If you’re into K-beauty and are familiar with Korean beauty content producers, you’ll probably have heard of SSIN.

The YouTuber, whose real name is Sue Park, might not strike you as a beauty vlogger when you first meet her, especially when she’s dressed down for the photo shoot, but a look at her YouTube account would reveal that she has more than 1.2 million subscribers – a feat, considering she just started three years ago.

The beauty expert is known for her jaw-dropping transformations, which spans both female and male Korean celebrities. In fact, most of her tutorials on recreating makeup looks of male idols have raked more than 1 million views each.

At times, especially for client-sponsored videos, she uses her alter ego, Lady SSIN (or a clever pun on the Korean word “goddess”) who dons long wigs and adopts a feminine personality.

But her winning trait is not just her skills, but also her no-holds-barred personality. Her sense of humour and nonchalance in pulling funny faces (which most girls are wary of), are what differentiates her from most influencers.

We flew to Seoul to get to know our July cover girl better. (Click the numbered boxes to navigate to the next page.)

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You became interested in cosplay and theatrical makeup in high school. Do you remember what first sparked your interest in makeup?
I was part of a cartoon club in middle school, and at the school’s festival held every year, we had to do cosplay, which involves putting on makeup. I always liked drawing, so I helped everyone in the club before I started putting on makeup myself. That’s how it all started.

Who was the first person you tried to copy the makeup of?
HyunA, the K-Pop star, which got two million views.  The K-Pop-related content on my channel has been pretty popular. As for cartoon characters, it was Elsa from Frozen. The two videos were not extremely well-executed, but they marked my very first steps into the industry so I still remember them vividly. At the time, I didn’t even have proper background lighting. I just used a small camera my dad bought for me, balanced it against an eraser on a stack of twenty books, and used a small desk lamp as lighting to shoot the videos.

Did you find you’re naturally good at makeup?
I knew it at once. I loved drawing since I was little, and many people around me encouraged me to major in art. I went to an arts college and majored in graphic art. In order to get into art school, I had to study the basics, including watercolour painting, sketching and oil painting. I think makeup is one area of art that requires deep understanding and skillful expression of colour, perspective, and texture. With this artistic foundation, I was confident I would be able to do a good job with makeup.

There are differing reports of when you actually started in the beauty world. Can you set the record straight and tell us how it all began?
I started blogging 10 years ago when I was in high school. I first created a blog and used it as my personal diary. At first, I put up content about cosplay makeup and posted some makeup reviews from time to time. At this point, all my content was expressed in words and photos. I started to meddle with video content during the winter of 2013. I was invited to a few TV shows, including Get It Beauty, because I was active in the makeup blogosphere. Around that time, some people suggested that I shoot videos. Armed with just my iPhone camera, I started having fun with it and began uploading videos to YouTube. I was able to demonstrate techniques that I otherwise would not have been able to with just words and photos, and could show myself to my fans as I am. The followers from my blog were excited about my videos, and I got more fans. It all started out as a hobby, then it became a part-time job, and now I am a full-time YouTuber and a CEO with five employees.

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Where did your YouTube name come from?
My nickname is Ssinnim. In English, people call me SSIN, but in Korea, they use my full name. There is no special meaning and I have been using it for the last 10 years.

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen on the market since you started?
The YouTube landscape today has totally changed since I started YouTubing three years ago. Back then, I was just a student who did it as a hobby, but now I’m regarded as a creator, YouTuber, and influencer. Something that started out as a hobby attracted people, and I connected with them visually and emotionally, making an impact on their behaviour. My [videos] led to frequent purchases, and this moved the cosmetic marketing industry. Now the marketers are more interested in online influencer advertising campaigns than TV ads. This trend is spreading towards other industries including F&B and even public enterprises.

Was there a particular moment when you realised that vlogging could be more than just a passion project?
Maybe since I started making money out of it? (LOL) At first, I didn’t know I could make money with my YouTube activities. But after I executed some ads for brands, I realised this could potentially evolve into a solid job. I think it’s been about two years since that happened.

What is the process that goes into making one of your vlogs?
First, there’s a planning phase where we decide what to shoot. I usually try to find references on the web, and I keenly follow K-Drama trends for research. And then we prepare costumes, accessories, and equipment for the shoot. The actual shoot only takes about three hours. For editing, each staff takes charge of one segment, and the process lasts for about five days in total. In the process, I would direct, translate, review the result closely, then finally upload the video. I usually conduct the overall planning, approval, and thumbnailing. Park PD (SSIN’s brother) is the video and equipment director while Serim (SSIN’s younger cousin) is in charge of the editing team. I used to do this all by myself, but now we divide up the work.

What’s the most surprising thing that goes on behind the scenes of your beauty vlog?
We try to use the prettiest shots at the start and end of all the videos, and it’s actually really hard to pick the right ones. We spend about an hour trying to get these shots, but the ones that turn out to be pretty are only about 10 seconds long. Many people think that a beauty blogger would have a perfectly organised makeup collection, but my makeup desk is really messy. It’s actually disgusting. And sometimes, we sneeze, burp, pick our noses, and even fart when the camera is not on… LOLOLOL

Speaking of collaborations, you’ve worked with a lot of different brands for sponsored videos and even co-produced products like your B-H Box. How do you choose which brands you collaborate with?
I get help from an agency called DIA TV when it comes to branded content. They introduce me to different brands, show me the list of brands that are interested to work with me, and help me communicate with brands that get in touch with me directly. I usually choose the brands that carry my favourite products or those that go along with my concept.

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Do you remember your first fan encounter?
Not very well. I might have met him or her at a makeup lecture… but lately, I encounter people that recognise me when I go for a walk when I travel, and it surprises me every time.

The hardest part about being a public figure is you can get negative feedback too. How do you deal with that?
As I get more popular, I get more feedback about my behaviour. I am aware that there is negative feedback. At first, I got really stressed out and depressed about it, but now I accept it. If they point out faults, I can improve on them for my next video. If somebody makes absurd criticism, I just ignore it. Rather than focus on criticism, I try to pay attention to the positive feedback and support I get from my fans who like me. One of my YouTube fans commented, “I had a really stressful day today, but I got happy after watching SSIN’s video,” and I almost burst into tears because I was so moved by it.

Photography: SIHYUNHADA
Styling: Cheryl Chan
Hair: CHO
Photography Assistant: Jun An Baek
Fashion Assistant: Daniel Teo Hair
On SSIN: Leather jacket, $2,090, Christian Dada; Wool sweater, Coach 1941; All jewellery, stylist’s own