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Jewel Yang

Jewel Yang creates dreamy ethno-futurist art inspired by her Kam heritage

TextAlex Peters

Drawing on traditional Chinese art and her background in bio-textiles, Yang’s portable make-up looks are as sustainable as they are ethereal

The Dazed Beauty Community is our ever-expanding encyclopaedia of creatives and emerging talent from across the world who are redefining the way we think about beauty. From supermodels to digital artists to make-up prodigies transforming themselves in their bedrooms, these are the beauty influencers of tomorrow who embody everything Dazed Beauty is about. Discover them here.

A series of poems that float in the universe is how Jewel Yang characterises her visual language – and it’s a perfect description. Mysterious and dreamy, her work draws on Chinese traditional art, specifically from her Kam cultural heritage, as well as her background in bio-textiles for a result she calls “ethnic-futurist”. 

Born and raised in Beijing, now based in London, the 24-year-old designer and model works for a vegan leather company following her recent graduation from a bio-textile MA. But it’s been her make-up looks and headpieces – or, as she calls them, “portable make-up looks” – that really caught people’s attention.  

Originally just a side hobby that helped her feel calm and relaxed – “I was under a lot of pressure when I moved to London, doing make-up was a way of releasing that pressure” – her beauty experiments have since amassed her almost 30K followers and seen her twice featured on the official Instagram account, moments she calls career highlights.

Often featuring motifs from traditional Kam artworks, including totems, embroidery and patterns, Yang’s work draws directly from her ethnic culture, she says, and it was only after she fully embraced it that she was able to arrive at her current style. For inspiration, she also looks to the vessels and weapons of ancient China, imagining how it must have felt to be a craftsman, and combining that boldness with her own futuristic and sustainable stamp. 

While she started off painting her face, recently Yang’s work has seen an evolution into the physical world, with 3D bioplastic masks. “I was inspired by Chinese traditional shadow play,” she says. “It is an art form that uses cattle skin as paper. I wanted to create portable make-up looks that have the same mechanism as shadow play characters.”    

Here we speak to Yang about loving the smell of hallways, weekly childhood trips to the opera, and why she wants to be a centaur.

What’s your earliest beauty-related memory?

Jewel Yang: I was obsessed with the Beijing Opera and its make-up as a kid. There was a period of time where my parents would take me to see the Beijing Opera every weekend. The face paint and costumes influenced my standard of beauty.

What’s your favourite smell?

Jewel Yang: The hallways of US campuses. I used to go to the States every summer for the world finals of a competition. It took place on a university campus and I really enjoyed the smell of the hallways.

Who is your beauty icon? 

Jewel Yang: I really like Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra look. Rihanna is always beautiful whatever looks she puts on. Tina Chow has got a nonchalant attitude. Cher is rebellious and elegant at the same time.

You have the ability to live in a video game. Which would it be?

Jewel Yang: Corporate CEO behind a massive, international, illegal business during the night;  actress and singer during the day. I like extreme games and character playing.

You have to replace your body with that of an animal or a mythological creature. What do you go for?

Jewel Yang: Centaur, like the creature that resembles Sagittarius. Because I want to have lots of intercourse with all kinds of creatures and travel around the universe.

What does beauty mean to you?

Jewel Yang: To me, beauty is power and freedom. I guess ultimately beauty is the way you live and the way you think.

When do you feel most beautiful?

Jewel Yang: Whenever I’m free and powerful mentally. Whenever I’m powerful enough to think “today I will look however I want to”. 

Are you optimistic about the future?

Jewel Yang: Yes I always am.

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