Kiana: Behind The Scenes

This is story 9 of 10 of LoveYourzStory’s Creatives Series. I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of getting to know 11 individuals who are passionate about creating. It was interesting to learn where each individual drew their inspiration from. I wanted to shift the attention on other Creatives and tell their stories on what motivates and excites them in their respective field. Thank you to everyone who participated in this series! – Marinelle Cabillo, LoveYourzStory

Kiana credits her love for film and documenting memories to her father. Growing up, her dad would always have an action film playing in the background. He was always behind the camcorder documenting whatever the family was doing. There are countless family home videos of Kiana throughout the years. He mostly recorded for the family to have home videos to look back on, but also because he was into photography as well. As his daughter, Kiana feels as though she got his creative gene.

When Kiana was about 10 years old, her dad bought her her first camcorder. She was fully immersed in capturing moments visually. Just like her dad, Kiana was always behind the camera. Kiana and her cousins would come up with random skits, and she would always be the one recording it. But it didn’t just stop at recording the footage – Kiana would take it a step further and edit the videos as well. She laughs at the idea of editing her family content through Windows Movie Maker, but a girl gotta start somewhere!

“When I used to film stuff when I was younger, it was more for fun on the spot skits with my cousins,” Kiana explained. “I think that’s where my love for documentaries came from because when you’re filming a documentary you’re literally getting footage on the spot. Nothing is scripted.”

Kiana always had a gut feeling that she wanted to turn her love for documenting, editing, and being behind the camera into a career pretty early on. She remembers a school project her senior year of high school that stuck with her. Her and 4 other classmates had to make a video about domestic violence in Polynesia, and that’s when she upgraded from Windows Movie Maker to iMovie! Her contribution was shooting all the of the videos and editing the footage. In the end, they didn’t even do the project correctly, but Kiana was very proud of the final video.

Even though Kiana knew she wanted to pursue film, she still ended up taking classes for a major she had no business being in. She chose occupational therapy. How the hell did she end up with that? When it was time to try to figure out what she was going to study in college, her mom and cousin threw out the idea of occupational therapy. This is partly due to the the fact that her cousin was an occupational therapist. The game plan was simple – the goal was to study to become an occupational therapist, work as an occupational therapist for a couple of years so she could pay for film school. Looking back, she admits that idea was nowhere near practical.

When it came down to it, Kiana just couldn’t be in those classes. Her heart wasn’t in it, and she knew that occupational therapy wasn’t a road she wanted to take – or never really wanted to take from the get. She had a talk with her parents and decided to drop community college and go to Academy of Art the next fall. The talk with her parents was really difficult to have, but it was so relieving at the same time. Her parents were iffy at first and needed some convincing – they had no idea how she could possibly make a career in film or TV. Kiana had to explain that there are so many different career paths that she can take in the industry – it’s not just directing, screenwriting, and all the roles people first think of when they think of film. Even though her parents were hesitant with the switch, they couldn’t deny how much Kiana was struggling trying to pursue occupational therapy. They knew their daughter’s heart wasn’t in it, so they supported her decision to make the switch.

Kiana’s glad that she made the switch because it changed the direction of her whole career and future. She graduated from Academy of Art University with her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Motion Pictures & Television with an emphasis in editing. Now, she’s a Studio Technician for NBC Sports Bay Area, and freelancing on the side! There’s many different tasks as a studio technician, but she mostly works as a tape operator, working on live pre and post-game shows for the Warriors, Giants, and A’s.

To build her portfolio to be qualified for NBC Sports Bay Area, Kiana just kept creating and collaborating with others. One of the most important things that’s a must in this industry is networking. She kept creating, kept networking, and kept putting herself out there, and that’s how she landed her role in the industry. At first, seeing all the professional equipment was really intimidating for Kiana. She’s seen the equipment in some of her classes at the Academy of Art, but actually operating it without the help of her professor was definitely something she had to get used to.

