How Makeup Artist Christine Cho Found Beauty In Being A Mom
She feared having a baby would swallow her identity, but this on-screen beauty expert and AAPI advocate is enjoying a new pace.
“If I’m being totally truthful, at 40 years old I had intentionally procrastinated and avoided having children because I had expected the worst. I feared losing my freedom, my fun and my identity.”
Christine Cho is a makeup artist, TV talk show personality and, as of eight months ago, mother to Savannah – or Savy, as Christine calls her.
“I expected motherhood to be all-consuming, exhausting, and just hard. I’m happy to say that now that I’m actually a mother, some of those expectations are wrong.”
Her career, for example, has hardly fallen by the wayside. Christine was back on camera two weeks after Savannah was born, broadcasting her segment for CTV’s The Marilyn Denis Show, for which she is the resident on-air beauty expert. More recently, she launched an online makeup course.
“When you work for yourself, there is a certain amount of flexibility in how you choose to work. It also helps that I am utterly in love with my job.”
Born in Canada to South Korean parents, Christine first discovered her artistic flair as a child who compulsively painted. After completing a bachelor’s degree in English literature, she still felt the urge to wield a brush.
“Once I realized I could paint on faces and get paid for it I was sold.” And while doing her professional makeup training at George Brown College, she was hustling.
“I volunteered backstage at fashion week while I was still a makeup student. As a university grad who then decided to get a professional makeup certificate, I was older than most of the other makeup students, so I felt the pressure to work harder, quicker and smarter.”
Christine took all manner of jobs – weddings, fashion shows, editorials, events, photo and video shoots – and cold-contacted photographers, producers and artists she wanted to work with. Soon after graduating makeup school, an appearance on CBC’s Steven and Chris show catapulted her industry clout.
“I had never before appeared on national television, never mind giving beauty advice in front of a live studio audience,” Christine recalls. “I didn’t know that in addition to doing makeup, talking about it was a job too! Now on-camera work, brand partnerships, consulting and education have come to the forefront of what I do.”
Prior to the pandemic, Christine was living in Barbados – where she and her husband, Alex first met. This was where the duo discovered Christine was pregnant, not long after their dreamy island wedding. “I had missed my period and was feeling very bloated and tired. My husband took one look at me and said with fear, ‘Oh my god, you’re pregnant’.” Christine shared this fear. She and Alex didn’t have a plan for parenthood.
“We both loved our lives separately and together; we didn’t know if we wanted kids and we were pretty certain we would be happy with or without them. “When that test read positive for pregnancy, I believe we both gasped the same four-letter word. That’s not to say we didn’t feel grateful and excited later on of course, but the initial reaction was
shock. We had no idea what to do and if we would be able to be competent parents while we were enjoying our back-and-forth adventure-filled relationship. We were enjoying being selfish.”
Like an increasing number of women, Christine was over 40 when she had her firstborn. She describes her pregnancy as “amazingly smooth” sailing, but because of her age, Christine’s doctors recommended that she be induced at 39 weeks.
“I was so nervous for the induction. I didn’t want to force my baby out if she wasn’t ready. But I didn’t want to add unnecessary risk to the situation. I also was completely terrified of labor – the pain, the medical staff, the hospital, all of it. But the whole process was fantastic. I felt comfortable, relaxed and strong.”
Things moved quickly once she was induced and given an epidural. With calm support from Alex and Christine’s ob-gyn, eight minutes of pushing was all it took before Christine was helping pull Savannah out and up onto her chest.
“I heard the doctor say ‘Oh, she’s perfect’ and when I saw her, I had to agree. When I hugged her, I didn’t cry. I just felt relieved and happy and calm. I remember looking at her sweet calm face, thinking, you’re a cool kid already.”
The days that followed Savannah’s arrival, however, were not cool and calm. Christine grappled with the stock-standard issues of sleep deprivation and figuring out breastfeeding, but she also had a breast abscess, which led to multiple emergency room visits, two breast cyst aspirations (when fluid is removed from the breast cyst with a needle and syringe), a biopsy and numerous ultrasounds.
Then there was the tricky transition to a new home routine.
