We had the good fortune of connecting with Vyvy Tran and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Vyvy, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I am from San Diego, California, where my family seeked refuge due to the Vietnam War. Growing up as a first generation-born Vietnamese American really shaped who I have become. My family was very strict, protective, and always pushed me to do my best in school. A-‘s and B+’s were unacceptable so, needless to say that made me always strive for more. We didn’t have much growing up so I learned to be resourceful, save, and appreciate what we did have. I can try to stretch a given makeup and hair budget for indie films and I will do my best to make a vision come to life for the productions I work on. My parents raised me to always take care of guests who come over and make them feel welcomed, offering them refreshments, or whatever they need and I think that plays into how I check in with and try to take care of my clients in the makeup chair along with my fellow artists in my department now.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
What sets me apart from other artists is how I will go above and beyond for my team, and that includes the cast and crew as well as my department. I will always strive to do my very best work, especially when I’m really passionate about the project. I won’t stop and say, “That’s not in my job description,” unless the rules in the contracts say so or if it puts anyone’s safety at risk, of course.
My journey to becoming a makeup artist started over a decade ago when I started doing makeup on friends and family for fun and events and then I started reading makeup books, watching tutorials, going to the makeup counters and asking tons of questions about products and techniques, then going home and practicing them. Then I took a stage makeup class one summer and fell in love with the storytelling aspect of character makeup, saw and loved the show Face Off, and immediately researched makeup schools.
I also applied to work at Sephora and was so fortunate to work at one in San Diego with such a lovely, diverse team, that was so welcoming. Not only were they welcoming but also tough ladies and gentlemen who, like my parents, pushed me to be my best there. I learned so much product knowledge and technique.
Then I moved to LA and got my education in the Master Program from Cinema Makeup School. It was there that I learned techniques for film and TV. I trained in character makeup, special effects, learned how to makeup my own prosthetics and apply them. It was so fun. I always loved drawing since childhood but sculpting, working with something 3D was so challenging for me at first, but Lee Joyner and Bruce Spalding Fuller really helped me with my techniques.
I was working at Sephora while I was going to school, and also taking small film jobs to get my foot in the door. It was hard balancing the three, but I just had to be honest and communicate with my leads at Sephora, who were so supportive. Sometimes I did have to turn away gigs to work at Sephora, but at least I was still practicing and learning about makeup. Sephora provided me education in products, teamwork, multitasking, and how to work with every different skintype and skintone. It was amazing practice and training. There were definitely also some challenging personalities I’d have to deal with daily because we had a very diverse clientele at the Hollywood store. I learned what warm softening words to use with certain people and how to charm others with really dry sarcasm.
Working in film as an on set makeup artist means you have to bring more to the table than just your artistry. You have to also bring some people skills and I mean you have to know how to work with and talk to people and all personalities. That’s the business part that makeup schools lack attention to. You can have great artistry skills but if you don’t know how to work well with others you might not get called back to a job. Some of my clients are really self conscious and I have to build up their self confidence while softening those features they are self conscious about. There is a level of finesse I have learned along the way and am still learning about it. For example, you never want to say someone’s skin is “old,” but saying “mature skin,” is more sound.
Working on set has also taught me to work like a ninja. When I pop in for touch-ups, I have to be quick but also quiet and not distract the actors. I never want to be in the way of a light or the camera so I will always ask where I can stage myself, but even then there are times where I will still have to move out of the way. It is a dance on set. We are all working and dancing around each other so you cannot get frustrated. And remember to be kind. Film and TV have very long days and sometimes you are in the elements all day. “Please” and “thank you” go a long way. We are all working as a team to get this picture made.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If we weren’t in a pandemic:
In LA, I’d take them to Malibu and hike nearby because the beach is just so peaceful and beautiful there, do one of those cheesey Hollywood tours because it’s actually kind of educational and entertaining, spend a day at Universal Studios, drive through Melrose, stop at H.O.P.E. for my favorite vegan food in LA, check out Koreatown for all of the good eats and endless cafe’s, swing by Little Tokyo for more good eats, stop into Wanderlust for some delicious and unique ice cream flavors, and cruise around cute neighborhoods in Highland Park, Echo Park, Loz Feliz, Silverlake, and of course a little hike through Griffith Park.
In San Diego, we could eat and drink our way through City Heights for a mix of Vietnamese, Chinese, Laotian food, then North Park for our family restaurant, Shank & Bone, for delicious phở, bánh mì, and wings. They make a heavenly, flavorful phở broth and the best vegan broth I’ve ever had. Then maybe head for dinner to Crab Town for the best seafood boil in town. I love food. I like to eat my way through places I visit. For the views, walking through Seaport Village and enjoying the view of the harbor at sunset is always so simply relaxing and one of my favorite things to do. Balboa Park is always a to walk through and visit the different museums. La Jolla Cove is also another beautiful beach to visit and hike through the Ho Chi Minh trail.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
They say it, “takes a village,” so the list of shootouts of thanks is endless for me. Of course I have to thank my parents for providing me with a life so much more than they ever had. My AVID, humanities, and art of film instructors from high school taught me to question everything, what the human condition means, and how to bridge my disadvantages towards getting into college simply because I am first-generstion born in the U.S.. My big sis for seeing my potential and encouraging me to run with my dream of becoming a makeup artist. And then of course all of my makeup mentors and teachers from Cinema Make-up School along with my colleagues – especially Crista Llewellyn for thinking of me for this interview to share my story.
Other: Instagram: @Vyvytar TikTok: @VyvyTMakeup
Photographer: Elizabeth Kitchens Set of All About Nina Director: Eva Vives Mary Elizabeth Winstead Common Gaffer: Francis Butler