He Yuhong has taken the Chinese internet by storm with her uncanny transformations into celebrities like Taylor Swift, Scarlett Johansson, and Johnny Depp—using just makeup.
Imagine being able to turn into a completely different person with only makeup.
A makeup artist in China has taken the internet by storm with her stunning transformations into celebrities like Taylor Swift, Scarlett Johansson, and Johnny Depp.
But the video that shot her to fame was an ambitious rendition of arguably the world’s most famous painting: the Mona Lisa.
Until last year, He Yuhong was a full-time teacher in the southwestern city of Chongqing before she quit to become a full-time vlogger.
Her tutorials regularly rack up hundreds of thousands of views, and she has over two million followers on Weibo, China’s equivalent to Twitter, with another 750,000 on Instagram.
The Mona Lisa video is perhaps her most famous.
While the video only runs for about 25 seconds, He says the actual process of making up her face took almost six hours.
She recalls being so tired afterwards that she went straight to bed. Her only thought was whether people might be offended by the video.
“I wasn’t sure how internet users would feel about me trying to copy such a famous and beloved painting onto my face.”
“I wasn’t sure how internet users would feel about me trying to copy such a famous and beloved painting onto my face,” she says. “I prepared myself for criticism.”
But the response was overwhelmingly positive.
When she woke up to check her TikTok account the following morning, she was stunned to find that tens of thousands of people had given her a thumbs-up. On YouTube, her video has been seen over 650,000 times.
“I was stunned by how many views it got,” He says. She recalls the TikTok app showing her video has been seen by millions of people. “I thought something must have gone wrong, so I deleted the app and reinstalled it,” she says.
But when she looked again, the numbers were still there. “I was so relieved,” He says. “I nervously checked the hundreds of thousands of likes and comments, and found them very supportive.”
The challenges of recreating another face
Before tackling the Mona Lisa, He had concentrated mostly on trying to recreate the looks of more contemporary figures, such as Oscar-winning actors Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton, and pop stars Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez.
But after receiving such a positive response to her Mona Lisa lookalike, she decided to try another Renaissance look and turned to the Lady with an Ermine, another Leonardo da Vinci piece.
The resemblance was uncanny, and not surprisingly, it also received plenty of positive comments.
“You should work at a film studio,” one person wrote on YouTube.
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As a Chinese woman, He says the challenge of recreating a Western face is in the eyes. “It’s key to whether the copy is successful or not,” she says.
She often has to find ways to create deeper eye sockets, folded eyelids, and a higher nose bridge.
Her most challenging transformation
One of He’s most challenging transformations, though, was not a Western celebrity but Taiwanese singer Teresa Teng, of whom her mother was a huge fan.
The problem was that Teng did not wear a lot of makeup or have a particularly strong look, so becoming her mom’s idol was not as straightforward as it seemed.
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“There is only a little room to work in when the subject puts on only light or even no makeup,” she says. “Teresa Teng was also from decades ago, when people’s expressions and gestures were different from now. Before starting the job, I spent quite some time researching the way she looked.”
Needless to say, her mother was delighted with the result. Her daughter’s version, she said, “looked just like her.”
Adapted from an article first published in the South China Morning Post.