“Or lack thereof… Did I mention I didn’t take maternity leave?” Christine adds. “I had a hard time with living in a tiny condo and having to deal with a messy home, and not being able to cook or clean. It was nerve-wracking trying to keep a tiny new human alive and healthy while dealing with the monumental adjustments of new parenthood.” In the midst of a global pandemic, no less. “We couldn’t really have friends, family or other people coming by to say hi or help. We ordered lots of food delivery and learned to just live in mess without sleeping. It wasn’t fun. Thankfully, my husband and I kept reminding each other and ourselves that we are on the same team, and we are doing great.”
Before giving birth, Christine posted a photo of herself and Alex, bidding farewell to an “epic era of selfish fabulosity.” When asked if the pair have managed to find time just for the two of them since becoming parents, Christine answers:
“Nope. We plan to, and feel we are so, so close. We joke about dropping her off at her grandparents’ for a week, but we both know that we could probably only handle half a day away from her, if that. Besides being biologically wired to love her, we kinda like the kid too. And we know that we’ll make time for ‘us’ again very soon.”
Early motherhood saw Christine simplifying her beauty regime and, for a short time, swearing off makeup altogether. “However, I gradually started to wear makeup again – both for work and pleasure –and do simple yet significant mood and confidence-boosting things like blow-drying and styling my hair, and dressing with intentional style rather than just comfort.” A little self-care she can manage, but Christine is struggling to get back to her fitness routine. Along with the vast majority of us, her social life, too, is lacking.
“I’m an extroverted social person most of the time, so I’m pretty sick of pandemic life like everyone else. I hope to get to do fun things again someday soon.”
Christine has been using her platform to raise awareness around another by-product of the pandemic – a devastating surge in anti-Asian hate.
“It’s obviously disheartening and incredibly sad, as someone of South Korean heritage,” she says of the attacks of late. “My parents immigrated to Canada in the ’70s with little but hopes of building their dreams, and they really have. My brothers and I were all born in Canada, so we enjoyed many privileges along with struggles growing up. Lately, the attacks and hate towards AAPI peoples have just reminded me that we need to speak up and stand up to all forms of hate together.”
While sharing an Instagram Live discussion with fellow makeup artist, Veronica Chu, Christine revealed that racism is experienced by every non-white kid in Canada. She counts herself lucky, growing up in multicultural Toronto, not to have experienced it often.
“It wasn’t until I was an adult that I really saw the ugly face of racism, and even then, hidden behind cowardice and two-faced politeness, or ‘can’t you take a joke?’ inappropriateness. More common than I realized in the past were all the microaggressions I had faced, the institutionalized bias and racism in our education systems and societal structures.”
During May – which is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month – and beyond, Christine urges us to champion Asian communities by reading articles and books written by AAPI people, following AAPI support pages on social media and, most importantly, speaking up when we see racism.
“Have those uncomfortable conversations with your family, friends, and yourself. Use your privilege – whatever it may be – to do good for the human race. Until we stand up for each other, no matter if victims look like ourselves or not, nothing really changes. I hope that Savannah’s generation is braver, stronger, and kinder than we were.”
Circling back to the topic of her daughter, Christine shares that although she thought motherhood would mean the end of the party, she’s actually having plenty of fun.
“I dance and sing a lot more – because the little monster demands it now,” she says. “Once my body really began to heal, especially at four months postpartum, I started to naturally enjoy being in the moment with Savannah, and I loved savoring each stage of growth and change. I found it a surprising pleasure to slow down, be patient with myself and take it easy on my body. While I was definitely eager to feel strong and look like some version of myself that I recognized, I also understood the enormity of what my body had just been through and was still going through. I like spending a lot of time with her and enjoy being a mom.”
Join Christine Cho, a professional makeup and hair artist, in this four-part makeup workshop covering basics like achieving an even, glowing complexion; covering dark under-eye circles; nailing natural-looking brows; figuring out personal eyelash perfection; and all the best lip products and tricks. Learn pro tips, try out techniques live, and receive feedback from a pro.
- Equal parts wildly talented, soul-warming hilarious and ultra-inspiring, Paris-born, New York-raised, Mallorca-living jewelry designer, Jessica Hendricks Yee, chats about how she went from mothering a newborn in Manhattan to chasing a toddler in Spain.
- While Writer & Author, Rio Cortez’s, daughter may have been the inspiration behind the new must-read children’s book, The ABCs of Black History, motherhood wasn’t always on the cards for this Harlem-based poet. Learn more about her path to publication and reflections of becoming & being Mama.