Risa Hoshino

Semi-reformed 90s punk enthusiast, Risa Hoshino, discusses her experiences as an international hair and make-up artist based in Hawai’i and what’s next for beauty on the islands.

Words: Geremy Campos | Hair & Makeup: Risa Hoshino | Photography: Simone Komine 

I first met Risa Hoshino at Honolulu Night Market (one of Hawai’i’s largest outdoor retail events supporting local artists and vendors) on a humid Summer evening. She ambushed a conversation I was having with a couple mutual-friends by moaning out a long-enthused “Howzzz itt?,” while walking towards us with a beer in each hand. Looking at her, my immediate reaction was that of confusion and intrigue; she looks like an effortlessly beautiful Japanese-hapa girl, but definitely sounded and dressed like the titas* I went to intermediate school with.

After a couple months, I found out that Risa had keyed make-up for that evening’s Night Market fashion show, traveled the world learning from other leaders in the beauty industry, and is one of the chillest/weirdest/most talented creatives birthed from Hawai’i.

SIL_Y: What was the first inspiration to play with makeup?

Risa: It was my mom sitting in front of her Japanese makeup vanity and I talked to my her about this recently in our first apartment. She had the vanity on the ground and would get ready in front of the mirror. Usually if a kid would try to touch the makeup, they’d get in trouble. But instead, my mom decided to each me. “This is the lipstick I use every morning,” she would tell me. I remember her Estee Lauder lipstick, it’s gold packaging, and I can still smell it.  She would teach me what each individual product did. This is what this does, this is powder, blah blah blah. I remember ALL of this. At the end she would spray herself with Tiffany’s perfume and then she would spritz me. I would giggle and be super happy.

I don’t know if people will remember this, but Crayola came out with colors of different races; it was like Black, Japanese, Indian, Skin tones and they had these in a box in all these different ethnicities. It was probably when I was in 3rd grade and when I found that out, I asked for it for Christmas. I got it and it was the coolest gift because I could draw EVERYBODY with these colors. That was one of the first times I recognized skin tones.

SIL_Y: So, how did that unique upbringing manifest itself into actually painting people’s faces?

Risa: I just knew that from a really young age that’s what I liked to do. I did everyone’s prom makeup in High School. In my mind, I did it to make people happy and make them feelgood about themselves. I liked people looking and feeling stoked. Because I was a tomboy and because I didn’t give a fuck about how I looked, I pushed my focus on the person or face in front of me. I wanted everyone to look their fucking best. I was just born to think that way.

SIL_Y: We’ve spoken before about growing up on an Island and how that can be a form of isolation. How did you find or maintain your own inspiration and creativity?

Risa: Before the internet and before social media, growing up in Hawai’i…you are limited to access with the world. For me and a few of my friends ‘95-’01, we went beyond what the normal kid in L.A. had to do to get inspired. We searched for the weirdest shit because it was so hard to find. It was all about underground music. The music that I found when I was in high school was something I found from like a chatroom when the internet first got popular. We’d be in a chatroom trading music recommendations and casette tapes; the weird, more underground, the better.

Musically,  I got super into Jimi Hendrix. His music is nuts. The sounds he made back then it was a total trip. You could hear colors running through the music. Rock and Punk music made me do makeup that’s raw and real. I gravitate to the real, greasy, messy. I think that’s beautiful.

Also, In the 90s and till this day, my friends were/are Queers. We’d go to parties, clubs....and have psychedelic experiences. We inspired each other and I got inspired by that atmosphere. I learned to see things and people in a different way than most.

“ ...they can tell you that your work is the worst shit they’ve ever seen, but you have to hear that sometimes. I get inspired. I get criticized. I love it.”

SIL_Y: What’s it like being a HMU artist based on an Island?

Risa:  Hawai’i has been stuck creatively for...a really long time. And in that reason, I’ll do Fashion Week (New York, Paris, Japan) because I need to refresh myself with the new. If you’re not open minded to new artists, techniques you’ll get stuck doing the same things over and over. On the flip side of that, when I travel and work with other artists I’ll learn that I’m always in a state of learning.  In New York, they can tell you that your work is the worst shit they’ve ever seen, but you have to hear that sometimes. I get inspired. I get criticized. I love it.

Though in the last several years, there are a lot of younger talents coming up that are willing to do fun, progressive shit. It’s not some cheesy catalogue, super clean, boring shit. It’s not like that anymore. I’m starting to see creative stuff and I’m stoked that’s happening.

With the editorial I did for SIL_Y I took different parts of Hawaiian mythology and incorporated it into makeup and casting. I wanted to show all the mixed ethnicities Hawai’i has and to also not hide their quirks and differences. A lot of times makeup artists or creative agencies want everyone to look a certain way. This editorial is a bit of a middle finger to the norm. Everything has to do with rebellion. With the models, they all have different looks that deserve to be highlighted rather than hidden.
SIL_Y: What’s next for the Hair & Make Up industry in Hawai’i?

Well, I encourage people to keep exploring the new and to avoid doing makeup in its set ways. The creative community is small, so we need more artists to come in. Be weird. Be creative.

Find Risa Hoshino online at her website and Instagram.

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