“I personally prefer editing,” Kiana said when asked what role she prefers. “I love editing because it allows me to create and shape the story that the director and cinematographer envisioned. It’s kinda like I have the last say on how I want the film to be seen.”

Being an Asian woman in the sports industry can be pretty intimidating, but Kiana finds solace in the fact that she gets to represent. For her, it’s so much more than just her having a job, it’s letting the generations after her know that someone that looks like them did it as well. Everyone relies on the media for entertainment, so it’s important to Kiana to be that representation for them, it’s something that she wishes she had. Kiana didn’t grow up seeing too many Asians in sports or on TV, and even though it’s currently headed in the right direction, media still has a ways to go to make things diverse.

Creating and documenting is equivalent to Kiana writing in a journal. It’s her way of expressing herself, from whatever she’s thinking or going through in life. Majority of her work and projects are somehow related to her own journey and personal experiences. If she’s working on someone else’s project, Kiana would have to resonate with their story or relate to it in some way. It’s hard for her to put her all into something if she doesn’t feel connected to it, that’s why she’s so passionate about what she does. She takes pride in knowing that what she produces will only come from her and nobody else.

In fact, her film, “Love, Kiana,” started off as a journal entry. Kiana always wanted to create a film focusing on mental health. During that time, she was really diving into mental health in Asian families, more specifically, Filipino families. She wanted to create something where people who look like her could relate. She is well aware that the Filipino community is still very dated when it comes to talking about, accepting, and dealing with mental health. It was really important for Kiana to explain her own journey with mental health because the film also acted as an explanation to those around her. It was different for her to be in front of the camera rather than behind it, but she felt compelled to do so.

“…Whenever I tried to find visual examples I could show my parents, or my cousins, or anyone actually, the content was very limited,” She said when asked why she chose to make the film about her own personal experience. “So I wanted to put the spotlight on it. I needed it to be real, raw, and authentic because I wanted to show people how I’ve been really feeling deep inside.”

Kiana’s work is inspired by the people she’s met, the places she’s been, and the things that she has seen. When creating, her goal is to make something she hasn’t seen on the screen before. She loves watching other people’s work. The different styles of writing, directing, or editing always inspires her to think outside of the box for her own projects. It’s a crucial part of growth – to take everything in around you and find a way to make it your own.

Aside from her sports editing job, Kiana makes sure to feed her creative side whenever she has the chance. Most of her personal side projects start off as just for fun. But there are times where she gets emails announcing film festivals that are open for submissions, and when she sees one that aligns with what she’s working on, she’ll submit it. Currently, she’s working on a “Stop AAIP Hate” campaign and a personal project focusing on San Francisco State’s women’s basketball players’ work ethic and journeys. One of her favorite projects that she’s worked on is a project called “The Crossover” for MYX Global. The Crossover highlights popular artists crossing over to new international markets for the first time like Inigo Pascual, Kiana V, KZ Tandingan, Moira Dela Torre, and more.

Most of the jobs and gigs that Kiana has gotten are through networking and referrals. Kiana tries to capitalize on all of the events and sets she attends where there are a lot of people that are in the same industry. She scopes out the place and tries to make out the individuals that she would want to work with in the future or get to know more. She is one that respects people’s time, so she always tries to think of what she’ll talk about with them before approaching. Kiana’s advice is to try to leave a lasting impression with whoever you’re connecting with because you don’t want to waste their time. Don’t be afraid to follow up with the conversation in the future. Kiana has found that networking casually in person is a lot less intimidating than a formal interview. It allows her to be herself and make natural conversation.

“I feel like as a creative, the most important thing you can do is collab and network with other creatives/filmmakers,” She said. “I love surrounding myself with people who are open-minded and also like-minded when it comes collaborating.”

