being a confused teenager, it helped me find who I am. Over the years, makeup has inspired and helped me to be consistently evolving almost daily and now makeup helps me by really inspiring others to feel more beautiful.
4. For Drag Race, makeup is such a vehicle of expression. What is your favorite application technique or beauty trick?
KB: My favorite beauty technique is perfecting your skin (foundation) application first and then applying your eyes. This goes against everything I was taught when I worked for Beauty & Cosmetic giant years ago, but this technique has really been my foundation — pun intended, for the application process.
5. What is your desert island can’t-live-without beauty product?
KB: Okay, there’s three: I couldn’t live without mascara, a bold lip and a hydrating setting spray. Mascara to make the eyes piercing, a bold lip to make me feel powerful and a hydrating setting spray to keep my skin dewy and fresh for that perfect island glow.
6. When do you feel most comfortable in your skin?
KB: When I’m in front of the camera — I love filming YouTube and I think what makes me feel most comfortable is knowing that although it’s not brain surgery; I’ll be inspiring people and even if it’s just one person who it makes a difference to — that’s enough for me to feel I’ve made a positive impact.
7. Being Vietnamese-American, how has your heritage played a part in your ideas of beauty?
KB: Coming from a family of immigrants who had to flee Vietnam during the conflict due to my Grandpa’s affiliation and ranking in the South Vietnam Military. My mom and her siblings had a rough time when they arrived in America and honestly didn’t think they would see each other ever again since they arrived at different times. My grandparents were captured and placed into a prison camp until my Grandma was able to buy their way out.
I always remind myself that my journey is greater than me — it’s for people who come from the same kind of background as I do. For people to see that beauty is more than skin deep and you can come from anything, anywhere in the world, be who you want to be and still be beautiful. I want people to see that especially in today’s current social climate; with so much hate against Asian — Americans, being Asian-American is something to be proud of and it is beautiful. Growing up it was rare to see a person like me (Vietnamese-American or South East Asian-American) on TV or in the public eye but today we continue to break through barriers and glass ceilings and that’s the most beautiful part.