I had the privilege of interviewing San Francisco hair & make-up artist; Shannon Le. Shannon and I met when she did my hair and make up for my wedding back in October 2015. We loved her so much that my sister hired her for her own wedding in June of 2016. Then my cousin hired her for her wedding August 2017! She has such a great personality, personal style, and of course, is a master at her craft!
We met on a beautiful day at Crossroads Cafe in San Francisco.
Let’s start with who you are, what you do, and where you are based out of?
I am Shannon Le. I am a hair and make-up artist. I am based in San Francisco mostly. I travel around the Bay Area.
How did you get started in make-up & hair?
So, I started working at an office out of school. Didn’t love it so much. I kind of just decided to quit and look for something new. I had a couple of friends who were already in the beauty industry. I reached out to them. I’ve always been interested in hair and make-up growing up. I did it for my friends, for their proms, and going out. I was like, “This could be something!” My friends took me under their wing and let me follow them on jobs and taught me a lot. From then on, I decided I was going to build my kit, reach out, and get my own clientele, and just start basically from the bottom. It’s been great. It’s been 5 years and I feel like I’ve really grown.
Are you self-taught or did you go to school?
I’m mainly self-taught but I did get my license to do hair. Basically, you can do everything on your own through experience; practicing on different people, learning different skin tones, and skin types.
What was that first year full-time like?
It was rough. I was unemployed from that point and didn’t start making money until 6 months. I had my boyfriend support us, but I was trying to make money on the side by editing for a photographer. That photographer was the first connection I had to clients. So I reached out to her and asked her if she minded referring me to her clients. She said yea and I started making money from her clients. Then I started reaching out to platforms and other ways to get clients. That first year was really hard, but it’s been a learning process. It’s been great.
What’s your favorite part about your job?
My favorite part of the job is meeting new people. Like you! You’re like my friend now! I love it! It’s just amazing! I don’t have coworkers. I don’t have people I hang out with everyday, so my clients are new people I get to meet. I get to experience new things with them.
What’s the worst part about your job?
It’s not the worst thing in the world, but there are some clients you don’t vibe with. They love my work, but sometimes personalities don’t mesh well. It’s not like I’ve ever gotten into a fight with anybody, but they have different preferences for make-up or hair that I can’t provide. It just doesn’t work out some times. I do my best to make the client happy.
Describe yourself in 3 words.
I am very independent. Very eager to learn. And very artistic.
What’s some advice to give to future clients?
Definitely bring photos. The main thing is when clients don’t bring photos and ask for example, a smokey eye. But there’s so many different levels of smokey. And their perception of smokey isn’t the same as mine. Just bringing photos and looking at photos of the same skin type or hair color, eye color is really helpful.
What’s some advice to give to others who want to break out into the beauty business?
Definitely always try to learn. Never stop learning. I am always learning from other people; new techniques, and running my business. Just go out there and grind.
What separates you from the everyone else?
I feel like everyone’s different. I wouldn’t say I’m more anything. I like to be personable with my clients and really get to know them. From then on, I can really build the relationship and get to know their personal style. That’s one of the things I really cherish as being a hair & MUA. Because I’m coming in to someone’s personal space and trying to help them feel better. I’m not just trying to get in there and get the job done and leave. I want to get to know you to give you the best look that I can.
That’s one of the reasons I loved you. Not just your work, but your personality was a bonus! That’s why my sister and cousin hired you! My whole family loved you!
I love your personal style - who/what are you influenced by?
I am influenced by a lot of people in the beauty industry. Desi Perkins is one of my favorites. I love her personality. Her and Katy (@LustreLux). I just bought their whole collection of makeup. I am obsessed with them. That’s who I’m striving to be.
If you weren’t a MUA - what would you be doing?
I told myself if I’m not going to be a MUA, I would probably be an executive assistant. It’s really weird but I like to organize other people’s lives. I’m obsessed with emailing and being organized. Which is really weird from what I’m doing right now, but it also works out because I book my own clients. It would actually happen one day if I couldn’t do hair or make-up.
Would it be for a celebrity?
I would love that! I think I would be a little stressed out…no I wouldn’t be stressed out.
It would be like your high!
I know! I would love this! Yes! Yes!
For what you do now it’s kind of like that. You have to bounce around emails and be organized. Everything comes in at different times. Nothing is at certain times.
