Behind the scenes of the LCK, there are people actively working on the product, remaining unseen to the fans. Last time, we spoke to Jin Yae-won, Riot Korea’s global producer. This time, we catch up with the makeup artist lead that styles the cast and players.
Hello! Can you introduce yourself?
Hello! I’m a person who loves games and is a skilled makeup artist. I am Riot Korea’s makeup team lead, Kim Da-yeon.
Being a “makeup artist of the LCK” wouldn’t be a usual job. How did you first start doing this?
Actually, I was working as OGN’s makeup artist from before. Before that, my job didn’t involve anything with pro gamers. When I first started playing LoL, I knew that pro gamers existed. I was really interested and watched the games at the arenas, buying my own tickets. That was when I found out that there are makeup artists that work with pro gamers.
I did everything to find out the OGN makeup team’s number, called them, and said, “I want to work there too”. After submitting my resume, I joined the team and started my life with the pro gamers. Within a few years working there, I heard that Riot will be running the LCK on their own, so I left OGN. I was able to meet many pro gamers in OGN, but I really loved LoL, so I went all-in on Riot Korea. Thankfully, producer Lee Min-ho picked me up. I’m still very grateful.
So you’re really into LoL and esports. How long have you been playing and watching?
I almost only LoL. I’ve been playing it for about five years. I;ve tried many different games, but the final answer was always LoL.
One thing I really wanted to say was that I really love not only LoL, but all its pro players. I remember the skin type and hair conditions of more than 100 players. I remember whose scalp condition isn’t good, who has skin trouble in a specific part, and so on.
Is there a reason that you became so interested in LoL and pro gamers?
You know, if you see someone do something well that you’re not good at, they look really cool. To me, LoL pro gamers are like that. I really wanted to play LoL well, but I couldn’t get good enough even though I spent five years playing the game. So I think that they’re really awesome, seeing them play so well.
The players’ schedules are really intense. They wake up at about 12:30 PM, start scrimming at 1 o’clock, take a break, and scrim again until 7 o’clock, playing until dawn… That goes on and on every day. To me, it’s just a game I enjoy. They’re doing something that others can’t do even if they wanted to. When I meet them to prepare them for the stage, their back and wrists are in a really bad condition.
Some people might think, “Pro gamers? Aren’t they just doing that because they’re good at gaming?” but to me, they’re people that I respect a lot. They get through that difficult schedule, play all those matches under extreme pressure, are responsible for all the results even if they’re bad. I think going through all that is too much to endure for their age. Even though they’re all younger than I am, I have so much respect for them for doing all that. I believe all pro players should be praised whether they do well or not. I can’t help but be happy since I’m styling the people who I respect so much.
You say that you’re happy, but didn’t you have any concerns when you first started the job?
Wherever I went, I thought that I’m a lot better than others, so I didn’t have any concerns. I wasn’t afraid at all. I really loved LoL and I had pride in my ability as a makeup artist.
What do you mostly do at the LCK scene?
In short, I’m in charge of the makeup and hair of everyone who appears on camera. The casters, commentators, players, coaching staff, announcers, analyst desk, etc.
How’s your schedule at LoL Park on a game day?
We arrive at about 1:30 PM to prepare the makeup. Starting from 3 o’clock, we work on the casters and commentators. Next are the analyst desk and players. About five minutes before the live broadcast, we check the casters’ desk for the last time and see the players in the photo zone. Then we wait for the next match.
So you would have to work on all the days of the LCK.
Yes. Every day until late… Since we don’t know when the games will be over, I just stay until the end. After everything’s over, I clean up and head home.
You would have a lot of experience. Would the makeup for the LCK be different from regular makeup?
It’s really different. More than anything, the makeup for the LCK is a lot lighter than the makeup for regular shows. Some players say that too much makeup interferes with their performance, so I try to focus on their hair more than their makeup. The players are really delicate. (I remember PawN saying that he didn’t put on any makeup as a player.) I just covered the skin trouble with concealer and tidied his hair when he was a player.
I also worked as a makeup artist in several broadcasting stations. The makeup there is really thick and detailed. All the cast knows about the importance of makeup. On the other hand, this is a gaming company, so it’s less than the broadcasting stations. The regulations used to specify that all players have to get makeup but there were players who didn’t want to, so it was revised.
When was the most fun or fruitful moment doing this work?
I enjoy meeting the players the most. I’ve been seeing them for quite a while, but it’s new every day. They feel like my little brothers since they’re so young, but sometimes they change into this macho guy when I meet them the next season. It’s sometimes fun taking care of their hair when they messed up at the salon. Those moments are the most precious.
The moments that feel fruitful are when I styled the players’ hair a certain way and then they come back in the next match asking for that specific hairstyle. The players usually not interested in how they look, but they say that the hairstyle they had that day was really good. I feel really proud when they say that. Sometimes, they look for me specifically for their makeup or send me a message saying, “Thank you for styling me up really nice” and that really makes my day.
After all, work is work and there are difficult parts that come with it. What’s the most difficult part of the job?
