The New Phase: Makeup Artist Xeng Zulueta on the Importance of Reinvention



There is no need to introduce Xeng Zulueta. For the few who still might not be familiar with her, she might actually prefer to keep it they way. Known to keep people guessing with her out-of-the-box beauty looks, the makeup artist is at it again—but in the most unexpected way: “The biggest misconception about me as a makeup artist is that I can only do high fashion, or that I can’t do clean beauty looks,” says Zulueta. “So for this shoot, I’m out to prove everybody wrong. The styling may be edgy, but it’s all skin.”

Zulueta has come a long way since entering the beauty industry 19 years ago. She’s led a colorful and daring life, and through it all, her art has been a focal point. She’s studied and worked around the world, and has collaborated with many—if not all—of the best minds and creative in the Philippines and beyond. Being the true artist that she is, she understands the need for reinvention: “I don’t want to be known as the Xeng who only does high fashion and avant garde. If I keep doing that, it gets old and stale. Someone is bound to catch up and beat me at that game.”

Known for her transformative and evocative work, Zulueta is now interested in pursuing the opposite—natural skin, the spots and freckles on the face, the unruly eyebrow hairs. She is glad that social media has changed the face of the cosmetics industry, with skin having its well-deserved place in the spotlight. “If there’s one thing that I can take from the last 19 years that I’m going to take to the next 20, it’s this: less is more,” she says. Although these looks may seem easy to replicate, it is in fact the opposite, with restraint as your number one enemy: “You can tell if a makeup artist is good if they are able to make skin look like skin. The hardest thing is practicing restraint, telling yourself to put down the brush.”

Zulueta shares this as she applies makeup on her muse, host and former beauty queen Maggie Wilson-Consunji, who reveals that she doesn’t even wear foundation anymore—a trick Zulueta has gotten from her. “My muse has to look beautiful and I have to enjoy putting makeup on her, but she also has to inspire me,” she shares, adding, “In order for you to grow in your craft, you have to let other people collaborate with you.” Since knowing each other since Wilson-Consnji was 14, the two have been trading makeup tricks and products.

It is her turn to pose for a photo, and rather than getting all glammed up like everybody’s used to, she chose to be styled differently today: like a man. Simply wearing her pixie cut and red lipstick, she opts for a black blazer that perfectly fits her frame. Zulueta is clearly ready to switch things up. It may not be something we are used to—yet—but she knows it’s time to reinvent herself.

“It’s not about me anymore. It used to be. It used to be about validating myself and building my name. Now, I like it when people don’t expect that what they see is my work,” she says with a smile.