Makeup Maven Mei Pang on Self Love and Sobriety

Though Mei Pang’s unconventional look may be a head turner, she feels perfectly at home. Her inner peace is inextricably intertwined with her ability to express herself. If anything, she’s perpetually seeking a way to level up. “I get a handful of negative comments on social media from the way I look, either because of my bald head or my tattoos. But I tell everybody that I feel normal, I feel average and I feel so comfortable within myself. Since finding the way I look, it’s given me so much comfortability and so much confidence that it gives me that jumping off point to go crazy with my makeup. I’m so secure with myself that I’m like, ‘Okay, like what’s next? How can I go balls to the wall?’” This desire for non-conformity was directly at odds with her more traditional family background. “My family immigrated to Canada from Malaysia and in Malaysia, it’s quite a conservative country. It’s a conservative country point blank period, especially with looks. And so when I started getting tattoos and when I started shaving all my hair off, I definitely got a lot of backlash from my family. But I slowly realized that it’s just their preconceived notion. It’s just from where they’re from. It takes a while for people to get used to it.”

Her tattoos are simply a synopsis of the self, a singular aspect of who she is. You have to go deeper to truly read the pages. “It’s a sneak peek into my life. My father always told me, ‘Try everything once. If it sticks, it sticks. If it doesn’t, at least you tried.’ And so makeup is definitely a huge part of my life. Especially since I’ve come from an arts background. I went to art university. (Did I graduate? Absolutely not.) It’s a core part of my identity, but it’s a slice of it, I would say. I do yoga. There’s my gardening. I knit quite a bit. I started getting a passion back for my Game Boy Advance games. You look into me, but you don’t see all of me with my makeup and my art.” After spending much of her life feeling out of place, Mei finally stumbled upon a haven of self expression in social media. “I grew up in a small town outside of Toronto and back in the day there, I was one of the very, very few people of color. I grew up in this town and I grew up thinking, ‘I need to fit in. I need to grow my hair out super long. I need to buy these clothes. I need to change up my look in this way, put on tons of mascara, dye my hair blonde. I need to do all of that.’ And I felt so uncomfortable throughout those decades of me trying to fit in. When the internet happened and Tumblr and MySpace and social media where you can start to see different parts of the world and see how different people express themselves, that gave me the confidence to try something different, to cut off all my hair to not give into those standards of beauty. And I can say with a hundred percent confidence that the way I look right now is the way I was supposed to look. I feel beautiful and confident the way I am because I’ve tried everything and this is the one that stuck. Seeing people like Rick Genest (Zombie Boy) and watching him just live his fullest truth and still be successful gave me the confidence to go back down that pathway.”

Despite this newfound freedom, her life was in deep disarray due to her alcohol dependency. Choosing sobriety sent her in an entirely new and positive direction. “Back when I had a drinking problem, my schedule was turned right on its head because I was a party girl. You know, you go out at ten, you don’t come home until seven in the morning. You sleep the entire day and then you wake up hungover and you don’t do anything because you’re hungover. So I feel like sobriety has changed my life in a way where I’ve reclaimed my time back. I wake up at like five in the morning. Now I do my makeup. I’m feeling fresh and energized every single day, which is such a blessing, especially where my life three years ago was so chaotic. With the problem that I had, I would black out quite often. And so my first moments in the morning were stress and anxiety. Worrying ‘What have I said to these people? What did I text? Did I make anyone upset?’ Now I can wake up peaceful and I can wake up happy knowing that I didn’t piss anybody off or I didn’t do anything embarrassing. And I have all this time to go and work on my makeup and have a clearer head doing my makeup rather than it being a chore.” Her creativity is one incentive for her to stay sober. “Sobriety has given me my career essentially. It’s given me my health back as well. I was not in a good place health wise when I was drinking. Drinking two bottles of wine at night definitely did a lot to my innards and my outside too. it took such a toll on my body. Now being sober for three years, I just feel so comfortable in myself and I feel alive. It’s cliche, but I really do. I am a very competitive person and I try to outdo myself constantly. I try to see how far I can take it. I’ve seen what sobriety has done for me. I always want to push that. I’m constantly reminding myself, ‘I’ve made it this far, let’s do one more day of being sober.’ And then for my makeup, I think, ‘I’m sober. Let’s do it, let’s make it bigger.’ It’s definitely connected.”

Mei is confident big changes are in her near future. “I think this is not my final form. I always say I’m always evolving. I’m always trying something new. My father was the biggest motivator in just trying something new. He threw me into multiple sports and multiple activities because he just wanted me to find my thing. I’ve applied that to my life as an adult. I try on different clothes. I try different styles. I get more tattoos and more and more and more tattoos. The more I try, I feel either less or more secure with myself. And that helps me with my later life.” She cradles her parents close to her heart. “My dad’s my best friend. Minus the tattoos and bald head, I’m the spitting image of him. My mom is also a role model in my life. They immigrated to Canada with not a lot of money, no job, no nothing. And they are incredibly successful human beings now where that just gives me the motivation to be like that. But in my own way.”

She embraces bigger love, too, proudly identifying as pansexual.”I realized that I was attracted to everybody at a very young age. Shout out all girls school! To me, it was such a great feeling. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I can love anybody and they can love me back. Wow.’ It was a comforting feeling. It’s a freeing feeling. it’s just a part of my identity where I don’t feel any more special or any more different than anybody.” The community has been a source of affectionate support and reeducation for her. “My closest friends and my circle are LGBTQIA+. They have taught me so much, so I’m constantly learning and I’m constantly growing and evolving and teaching myself things and unlearning things. I try to give back in terms of social media, putting more of my identity out there to help maybe inspire people or just to tell people about myself and what that whole world means to me.” 

As you might expect, Mei is eager to take full advantage of the rest of the real estate her body has to offer. It’s the purest expression of joy and contentment and testament to how comfortable she is in her own skin – literally. “For my makeup, my plan is to just go bigger and bolder with it, which I’m not sure how I’m going to do, because my face is only so big, but I’ll figure it out. I always do. I plan on starting my leg tattoos. I want to get fully tattooed minus my face. I want to just cover my entire body at this point. I’m just so happy with where I am and what I’m doing. So hopefully in the future, I’m doing the same thing.” The world can always stand to be a little brighter with a bolder Mei. 

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Makeup Maven Mei Pang on Self Love and Sobriety. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Mei Pang and Sacha Cohen.

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