Even someone like Kiana, who has successfully found her niche in her profession, still has doubts from time to time. With all of her success, there are still moments when she doubts herself as an artist. Kiana tends to compare her work to other people’s and will overthink her own ability, accomplishments, and talents. “Do people even like my art?” “They’ll probably hire someone else,” are some of the thoughts that cross her mind. When those thoughts of self-doubt creep up, Kiana tries to remind herself that her art will reach the audience it’s supposed to and everyone has their own different style when creating. She is aware that she’s her own worst critic. Another thing she likes to do is take a social media cleanse and draw inspiration from reading, watching movies, and just hanging out with family and friends. Her family and friends have been her biggest supporters throughout her whole journey. They’ve been there through it all – her burnouts, her long days, the times she’s sitting for hours on end at the computer editing. The love and support they give her does not go unnoticed.

Kiana doesn’t let her own negative self-talk sabotage her art, so she practices every time she gets the chance to. There are times she goes out and films random things to edit when she gets back home. Other times, she goes into old project files and messes around with them to see how different her cuts and style is now. It’s the perfect way for her to see her progression as an editor, to look back on her old content and edit again with more experience and different techniques. Those old pieces that she dibble dabbles in every once in a while is a constant reminder of where she started, and it truly humbles her.

It usually takes Kiana about 1-2 weeks to complete a short doc. But she admits that she gets very picky with her cuts, so she’ll watch something over and over again until she’s satisfied with it – and she’s completely okay with that. Her goal in film is to finally make her short narrative film come to life. She feels as though her whole film career has been focused on making documentaries, so she really wants to tap into the inventive and imaginative side of storytelling.

Kiana’s advice to other creatives is to keep creating what you want. It doesn’t matter if others think your idea is dumb – you are allowed to create what you want to create. She tries to remind herself that the best part of working in a creative industry is meeting new people and building connections and relationships with them. Somewhere out there will resonate with your work.

“It’s gonna sound hella cliché, but I would tell younger Kiana to never give up,” She said when asked what she would like to tell her younger self. “It’s gonna take some time, there’s gonna be people who doubt you – especially being a woman of color in this industry. You have to work 10x harder than some other people but it’ll be worth it.”

Artistry By Dre

Andrea’s goal for 2020 was to be published in a magazine by year’s end. That goal was fulfilled this past November when her makeup look landed the front cover of PUMP Magazine. This is a huge accomplishment for Andrea and puts her freelance makeup business, Artistry By Dre‘s, name out there in the makeup artist world. Her love and passion for makeup is finally getting the recognition she once dreamed of. It took Andrea a lot of trial and error to get Artistry By Dre where it is today. She had a few bumps in the road, but has used those experiences to learn, grow, and perfect her craft. This is the story of how Andrea got her foot in the makeup industry.

Andrea has always looked up to her mother for many different reasons. Makeup is definitely one of those reasons. Her love for makeup originated from years of watching her mom getting ready. She would look at her mom with awe, and it inspired Andrea to test her creativity as well. She would do her makeup, then eagerly run to her mom’s room to show her what she created. This gave Andrea the confidence to start practicing on friends and family. She started offering makeup services when she was about 17 years old, roughly 8 years ago, her senior year of high school. People would come to her for proms, homecomings, and other special events.

From there, Andrea’s love for being a makeup artist grew. She decided to start her business because she was extremely passionate about creating new looks. She lived for her clients’ reactions when they would see themselves in the mirror after she was through. For these reasons, Andrea had little hesitation about starting Artistry By Dre, because at that point, she was already getting booked with makeup appointments. She started an Instagram page to showcase her work, and people were reaching out to book her for their events as well. It only seemed right that the next step would be to make the business official.

“I wasn’t hesitant at all, it honestly happened pretty organically,” Andrea said. “I knew I loved what I did, and I was invested in learning more about the industry.”

When Andrea decided to pursue makeup professionally, her mom supported her from day one. Her mom always tried to encourage her to try new looks, push her creativity, promote her work on social media, and be her number one fan. Although in the beginning, Andrea’s mom was a little worried at first because she thought pursuing makeup professionally meant that Andrea was going to stop with her college courses. After reassuring her mother that she would still be going to school and getting her degree, her mom was relieved and gave Andrea her full support. Andrea also had the support of her family, and didn’t receive any negative feedback. She knows she is fortunate that her family was so supportive, since it’s not so common for family members to be entirely on board when starting a small business. She believes her family was more inclined to support her dreams and business because she always had another job to be able to support herself and Artistry By Dre.

