“I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I wrote many stories growing up, and they all featured blonde, blue-eyed women. It wasn’t until I went to Smith College and was introduced to the concept of internalized racism that I realized I’d been subconsciously distancing myself from my Chinese heritage my whole life. I had been planning on studying abroad in London—I was an English lit major—but I pivoted and decided to study abroad in Beijing instead. I reconnected with my roots and it changed the course of my life.
I graduated from college in 2009, during the recession in the United States. It wasn’t an easy time to find a job, so it felt like an easy decision to move back to Beijing, whose economy was booming. I started as an intern at a local expat magazine, worked my way up, and eventually became the style and lifestyle editor.
When four years flew by, my family asked me to move back. They wanted me to join the family business, which is an insurance brokerage in San Francisco—and I did with the utmost reluctance. I was hit with a heavy dose of reality and reverse culture shock. My whole identity was lost because I was shifting from journalism to insurance and moving from Beijing to San Francisco. I’d grown accustomed to the daily hardship of being in a foreign country, and I almost felt bored at home. During that time, I started sharing my outfit and lifestyle photos on Instagram as a means to cope.
At Wang Insurance, I’m the Chief Marketing Officer. I handle our marketing, of course, and our social media, but I’m also a commercial insurance broker. Our firm insures people personally, but on the business side, which is what I focus on, we insure small businesses—a lot of local coffee shops, bars, restaurants, manufacturers, gas stations, you name it.
As for Instagram, it was just a light hobby for me in the beginning. It took several years to build a following, but for the longest time, Instagram really was just a way to reclaim my identity. It’s funny, but I still remember getting offered my first free bottle of alcohol. I had this thought of, ‘Wow, you can get free things?’ It was such a new industry. As I started getting campaign and partnership offers, that’s when I started treating it like a job.
I wake up at 6AM and work on Instagram for the first three to four hours of my day. That’s anything from creating content to answering emails to shooting, which I also do on the weekends. After that I go to the office and work until 6PM, and I might attend an event or something at night. I love that I can have a balance of both worlds, and I don’t take that for granted.
I’ve always been really into makeup. I remember secretly borrowing my older sister’s eyeliner as a tween, and for many years, I wouldn’t leave the house without it. I would actually do a full smoky eye. It all goes back to the Eurocentric beauty ideals I internalized. I definitely viewed myself as ‘never-as-pretty’ as blue-eyed, blonde women, and doing a smoky look was almost a way for me to mask my eyes. I’m doing a more pared-back look now. In part, it has to do with being in my thirties and being more comfortable with myself, but also, the shift towards more ‘natural’ beauty finally helped me learn to embrace myself.
I took my skin for granted until the last few years, when I realized that it’s looking more dull and generally needs more hydration. My focus now is preventative anti-aging, but I try to keep it low-lift. In the morning, I wash my face in the shower with Farmacy’s Whipped Greens Cleanser. It doesn’t make me break out, and it cleans really, really well. After I step out, I use the Grown Alchemist Detox Serum. I feel like it adds moisture back to my skin. I’m also partial to minimalist packaging. [Laughs]
I didn’t wear sunscreen in my twenties. I was like, ‘Oh, I just want to be tan.’ But now, I always, always use it. I love the Glow Recipe Watermelon Niacinamide SPF 50. It gives you a glow underneath your makeup, and it goes on really smoothly and blends well. I’m also trying to add more ‘clean’ skincare to my routine. I’m by no means exclusively using those products, but I really love True Botanicals’s Pure Radiance Oil. My younger sister introduced me to the brand. I’ve been addicted to oils for a while, and this one feels so nice and locks the moisture on my skin.
At night, I double cleanse with Shu Uemura’s Ultime8 Sublime Beauty Cleansing Oil to remove makeup. If I’m too lazy to wash my face or if I just did light makeup, I’ll use Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water on a cotton pad instead, followed by a toner. My absolute favorite is the Farmacy Deep Sweep 2% BHA Toner, but I recently ran out, so I’m currently using Glow Recipe’s Watermelon Glow PHA+BHA Toner, which I also love but use less frequently since you’re apparently not supposed to mix retinol and PHA+BHA. I follow it up with the Farmacy Cleanser from the morning.
I’ve gotten really into the Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Serum. I was gifted it a while back, but I didn’t use it. Then I saw this older Asian woman on TikTok. She was glowing, and she said she’s used the serum for decades, so I started using it every day, too. It’s a bit sticky, which I really like, but it blends well. I follow it up with the Caudalíe Vinoperfect Radiance Dark Spot Serum and the Farmacy 1% Vitamin A Retinol Serum. Sometimes I’ll add in the Kiehl’s Hyaluronic Acid 1.5% Serum and the Kiehl’s 5.0% Niacinamide Serum.
I always come back to the Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream. It’s just neutral and easy. Also, Revea opened a little studio in San Francisco a while back, and they used a machine to study my skin texture and tailor-made a moisturizer for my skin. Honestly, I was highly skeptical, but the moisturizer is amazing. I have dry cheeks but an oily forehead, and the moisturizer really helps with hydration without making me oilier. And then I finish the night with L’Occitane’s Immortelle Divine Eye Balm.
