Freshly Inked Interview with Jenai Chin
True or false, in the beginning, you were an illustrator?
How did you decide to start working with body art & makeup?
I didn’t really decide, it was more of a natural transition. I was always drawing on myself or sneaking over to the makeup counter at my job. Skin was an accessible canvas to me with many options so being an illustrator, it just made sense to draw or paint on people.
When did you first get into Makeup & Body Art?
I was drawing on myself since I was little but it really became more obsessed with it as a young teenager. I started doing henna temporary tattoos on myself around the age of 14. By the time I was 16, I began to design tattoos for friends. At the age 18 I got into doing makeup at the counter of the department store where I worked. I didn't actually work in the Makeup Department, I would just sneak over to the makeup counter during my breaks and do my makeup or help customers. I used to get in trouble by my Manager all time for it and eventually they fired me.
How did you learn this awesome skill?
From high school into college, I was still doodling on my skin and doing more henna designs because that was all I knew I could do at the time. After I got fired, I found a job in news paper looking for temporary tattoo artists for parties. I didn't really know what it meant at the time so I went and did a "training" where I put ink transfer tattoos on some of the other applicants. My mind was blown away and instantly fell in love.
I got the job on the spot and everything went from there. First, I started doing tattoos for kids parties and then eventually it lead into doing temporary tattoos for tv, films and fashion. When I realized it's potential, I was determined to build my career in this world. I didn't really know anyone else who was doing this so I tried to find tattoos magazines and tribal body art books to get better idea of how to make the tattoos look more realistic. I watched every movie I could find with temporary tattoos and just practiced like crazy. Practice is everything! It's important to keep your skills sharp and advance with modern techniques otherwise you plateau.
You specializing in Temporary Tattoos, Airbrush & Body Makeup. Which do you enjoy the most?
Temporary Tattoos has always been my first love, but they all have so many different aspects to them that I enjoy. I like to mix it up so that my skills stay sharp in all. I airbrush the majority of my tattoos so those two are married together. It's nice to have a range in variety. Not only to have more creative outlets, it gives my clients more options.
What's a challenge you've run into in your profession and how did you overcome it? Time. In the beginning, the tattoos I made were completely custom and all done by hand. Real tattoos are done in sessions over long periods of time. I don't have that luxury on a film set or photoshoot so I have to constantly complete very complex designs in a short amount of time. Over the years there have been more advancements to improve the application process but still takes time.
Which would you say is more difficult, working with films/tv, in magazines, or on the runway? They all have different challenges. I always try to give a lot of attention to detail in all venues but the challenge with editorial is that more mistakes can be spotted since it's a still image. The runway has to be done very quickly to get the models onto the runway on time and since it's a live show there is no way to make adjustments once the models are in front of the audience. TV & film is now in Hi-Def so you need to be sure to your colors match the lighting properly and things on the skin are more flawless. We have also have more days where we shoot multiple actors that we need to have great continuity to match all their characters scenes.
Is it ever intimidating working with celebrities?
Not usually, I’ve always felt like I should treat everyone with the same respect and professionalism. Celebrities are regular people too with the same feelings and concerns most people have. They just have higher profile jobs. I just want them to have a pleasant experience when we work together.
Do you have a favorite experience with anyone in particular?
I really have been so lucky to have such amazing experiences with each individual, it's very hard to pick just one. You can connect with people on different levels, especially if they are artists or performers. There is a mutual understanding about your ambition and drive for your craft. I provide a specialty so if it's the first time someone is doing tattoos or body art, the client is pretty excited. It's almost always fun and a good time. I like that I can make people happy with a unique experience.
How does it feel to open a magazine and see your work inside?
Thrilling! Still to this day, it's one of the best feelings in the world. There's a sense of pride in sharing your art with the world. I feel it must be similar to looking at cave paintings. Leaving your mark in the world is the oldest art form.
Your work has also been featured in films and tv shows, what are some films/tv shows you've worked with?
I've gotten to be on set for some and others I've designed. A few are The Today Show, Nurse Jackie, Elementary, The Amazing Spider Man 2, The Bounty Hunter, Her Smell, No Alternative and a new movie coming out next year called The Outside Story.
Lastly, what's your advice for others trying to break into this competitive field? Work your ass off! Many give up quickly because it is a lot of hard work and long hours. Anything worth having takes a lot of time and effort. If you or someone else thinks that you can't do something, work as hard as you can to figure out a way to happen and proof to yourself that you can. New comers usually want a quick fix to immediate success. It took 20 years to become an overnight success. Be a leader not a follower. Create things that are new and inspiring. Define yourself the way you want, not the way others expect of you. I've always aimed for respect over fame. Fame can be fleeting but respect has more longevity. Protect your reputation, in this business it's more valuable than your next paycheck.
Do you want to see more from the amazing Jenai Chin? Check out her website & Instagram!