With her family’s support, Andrea was ready to totally immerse herself in the makeup industry. And with the help of her aunt, she got her first opportunity to do makeup for a bridal party when she was just 17 – 18 years old! Her aunt has a salon in South San Francisco, and had asked if she was available to do makeup for a bride and two of her bridesmaids. Andrea couldn’t believe it. Her excitement was through the roof, but she was equally just as nervous as she was excited. Especially since this was the bride’s big day, it added more pressure on Andrea to deliver. She didn’t want to mess up or have the bridal party not be happy with her service. When she finished the bridal party’s makeup, they were so happy with the end results. That day Andrea made the most money in 1 day of doing makeup. Their reactions energized her spirit to continue with her art and become a professional makeup artist.

For the next couple of years, Andrea continued to do makeup services for others and showcase her work through her Instagram page. Her dream has always been to be a MAC makeup artist, so when she finally had the opportunity to showcase her skills, she went for it. Unfortunately, her interview experience that day wasn’t a great one. The woman interviewing Andrea seemed very cold and uninterested in what she had to say. The entire interview Andrea felt as if her heart was in her stomach the entire time. She had a gut feeling that the interviewer wasn’t going to hire her, but she put on a professional face and attitude and got through her interview. A few days after her interview, she followed up with the manager to get an answer or any feedback on how the interview went. The manager told Andrea that the person interviewing her that day had said she, “had the MAC look and artistry, but not the personality.”

“When I heard that, I felt like a dagger hit me in the chest,” Andrea said remembering the only time she ever felt discouraged as a makeup artist. “My dream of being a MAC makeup artist wasn’t in the cards for me. This didn’t discourage me from continuing to pursue makeup. In fact, I used that as a fuel to become a better artist. I realized that I didn’t need to work at MAC to be a great makeup artist. I already had the artistry and skills they had.”

Sometimes, it takes closing the door on one chapter of your life to continue on to the next. Andrea realized that after she left her retail job almost 4 years ago. Quitting her job at Nordstrom was one of the best decisions she made for her makeup career. At her retail job, she wasn’t allowed to take personal makeup appointments. But when she did have an appointment at her counter, the customer would have to buy products, and the makeup artists couldn’t accept tips or money for their service. This was extremely discouraging for her as a makeup artist. She felt as though everything was focused on selling, and that wasn’t the route she wanted to go with her makeup career. So, she interviewed at Makeup Forever as a freelancer and got the job on the spot. She put in her two weeks at Nordstrom and felt from that moment on, she chose herself. She was finally able to have a flexible schedule and work for Makeup Forever and for herself whenever she wanted.

Working as a freelance artist for Makeup Forever lasted for about 8 months, but eventually, Andrea moved on. Her current job allows her to have weekends completely free to do makeup. Sometimes, she will even pick up clients after work if she has the availability. She finally found a schedule that aligns with her needs and wants. After quitting her retail job is when she really started to take Artistry By Dre more seriously. Andrea started researching the next steps on how to become a certified makeup artist, purchased quality products for her kit, watched videos and took classes to learn different techniques, built a website, and made business cards to give out. Andrea was finally able to fully focus on Artistry By Dre and network with others.

Networking with others meant that she had to be more consistent with posting content on Artistry By Dre‘s Instagram page. She made her business Instagram page back in 2014 to showcase her work and services. However, she did her first paid advertisement about 2.5 years ago when Instagram introduced the business feature. To test it out, Andrea paid for the option that wasn’t too expensive, but would showcase and advertise her work to about 7 thousand people for a span of 5 days. Her page got a lot of engagement from that ad, about 1.2 likes and 200 followers. Running the ads has proven to be a successful tool to bring in followers, makeup lovers, and potential clients. Most importantly, the exposure leads her to collaborate with other creatives.

