When used correctly, makeup has the power to utterly transform – and He Yuhong can certainly attest to that ethos. The 27-year-old artist, who resides in southwest China, has captured the attention of the internet with her amazing makeup creations. And now her Yuya Mika YouTube channel has over 20,000 followers.
If you saw Yuhong in the street, you would think she was a perfectly ordinary individual. If you witnessed her wearing one of her incredible makeup masks, though, you might just be taken aback. You see, she uses powders, creams and other products to turn herself into famous people – a process which can take as long as six hours.
“It’s more difficult to do this kind of makeup, because it’s more like drawing,” Yuhong expressed to Reuters in 2018. “I need to draw other people’s faces onto my own – with a lot of details added – and I need to change my facial features.” Nonetheless, she is highly trained in the art of makeup, having worked at a school that teaches the practice.
Yuhong did other people’s makeup as part of her profession, too. Indeed, in the years before she began making videos, she had her own studio. And there, she would provide makeup services for weddings and advertisements. So, there’s no doubt that Yuhong had a solid foundation upon which to build her video projects.
Yuhong’s incredible celebrity transformations are documented on her YouTube and Tik Tok channels. However, before she tried out these platforms – which are favored in the West – she was very popular with Chinese audiences. She has millions of views on the social media sites Miaopai and Dou Yin, in fact.
One of Yuhong’s first – and most popular – videos sees her transform into the subject of the Mona Lisa, the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci. After all, the artwork is considered to be one of the most well-known pieces in the entire world. But before we explore how Yuhong recreated the masterpiece, the artist herself can explain why the idea came about.
“A netizen [net citizen; internet user] commented that I looked like Mona Lisa after I shaved off my eyebrows and tasked me the makeup challenge,” Yuhong told the Chinese website Xinhua Net. And it definitely wouldn’t be an easy task, either. After accepting the proposal, she spent a few days researching the Mona Lisa and studying the colors employed by da Vinci.
However, Yuhong didn’t expect to get all that many people watching her Mona Lisa video. She had posted makeup transformation clips before, after all, and not many internet users had seemed to take an interest. The artist did worry about what viewers would think about her trying to make herself into such an iconic figure, though.
“I wasn’t sure how internet users would feel about me trying to copy such a famous and beloved painting onto my face,” Yuhong told the South China Morning Post in 2018. “I prepared myself for criticism.” Yuhong may not have prepared herself, however, for just how long the epic project would take. After all, the Mona Lisa video occupied her for six hours and exhausted her so much that she went to sleep immediately afterwards.
Then, when Yuhong awoke, she checked her Tik Tok account – and was astounded by what she saw. Overnight, you see, her clip had turned into a hotbed of activity. “I was stunned by how many views it got. It said millions of people had seen my video, so I thought something must have gone wrong, so I deleted the app and reinstalled it,” she told the South China Morning Post.
But reinstalling the app confirmed to Yuhong that the figures weren’t a mistake. Yes, she really did have that many views on her video. “I was so relieved. I nervously checked the hundreds of thousands of likes and comments and found them very supportive,” she told South China Morning Post. That’s right: people on the platform were singing her praises.
Yuhong was delighted by the reception and decided to use her new popularity as a springboard for more creations. “I love oil paintings myself,” she told the Daily Mail in 2018. “So, when I saw the great response on the Mona Lisa video, I went on to create Lady with an Ermine to continue the da Vinci theme.”
Lady with an Ermine is another famous work by da Vinci and one of only a handful of paintings that he created of women. The picture is thought to be dated between 1489 and 1490, and its subject is Cecilia Gallerani – the one-time mistress of the Duke of Milan. And it was Gallerani whom Yuhong sought to transform herself into next.
Thankfully, once again Yuhong’s project was a success. “You are amazing! Please do more videos of this type,” one fan posted on the YouTube video. “So talented! I hope you post more!!” commented another. And although there was no ermine – ermine being another word for stoat – Yuhong did manage to find a cat to take the animal’s place.
One of Yuhong’s greatest makeup challenges yet, she told South China Morning Post, was turning herself into the Taiwanese singer Teresa Teng. Teng – who passed away in 1995 – was incredibly popular in China. And more importantly for Yuhong, her mother is a big fan of Teng, so she had to get the makeup exactly right.
And the main challenge facing Yuhong was that Teng had never worn much makeup herself throughout her life. Therefore, a lot of her preparation for creating a new face wasn’t available. “There is only a little room to work in when the subject puts on only light or even no makeup,” she told the South China Morning Post.
“Also, Teresa Teng was from decades ago, when people’s expressions and gestures were different from now,” Yuhong continued. Teng had indeed reached the height of her popularity in the ’70s and ’80s. “Before starting the job, I spent quite some time researching the way she looked,” Yuhong said.
However, the makeup project was a hit. Yuhong’s mother loved her skilled daughter’s creation, as Yuhong herself informed the South China Morning Post. And with the artist’s popularity growing on the internet, she set out to highlight some more personalities from Asian history, including noted politician and military strategist Zhuge Liang.
“I’m happy to see that people like my recreation work. I’m greatly encouraged by their positive feedback,” Yuhong told China Daily in 2018. “Some of the fans never made up their faces before, while others are men, but they all show great interest in my videos. They keep me moving forward.”
Yuhong subsequently embarked on recreating Western celebrities as well. And this was a new challenge because of the differences in Western and Eastern facial features. “The most important facial feature is the eyes,” Yuhong explained to the Southern China Morning Post. “It’s key to whether the copy is successful or not.”
