Her makeup routine is like a dance, synced with the background music and the quick-cut, high-tension rhythm of her video editing. She can turn a coffeespoon into an applicator and transform herself into a Disney princess in what feels like seconds. Her videos shatter the boundaries of your typical morning makeup routine, hacking open new territory for a genre that might be called “makeup performance art.” As of July 11, her main YouTube channel) boasts 384,535 followers, and her total presence on the site encompasses 500 videos.
Asahi Sasaki is a busy woman.
But how did the world-famous “makeup performer” get where she is? We asked her to tell us about her story and she obliged, sharing thoughts on her path to success, the background to her different videos, and what it’s like being famous on YouTube.
The Disney Princesses
If you were in charge of casting for Disney’s Frozen, you might cast Asahi Sasaki as Elsa — that’s how convincing her video is. Here, Asahi turns herself into a real-life render of the CGI princess so convincing you’d think she cast a spell on you.
The scene in the middle, where Asahi starts singing in the middle of her makeup routine, reveals the role humor plays in her distinctive style. A girl singing Disney songs in the middle of a rapid-cut makeup tutorial — it’s hard, watching this, not to laugh along with her.
But her reinventions of the morning makeup routine don’t stop at imitating Elsa. She’s also done Anna from the same movie, as well as Alice from Alice in Wonderland , Mulan, and even Cinderella. With her skills, there seems to be no princess she can’t do.
Of all her makeup tutorials, Asahi says this is her favorite. In the future, she has plans to recreate as many of the princesses as she can.
“No matter how old you are, everybody loves the Disney princesses, so I’ve had gotten a lot of response to these videos. They’re fun for me to make too, and I want to keep making them for as long as I can!”
Asahi had always had a hard time putting on eyeliner. One day, she says, she was eating pudding, pondering her eyeliner ways, and all of a sudden it felt like the spoon was talking to her.
“Don’t be sad! You can use me!”
The video above, which teaches viewers Asahi’s original spoon eyeliner technique, is a direct result of that discovery. Using both the curve of the spoon and the straight line along its handle, Asahi’s turns the spoon into an applicator and an eyelash curler at the same time. Thanks to its comical backstory and the novelty of using a spoon to apply eyeliner, the video has been played on YouTube more than 3,000,000 times.
When she discovered she could use a spoon to curl her eyelashes, Asahi wondered what else she could do with it. That, she says, is why she decided to make the video.
“If you can take anything around you and work it into your makeup routine, well, I thought that was a pretty catchy idea. Even today, I’m always looking for new stuff to use!”
Her Halloween makeup videos, done entirely with things she bought at a 100-yen store, drew excited reactions from viewers who couldn’t believe how scary it was.
The “Halloween Makeup Tutorial” category on her YouTube channel, sasakiasahi, is currently home to 33 videos. Asahi says she’s gotten a lot of comments from users who’ve been inspired to try their own Halloween makeup routines.
In the future, Asahi plans to start putting more energy into her collaborations with other female YouTube stars. One of her most popular recent collaborations is a music video where she makes herself up to look like a oiran — a type of high-class courtesan in the Edo era.
The video, created in collaboration with six other YouTube artists including singer-songwriter Sayulee, is a striking fusion of modern pop with the traditional aesthetic of the oiran’s world.
“I didn’t really have any ideas about what I wanted to do with these other artists; I just felt like I wanted to widen the sphere of YouTube art, somehow. The ‘idea’ was just that I wanted to mix together everybody’s amazing talents and create something that would make an impact.”
Asahi’s Path to “Makeup Performance Art”
Asahi’s output so far includes a lot of videos designed as tutorials for her viewers’ morning makeup routines, and she’s received a lot of positive comments from young girls who want to learn about makeup.
But Asahi herself didn’t learn how to apply makeup in any systematic way. She started her performance career as a pole dancer, and says she learned what she knows about makeup just by experimenting with different approaches before her pole shows. At the time, she was doing a huge number of shows every week, and the one thing that most helped learn about makeup, she says, was YouTube.
“Most Japanese magazines focus ‘cute-style’ makeup (kawaii-kei), but that doesn’t really work in a pole show. To learn how do show makeup, my only option was to watch YouTube makeup videos made by foreigners.”
But why did she continue innovating on the skills she learned from those videos, and how did she decide to become a YouTube star herself?
Seven years ago, Asahi says, she made a short film with a friend and uploaded it to YouTube. But even though she felt she’d managed to put herself out there, the video didn’t get much response.
“I started to ask myself what kinds of videos were attracted attention in YouTube’s world. As I was looking around for ideas, I gradually settled on doing makeup videos.”
But what she ended up making was far more creative than the standard makeup video. Inspired by her time as a pole dancer, her makeup videos merged background music with the rhythms of putting on makeup, and succeeded in capturing the attention even of viewers outside Japan. Today, she has many Japanese fans but a large number of overseas followers too.
3/11 Teaches her “How Close the World Is”
One experience, she says, gave her a deep feeling of her connection with the world. On March 11, 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake caused massive damage throughout the Tohoku region. “I was just a YouTube star,” Asahi says, but she decided she could use her medium to make an appeal for the region, and posted a video asking for aid contributions.
In the video, Asahi, who only speaks Japanese, included an appeal to “any foreigners out there who understand Japanese, please translate this!” The video was translated into seven languages.
“It really taught me how close together people around the world can be. For me, it was a really huge, important experience.”
The experience also taught Asahi the importance of communicating in more than one language. This August, she’ll be moving to America in order to learn English. Speaking English, she says, will allow her to spread her message farther around the world, and will help her videos reach a larger, more diverse audience.
Makeup for the Heart: “I want people to enjoy putting on makeup again”
Asahi says there are two main reasons for her alternately comical and dramatic style. The first is that using her performance talents helps overcome language barriers. But the second, she says, is that she wants to help turn makeup into something fun for her viewers.
Typical makeup, she explains, is treated as a daily routine designed to cover up flaws. But she believes the “essence” or makeup is something completely different.
“Whenever you see makeup pieces in magazines, they’re always about things like ‘How to Make Your Small Eyes Look Bigger!’ or ‘How to Make your Big Face Look Smaller!” I hate that. Everything about it tells people their faces are something negative that needs to be overcome. I want my videos to tell people the looks they have are already beautiful, and makeup is just a way to have fun with them. That’s why I try to make videos in such a high-tension, playful style.”
True to her ideals, Asahi says she wants to make even the process of putting on makeup into something fun. Her videos are full of jokes and hints that reinforce that part of her style.
“My favorite comments aren’t the ones that tell me how beautiful I am. They’re the ones that say ‘my morning makeup routine is so much more fun thanks to you!’ I keep making videos because I want to help ‘make up’ people’s hearts, not just their faces.”
A skilled makeup artist and gifted entertainer, driven by a passion to connect with the hearts of her viewers. Her dazzling success as on YouTube clearly owes a lot to the harmony she strikes between these three superpowers.
(photo: Daisuke Hayata translation: Michael Craig)
Originally published at ignition.co.