With Andrea fully focused on her business, and her posts making its way around the internet, Artistry By Dre started to take off. With all of her research, practice, and training, Andrea was confident in her artistic ability. When you become your own boss, it’s easy to lowball yourself, or have others try to lowball your services. Andrea found this especially true when she started freelancing. It surprised her that many people try to negotiate prices. What she, and many other makeup artists, want the public to understand is a lot of time and money goes into being a professional makeup artist. They take classes to learn different techniques, they purchase makeup and proper sanitation products, not to mention the costs of keeping their websites running, upkeeping their kits, traveling to your destination, or renting out a studio or booth, etc. These expenses are usually “out of sight, out of mind,” to others. Andrea admits that she used to get bothered when people would try to negotiate her prices, but she learned to remind herself that her work is worth the price for the quality of work she offers and her skillset.

“When people try to negotiate my prices, I explain why I set my prices to what it is, and if I’m not in their budget that’s okay, but my prices are non-negotiable,” She explained. “I stopped getting upset and told myself that my work is worth the price and there are people out there that will appreciate my artistry.”

And there definitely are plenty of people that appreciate Artistry By Dre‘s services. She is the busiest around proms, homecomings, graduations, and wedding season which is summer – mid-fall. It slows down after, then picks back up again around the holidays. But because of COVID, Artistry By Dre was definitely impacted. Because of the lockdown and mandatory Shelter in Place orders, she lost many wedding appointments and other special occasion jobs. For the first couple of months of Shelter in Place, Andrea felt as if her business was at a standstill. She decided not to take any clients until the re-opening in mid-June. But still, Andrea was hesitant to open up her services again because of how close she gets to someone’s face when she does their makeup. To reassure herself and her clients, she took extra safety and sanitary precautions by receiving a Barbicide COVID-19 Certification – an online course teaching infection control in salons, spas, barbershops, etc.

Ironically, despite the pandemic, Artistry By Dre has been getting booked to do more photoshoots and collaborations. For every photoshoot she does, she is exposing herself to more opportunities to meet photographers, models, stylists, and other people in her field. In fact, networking and collaborating is what led to her first magazine publication. She had just finished a photoshoot when she started talking to one of the models. They talked about their goals for their business, and Andrea shared with her that she really wanted to do more print work and be published. She referred Andrea to Alex, the model that would be on the cover of the magazine. Alex asked if Andrea would like to be a part of the project, and now Andrea has a published magazine to show for it.

“I could not believe that I was finally getting the opportunity that I have been asking the Universe and God for,” Andrea said looking back on her greatest accomplishment of 2020. “I told myself that this was the first of many big opportunities and it was time to grow in my artistry and push myself out of my comfort zone.”

And this was definitely out of her comfort zone. When Andrea first started doing photoshoots, she was a little hesitant to meet up with photographers and models she didn’t know. Just for that alone – the fact that she didn’t know these people personally. In the beginning, Andrea would bring her cousin along to shoots and sessions, to be sure that she had somebody she knew and trusted near by. Now a days, Andrea shares her location and the details of where she’ll be with her boyfriend, mom, and cousins when she is with a new photographer, model, or collaborating team. She shares her location with them on her phone, so if she’s at a new location, they know to hit her up. She makes it a point to call and text them after she is done with a shoot so they know that she’s safe and okay.

These collaborations and photoshoots have opened a lot of opportunities for Andrea and Artistry By Dre. The photoshoots she does are mainly to build portfolios for those involved – the models, the photographer, the stylist, hairstylist, and makeup artist. Other times, they shoot for product launches and content creation. Not only does she get to build her own portfolio, have new content to post on social media, and be around other creatives – she also gets to make new connections and network with those in her industry. When a creative wants to collaborate, one person will reach out to those they want involved. If Andrea wanted to plan a photoshoot, she would be in charge of the location, reaching out to photographers, models, stylists, and hairstylists, and explain the mood board. When she plans the shoot, she is in complete control of what the mood and vibe will be. When someone else is planning the shoot and they ask her to collaborate, it is her job to make their makeup vision come to life on the model. Photoshoots gives her a chance to be creative and push boundaries as an artist.