First up, Yuhong embodied some famous movie characters. One of them was Black Widow – the superhero in the Avengers film series who Scarlett Johansson plays. Yuhong wrote underneath the video how much she likes Black Widow as a character, and she also revealed the tools that she used to create her face: a Sephora collection that had been made in partnership with Marvel.
Meanwhile, another attempt was Harley Quinn of Suicide Squad, who is played by actress Margot Robbie. Quinn’s makeup in Suicide Squad and the upcoming Birds of Prey is wacky and clown-like – not an easy thing to pull off. But Yuhong – who described Quinn as “charming and mad” beneath her video – still managed to do the look justice.
But Yuhong’s talents don’t stop there. For instance, the artist is also able to transform herself into men when the fancy takes her. One of her videos shows her carefully designing herself to resemble Einstein, or – to be more specific – the famous black and white picture of him sticking out his tongue for the camera. This huge feat involved not only seemingly changing her gender, but also disguising her age. It’s fair to say, then, that Yuhong isn’t afraid of taking extreme measures.
Indeed, Yuhong even shaved bits off her eyebrows in order to seem more like the famous scientist. It was apparently all worth the sacrifice, though, as she gained lots of comments praising her dedication and abilities. “Unbelievable! You are a genius!” was one comment. “Absolutely incredible. Stunning artist,” was another.
Yuhong has transformed into plenty of other people, mind you. These include famous actresses Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe, soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo and singer Taylor Swift. She’s tackled another famous figure from a painting, too: Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer. And that feat engaged the artist for a whopping six hours.
But what went into creating the vlogger’s original Mona Lisa transformation? Although the video itself is less than 30 seconds long, Yuhong packs a lot of work into the short timeframe. She commences by applying eyelid tape to her eyes and then using a light foundation to cover up some of her face.
After that, Yuhong puts dark makeup around her eyes, nose and cheekbones before starting to carefully blend it in. And with highlighting placed in specific areas, she starts to appear more and more like a painting. The only accessory needed now is a wig – and of course the iconic Mona Lisa expression that’s seen in the artwork.
In fact, the famous smirk was the most tricky part for Yuhong – even more so than the countless layers of makeup that she had to apply. “The biggest challenge came from her mysterious smile. It’s very difficult to imitate,” she told China Daily. After all, said grin has been a hot topic of discussion among art historians for years.
Yuhong chose to undertake a similar process as the Mona Lisa effort for her Lady with an Ermine recreation – as can be seen in the video. First comes the tape and then foundation, which is laid on thick. She puts it on her cheekbones, forehead and chin before blending it all in. Yuhong then shows the camera what product she is using – L.A. Girl High Definition Pro Concealer.
Furthermore, Yuhong takes an almost identical step to that in her Mona Lisa video by applying a darker foundation around certain parts of her face. She blends once again – and even though the video is sped up, it’s clear to see how long such a process must really take. Then, Yuhong puts light foundation around her eyebrows.
Yuhong continues to apply and blend creams – especially around her eyes. Now is the time to play the part of a 13th-century noblewoman, so the makeup artist wears everything she needs: wig, headpiece, costume and jewelry. And next, she puts blusher on her cheeks and chin and draws a dark line across her eyebrows.
Meanwhile, Yuhong’s process for transforming herself into male figures is much the same. In another video, for instance, she turns herself into actor Johnny Depp by also using fairly simple makeup products and techniques. Once more, she uses a lot of foundation on her face and blends it in so that she can contour the cream.
Yuhong also pays particular attention to the eyebrow area in the clip. Having shaved her brows off previously, the artist herself is somewhat lacking in that department, but she makes herself new ones with a makeup pencil. And then she begins working around her eyes, creating dark shadows under them – just like the ones that Depp has.
Next comes the facial hair, which Depp of course sports frequently. Yuhong attaches a false mustache and beard to her face – and already she looks eerily like the movie star. Then, she works on her mouth, making her top lip darker. And after that, more contouring and drawing lines across her forehead for wrinkles add to the disguise.
Another important part of Yuhong’s transformation is making her skin just like Depp’s – which is an entirely separate challenge. During the last part of the video, Yuhong dots her face all over with a makeup pencil in order to create the unique and freckled texture of Depp’s visage. And with that, she’s finally all done.
One of the factors which ensures Yuhong’s makeup videos are so charming is her ability to disappear into the characters that she creates. When she did her Harley Quinn transformation, for instance, she put on the character’s trademark crazed smile. And when she cosplayed Black Widow, she nailed Johansson’s pout.
It perhaps comes as little surprise, then, that fans often express wishes for Yuhong to be far better-known than she currently is. “She absolutely turned herself into someone else! Why is this woman not famous?” one person commented beneath Yuhong’s Depp video. “She needs to be on TV – on some reality show about stage makeup or something.”
Yuhong, however, is doing well for herself in her native land. After all, Chinese social media platforms are helping citizens become stars online. These people are known in China as wanghong, and many of them are raking in large amounts of cash. In fact, a number of non-Chinese social media influencers are targeting the country in bids to improve their careers.
What’s more, since Yuhong’s videos became popular, she has found corporate sponsors – which is just as well, given her monthly makeup spend of nearly $1,500. And the artist has plenty of new things planned for the future, too. Some ideas include a series of videos where she will transform herself into Disney princesses and other characters from the studio.
Nevertheless, Yuhong’s work as a makeup vlogger can sometimes be difficult. “I can finish normal makeup within 30 minutes, but this usually takes me six hours or even longer,” she told CGTN in 2018. But she considers herself very fortunate to be occupying her position. “I’m so lucky that I can turn my hobby into a profession,” she said. “It feels like I’ve hit the jackpot.”