But you know what, I’m already thinking of getting pregnant someday. So, I need to get a job where I can take maternity leave to get paid. Because I’m not going to be able to work for 9 months while I’m pregnant. I can’t carry my bags around. It’s heavy.
You’re right! You can only do that for the 1st 3 months.
I know exactly.
When did you get married?
I’m not married yet. I just got engaged last September.
Oh my gosh! Congratulations!
That ring is amazing! Did you pick it?
I helped pick it. He took me ring shopping for my birthday in July. I knew it was going to happen. All of my friends were getting engaged, and we’ve been together for 9 years. I knew it was coming. I just didn’t know how.
So, when’s the wedding?
I’m planning for September 2019. It’s exactly 2 years from our engagement date.
What are some big plans for 2018?
Just planning the wedding mostly. And helping people plan their weddings like clients and friends. Improving my business. I started promoting myself on TheKnot.com. Now I’m a featured vendor there and I feel like I’m getting more clients from there. I’m just reaching out to new platforms to get new clients and really focusing on bridal.
Biggest lesson you’ve learned for your business?
Trying to stay motivated.
How do you stay motivated?
Always looking for inspiration through other people. I always browse other make-up artists’ pages and profiles. I always try to do my own make-up as much as possible and put it on Instagram. Just so I can see the progress, keep myself motivated, and learn new techniques. Just learning a lot.
You do YouTube too right?
I did a long time ago. It’s hard to keep on a schedule, film, and edit. It’s already hard enough with keeping on an Instagram schedule. I’m trying.
Besides make-up - what else are you interested in? Hobbies?
I’m such a grandma. At home, I like to cross stitch. It’s such a grandma thing to do. For some reason it relaxes me. It’s something where I just blank out and I just do in front of a TV.
What’s the last thing you made?
I’m not done with it yet. It’s big, 11x17. I’m not done with it, it’s been about a year. It’s a Samurai and a swan. I just buy patterns. The last one I did before that was 2 geishas. I’m trying go in to a theme. I’m just trying to find art projects to do at home to keep my hands busy.
Naturally, it sounds like you’re a creative. Creative people want to create. How did you get in to that?
I started off at a real young age. I started off with puzzles, coloring and drawing. One day my parents took me to Michael’s and I saw these cross-stitching patterns. I started off really small and thought it was really fun. I just kept buying more and decided to go more advanced and buy bigger ones. I’ve been doing it since I was 12.
Favorite beauty products?
Highlighters are one of my favorites. Highlighters and brows.
What was the last product you bought?
I just bought this foundation I’m wearing right now. It’s the new Nars Radiant Foundation. It’s pretty nice. I’m testing it out today. I’m testing out the wear and color.
What’s your beauty product staple, or ride or die?
I always have some type of lip product with me. Lip gloss, lipstick, lip liner. Anything lip related I always carry in my purse.
What’s a must have in your make-up kit?
Definitely brows. Brows frame the face so much. People who want natural make-up I always do a light brow on them. I love brows and highlighter.
What’s your favorite highlighter?
Becca Cosmetics – Opal. I love Becca’s products.
You did Ayesha Curry’s makeup!! How’d that happen?
I do a lot of work with Pop Sugar. They’re always calling me for photo shoots. They also called me for this video shoot with Ayesha Curry. She did a holiday gift guide with Pop Sugar. She was great! She’s amazing in person, so sweet!
Did you go to her restaurant?
One of my clients took me to her grand opening which was a charity event for No Kid Hungry. Her and Steph were there and they were really nice. You should go, it’s really good. It’s BBQ, but Asian infused and a lot of Vietnamese dishes.
Who is/are your mentor(s)?
I don’t have mentors. I’m usually very independent. I need to learn and do this on my own.
Now I'm going to ask you a few rapid fire questions!
Coffee or tea?
1 makeup product you do not leave the house with
Guilty Pleasure song
Teenage Flavor - Drake
Your spirit animal
Elephant – They are so majestic. They care for each other. They are gentle giants.
Are you an introvert or extrovert?
Introvert. I’m a quiet person. I’ll still try to talk to people. But when it comes to personal feelings, I keep to myself.
Favorite place to travel?
I’ve only been to Europe, Hawaii, and Mexico. Ooh, I love all of them. I’ve been to Mexico the most. My dream is to live in a penthouse in Paris and paint all day. Drink coffee, and rosè.
Beach or City?
And finally - where can we find you?
Thank you so much for meeting with me! I had so much fun!
Me too! I love connecting with clients!