“I try to do 3-4 collabs each month so I can have photos to post on my social media, but also stay up on the latest trends and challenge myself to try new techniques and makeup styles,” She said.

When Andrea isn’t part of a photoshoot, she tries to find different ways to keep creating. She follows a lot of makeup artists on social media to use as inspiration. She uses her Pinterest account to create mood boards for future looks and projects. Andrea admits that when she is playing around with makeup on herself, she rarely knows what look she will end up with. She lets her brushes do the work, and doesn’t restrict herself from experimenting with different colors. Usually, she knows what color palette she will be using, but then end result is always a mystery. Even if she pulls images to recreate and use for inspiration, she always tries to add her own creative spin to the look. Andrea likes to look at her past makeup looks to see how far she’s come. If she ever tries to recreate a look she has done in the past to see her progress, the look always turns out differently than the original because she remembers what she struggled with when doing that look. She will try different techniques that she has learned since then to try to approach the look differently.

Andrea’s goal for Artistry By Dre in 2021 is to build on all the success and accomplishments she made in 2020. She wants to really invest in her business by upgrading her website, do more content creation, adding more to her current services, and doing more production work like commercials and campaigns. Andrea already got a head start in expanding her services before 2020 ended. She surprised herself when she started offering press-on nails. When COVID hit, her nail tech moved away, so she started doing her own nails. People started messaging her about them, so she created a poll asking if people would be interested in buying. Overall, she got a pretty positive response and decided to roll with it. She doesn’t know how long she will offer her press-on nails, but she’s going with the flow and doesn’t plan on discontinuing them anytime soon.

Andrea knows that everything she wants will come with time. As for right now, she is enjoying the full time job she has that allows her to continue with Artistry By Dre, and plans to keep her makeup business her side hustle. She will transition Artistry By Dre to full time when she adds services that will bring in consistent clients. Having her own studio is something she is already putting out into the universe. She already offers classes for those who want to learn how to apply makeup, but dreams to one day open up her own school. She dreams of one day opening a makeup school where she teaches not only makeup artists, but people who want to learn to do their own makeup as well. Andrea knows that it will take time and will be an investment, but she knows that’s a top goal of hers.

Andrea started off as a self-taught makeup artist. She takes so much pride in what she does and wants her customers to know that when she’s working with them, she listens and caters to their beauty needs because she wants them to feel their most beautiful and confident self. Her goal is to have all her clients have full confidence in her ability to deliver exactly what they want, and exceed their expectations. Artistry By Dre would not be where it is today if Andrea never put her work out there. Her advice to other artists is to not be afraid. Don’t be afraid to put yourself and your work out there, and most importantly, don’t compare yourself to other artists. Andrea describes the makeup industry as very competitive. She thinks it’s very important to be kind to others and keep it professional. There will always be other makeup artists who support you, and unfortunately, there will be others that want you to fail.

“I want to promote women empowerment and to keep hustling and manifesting your goals into reality,” Andrea said.

And she’s doing just that. One of Andrea’s favorite makeup stories to tell is when a friend of hers, who is a couple years younger, reached out to her to interview her for an assignment. Her friend was in makeup school and the assignment was to interview an experienced makeup artist. Her friend revealed to her that she was the reason why she chose to pursue makeup. Andrea had no idea she was inspiring others with her work. She felt so honored to be that mentor for someone else. You never know who you’re going to inspire with your work.

“My message to those that have supported me along my journey is thank you all for the encouragement, every referral they have sent my way, and the overall love I have received,” Andrea said. “Each interaction has uplifted me and shaped me into the makeup artist I am now, and I’m super grateful for it all.”