News / Calgary

World famous makeup artist to the stars comes home to Calgary

Hung Vanngo welcomes Saks to Calgary after he made his way as a world-class makeup artist

Makeup artist Hung Vanngo will be back home in Calgary on Saturday for the opening of Saks Calgary at Chinook Centre.

courtesy of Hung Vanngo / Calgary Freelance

Makeup artist Hung Vanngo will be back home in Calgary on Saturday for the opening of Saks Calgary at Chinook Centre.

While cooped up in the library of Calgary’s Crescent Heights High School, Hung Vanngo was furiously flipping through fashion magazines while his peers poured over textbooks.

“At that time, it was the era of supermodels,” he said. “I was always so fascinated with fashion and magazines, but it never occurred to me to be a makeup artist. In Calgary (in the 90s), you didn’t hear much about someone making a living as a makeup artist.”

But, as time would tell, Vanngo didn’t let that obstacle get in his way.

He’s now a New York-based makeup artist, coveted by elite celebrities and high fashion magazines for his eye and his brushstrokes – and he’s returning to Calgary on Saturday for an exclusive in-store appearance for the opening of Saks Calgary.

Born in Vietnam, Vanngo’s mother sent him and his siblings to safety after instability broke out in his home country. He spent three years in a refugee camp in Thailand before making his way to Calgary in 1990.

As a child, he was always painting and sketching faces – mostly in black and white – but his admiration for the beauty world eventually brought him to Marvel College.

“When I started working in a salon after I graduated, I got a chance to play with the makeup station,” he said. “I realized it was my love.”

Before long, Vanngo was established in a Calgary hair salon, but decided it was time to make a change. He was booking hair appointments two months in advance, and had a condo and a car – but he opted to sell it all for his plan to head to head to Toronto.

“Everyone thought I was crazy,” he explained. “But I said, ‘No, what I really want to do is makeup.”

After three years in Toronto, Vanngo moved on to his new home in New York. Since then, his work has appeared in Vogue, Allure, InStyle, Glamour and Marie Claire (just to name a few), and he’s worked with celebrities including Selena Gomez, Julianne Moore, Katy Perry and Miranda Kerr.

Last year, he won the Makeup Artist of the Year award with InStyle magazine, and says it’s a full-circle journey to come home to Calgary and reflect on his journey.

“In high school, I was looking up to all these models, like Cindy Crawford,” he said. “And now I’ve worked with almost every single one of my idols. It’s something that I never expected, but I do count blessings. If you really believe in it and work hard, anything is possible.”

From 1:30 to 2:15 p.m., Vanngo will hold a public beauty presentation, followed by a Q&A, at the new Saks Calgary, which opened on Thursday.

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