When I’m not able to get off work right away? [Laughs] I sleep until late so it’s not a big issue. It’s regretful when there are players that don’t want makeup. I sometimes want to convince them. Especially with cvMax. I really want to do something about his hair, but he emphasizes being natural is better. I’ve tried to persuade him several times, but he would never give in. I’ve never even touched his hair.
You would be one of the people that gets the closest to the players. I’d like to hear about the players from your perspective. Who’s changed the most over time?
I would have to say it’s SoHwan. When he was in Jin Air Green Wings, he was just a little cute boy. After he joined Hanwha Life Esports, his body grew so much and became big, but his face remained just as before. His face still suggests that he’s still just a boy. It was really surprising.
Who has the cleanest skin?
Most of them have really clean skin, as much as they’re young, but Nuguri’s skin is the cleanest. His skin is really clean; I sometimes feel sorry to even touch him with a brush. He’s like a “Challenger level” in terms of skin. So I don’t even put on any makeup on him. I just touch his hair a bit. His skin is really clear.
Who looks the best after all the makeup?
A lot of people would agree; it’s Mystic. I look at the eyes of a person a lot, but his eyes are really deep. His face goes well with any hairstyle. I would say Mystic has the best looks.
Are there any players that ask for a lot?
There aren’t any players that ask for too much, but there are some who know how to look good. Players like Secret or Nuclear. They know how to look nice, so I love their reactions when I style them.
Are there any other players that are memorable?
Lehends comes to my mind right away. He’s really, really friendly. I’m a talkative person, so I often talk to the players. Most players usually just give short answers, but Lehends isn’t like that. He talks a lot and greets me very brightly. I think he’d do well wherever he is. Like GorillA. I was able to get close to him because of his personality, so he’s the most memorable.
I guess most of the players would feel awkward putting on makeup. On the other hand, are players like Faker, who appears often in other broadcasts or advertisements, different when they get styled?
Extremely different. Players like Faker are really natural. Some players don’t sit up when I style them, but Faker sits up really nice so that it’s easy to style him. He’s like a seasoned TV personality.
Are there any interesting stories that you experienced at this job?
We call it the “Jin Air grass incident”. Back then, the head coach, H-Dragon, and all the players shaved their heads to bring up the team spirit. The makeup team was shocked when we first saw them. I remember SoHwan and Teddy. They were sitting in the makeup chair with their heads shaved to 3mm. Everyone was frustrated; we were really surprised. We all sigh when we think of then.
How did you get through that situation?
We put a lot of spray and wax on their heads. Their hair still looked really bad, so it was impossible to make up for it. We tried hard for about a week like that, but eventually, it got really tiring. So we put in a request to the team to never do that again.
You’re doing something essential behind the stages, but you don’t get acknowledged much. You’re like a supporter that helps out the LCK without being seen. Isn’t it regretful that your work isn’t that visible?
I’m a support player in LoL. Sometimes, I want to go AFK when I see the ADC doing badly. But I think this is my destiny. No matter how well we do in broadcasts, it doesn’t stick out, but if we don’t exist, the broadcast doesn’t shine.
There are makeup artists in foreign leagues, but it doesn’t seem that they prioritize the makeup artists’ work as much as we do in the LCK. Back in 2018, the foreign leagues’ makeup artists admired the makeup for our casters. They said that they want to learn the Korean style. I watched them how they did it, but they were through in 30 seconds, and the players seemed to be used to that. We spend about 10-15 minutes per player… It may be a cultural difference, but I think it’s an etiquette to put have proper makeup for broadcasts.
I wish people focus more on the makeup artists in the foreign leagues as well. I hope that the makeup gets more important in all regions’ broadcasts and we all get more attention. If the makeup in other regions gets more detailed for each player, the makeup artists could shine more as a whole in the leagues.
Do you have any advice to those who might dream to become a makeup artist for esports?
When I pick an employee, I tell them, “If you think of makeup simply as a way to earn money, don’t come. Come only if you really have passion and affection in beauty treatment.” I did start this unconditionally, but since it was connected to LoL, I became more responsible and felt more passion. It’s alright to attempt something new, but if it doesn’t seem right, simply quitting would be the answer. I’m not trying to discourage anyone; I just want everyone who starts in this to have sincere mindsets.
Do you have a goal as a makeup artist?
I’d like to leave a giant footstep as a makeup artist in the industry. Like Han Hye-yeon, the fashion stylist, or caster Jeon Yong-jun. There are a lot of makeup artists in the field, but I’d like to become that No.1 in the gaming industry. Some other gaming events have been contacting me. Whenever they do, I get to think that I’ve been doing well.
Lastly, a word to our readers?
Maybe no one is interested in our stories, so I’d like to thank you for having such an interview with me. It’s been quite a while since I’ve been working here, but no one was curious about what we had to say. It was a job that was just there. Thank you for this opportunity.
To those who are reading this interview, I’d like to tell you that we’re supporters, like Lux, that helps others shine. I hope you take an interest in us as well. Thank you!
A managing editor who can do more things than you think.