Every time I get in the shower, I use the Luv Scrub Mesh Body Exfoliator. It looks like a fishnet. [Laughs] I usually use the Nécessaire Body Wash with it because I don’t like products that are highly-scented, and Nécessaire’s is pretty subtle.
I need to wear body lotion every day because I can’t stand the feeling of dry skin. I keep the Almond Milk Concentrate from L’Occitane by my bed. I know some people don’t like the feeling of lotion on their skin, especially when they’re in bed, but I love it. It feels really luxurious. And then I usually add Nécessaire Body Oil on top.
When I’m doing a full makeup look, the first thing I grab is the Saie Hydrabeam Concealer in HB Two, which I usually use under my eyes, around my nose, and maybe, a spot on my forehead. After that, I use the Westman Atelier Vital Skin Foundation and Concealer Stick, and it’s my absolute favorite foundation. Liquid foundation is so messy and just sits on top of my skin, but the Westman Atelier stick really melts in. It looks like a second skin, just super natural. I use shade Atelier VIII, which is meant for those with rosy undertones. And I’ve always loved Bobbi Brown—I used her products all through college—and now I especially love the Miracle Balm in Bronze from her new line, Jones Road. It gives you this beautiful dewy look.
I do the method where you put all of the products on and then set them with a spray—I’m using the M.A.C. Prep + Prime Fix+ Setting Spray right now. I let the spray sit for a moment and then blend it all together with the Huda Beauty Tantour Brush and a Beautyblender. I used to basically smear all of my makeup on, but I’ve learned to push it into my skin. It takes longer, but it looks better and more natural.
I set my undereyes with the Charlotte Tilbury Flawless Finish Setting Powder in Fair—it really makes your skin look airbrushed. Then I have a hack: I know everybody loves the Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder, but I get it in Translucent Medium Deep and use it almost like a bronzer. I put it all over my cheeks and forehead. It distributes super evenly and gives you a glow. I go over it with the Makeup by Mario SoftSculpt Bronzer in Medium. I even use it as the base for eyeshadow, too. And for blush, I love the Rare Beauty Soft Pinch Liquid Blush in Hope, or the Glossier Cloud Paint in Dawn. They have so much staying power. My bronzer might fade by the end of the day, but you’ll still see the blush.
I’ve tried many different products, but Asian brows are very hard to laminate and hold in place. A lot of the ones I’ve tried get clumpy. The one I’ve had the most success with is the REFY Brow Sculpt Shape and Hold Gel. I let it dry for a minute and then go over it with Glossier Boy Brow, in either Black or Brown. Before I got my eyebrows microbladed, I would also use the Anastasia Beverly Hills Perfect Brow Pencil and a Benefit brow kit, but I’ve gone more lowkey and natural.
Part of my less-makeup-journey has been ditching the eyeliner pencil that I used to smoke out my entire eye and switching to liquid eyeliner on just my top lid. I really like the Stila Stay All Day Liquid Eye Liner because it has both a standard and a micro-point. I also find that it lasts a really long time—around six months for me.
I went through a lash extension phase, but I had so many bad experiences. It was also an expensive and time-consuming habit, so I was like, ‘Never again.’ Now, I just do 10 layers of mascara. [Laughs] I’ve loved all of the Yves Saint Laurent ones, but I’m using the Lash Clash Extreme Volume Mascara now. I like when tubes are a little more dried out and at the end of their life. I feel like they work better.
I’m really clueless about hair. I never style it. I don’t brush it. I actually don’t even own a hairbrush. My hair texture is drier and rougher than the typical sleek Asian hair, and when I did brush it in high school, it would get frizzy. I just run my hands through it now, and a couple of days a week, I’ll put some Gisou Hair Oil on the ends.
People say you’re not supposed to, but I wash my hair every day because my scalp gets oily. Also, I swear if I don’t wash my hair and it touches my face, I break out in a rash. I just shampoo my scalp without washing my ends. I switch my shampoo and conditioner all of the time, but right now, I’m using the Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Shampoo and Conditioner. I love the R+CO Bleu De Luxe Reparative Shampoo, too. Once in a while, I might use the La’dor Tea Tree Scalp Clinic Hair Pack to get rid of build-up.
I’m pretty sensitive to scents so I’m really picky about the perfumes I wear. I’m actually thinking about getting a little perfume cabinet because they’re more like display pieces in my home. But for special occasions or nights when I want to add some oomph, I’ll wear Tom Ford Ombré Leather. It’s woodsy and masculine, which I’m most drawn towards. If I want something a bit more feminine, I go for Le Labo Santal 33 or Byredo Young Rose. If there’s ever any hint of floral in a perfume, I need it to be offset by a woodsy ingredient.”
—As told to Daise Bedolla
Photographed by Meiwen See in San Francisco on July 12, 2023