Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Born and raised in Kansas, YouTube star Jen Chae once dreamed of becoming a toy designer. It wasn't until after she graduated from the University of Kansas—where she studied industrial design and psychology—that Chae decided to take beauty seriously.
"I didn't actually wear makeup regularly until I was 21," the LA-based beauty blogger reveals. "I had to start going on interviews for internships and jobs, and I wanted to look put together." While working as a designer at a major fashion company, Chae posted makeup tutorials on the beauty and fashion forums of K-Pop fansite Soompi. "I grew up where there was zero diversity," Chae recalls. "[I thought] maybe someone else could use some help where I struggled on my own."
After a fellow user suggested she start her own blog, in 2008 Chae founded her site, From Head to Toe, and a YouTube channel. Two years ago, the pro vlogger relocated with her husband to LA to be closer to the beauty blogging scene; today, she has over 1 million subscribers.
We sat down with the Korean-American blogger at LA Juice, where we chatted about everything from her first department store buys to her drugstore must-haves and more.
What are you drinking today?
The Hollywood Cocktail with apple, strawberry, and coconut. It's delicious.
What do you hope your subscribers take away from your channel?
I want to show them baby steps of how to feel more confident in themselves, not because of what they're putting on, but because of who they are. I'm trying to find more creative ways to get that message across and have it not just be about clothing or what's the latest trend, but something deeper. I really want to inspire people to find out what it is they want to do, what they want to be, and who they are.
What's the one beauty step you never skip?
Eyeliner and false lashes. If I wear no makeup and just eyeliner and lashes, I look 90% there; and they really just open up your eyes.
Top three most recent beauty discoveries?
I really love YSL's Tint-In-Oil in Cherry My Cherie. I also really love Clinique's Smart Custom Repair serum. My skin is really sensitive to discoloration. It's helped so that I don't have to use that much foundation. Another one that I recently discovered is Kat Von D's tattoo eyeliner. I love it; it has a really, really precise line. The tip is more o fa brush tip than a felt tip, so it doesn't fall apart.
What discontinued beauty product would you bring back?
Rock & Republic's blushes. They used to have a cosmetics line; it was really high quality and just gorgeous on the skin. I was obsessed. I had every single color. The problem with blogging is when something's discontinued, you can't talk about it anymore. That is something I wish I could still share with people.
Must-have beauty tools?
Save for brushes, I would say my eyelash curler. Shiseido or Shu Uemera [make] good ones.
First major beauty purchase?
It was either a Lancôme Juicy tube because that was really popular back in the day, or it was a Clinique lipstick. That was my first department store makeup purchase. I think it was at the end of junior high.
First designer bag?
It was a little Dooney & Burke bag that I bought from Marshall's. I wore it all the time and it was tiny, but I was so proud of it. That was my first "grown-up" purse; it was probably $50.
Any hidden talents?
I know how to salsa dance. We used to go salsa clubbing in college.
The airport loses your luggage. What top three makeup products do you grab at the drugstore?
A Maybelline Fit Me concealer, a blush that I'd also as eye shadow, and a gel eyeliner.
If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?
Thailand; I want to go so bad. I'd get a massage on the beach and eat amazing food on the beach.
Do you collect anything?
I have a very extensive collection of nail polish, but that's to be expected, I suppose! I also really like collecting designer vinyl toys and plushies. We usually rotate a few cute pillows on our bed.