Meili Autumn, a Hawaiian makeup artist living in Beijing, knows where she is going in life.
Though most recently she has applied makeup to American pop star Chloe Wang, as well as the entire cast of Chinese movie Case Sensitive, due to hit the screens next year, her success is fresh and her experience limited.
"It was now or never," she said. "I had to follow my dream or else shame on me."
Born in Hawaii to parents of Chinese descent, Autumn spent her years of higher education at Brown University, majoring in East Asian studies.
"I always knew I wanted to be a makeup artist, but my parents wanted me to have a degree so I choose Chinese instead," she said.
After graduation, four years ago, Autumn moved to Shanghai. There she lived a carefree life, earning enough cash to survive through occasional bar work and teaching English. She soon realized it wasn't enough.
"I was 23 and had no career," Autumn said.
"I realized that to follow my dream, I had to move back and learn about cosmetics.
So she returned to Hawaii and started working for MAC Cosmetics.
Autumn said her career jump was a great opportunity, not only because she was learning how to become a professional makeup artist, but she was being paid to do it.
She quickly discovered that becoming a successful makeup artist meant being able to show up to any job with enough colors for any skin type and every artistic style.
"I would say I am the only foreign makeup artist in Beijing that has such a large selection of makeup," she said.
"I was able to stock up during my two years of work at home."
It was after working for MAC Cosmetics that Autumn decided to move back to China, to Beijing this time, and ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
"I knew the whole world would be watching Beijing. I had learned what I needed to learn in Hawaii and it was time to take the next step," she said.
And so it was that Autumn touched down in Beijing, clutching a suitcase packed with makeup, a round of passable Chinese and a strong desire to put her skills to work.
She started her new career in China as a makeup trainer, holding corporate seminars. In one of these, she worked at The Westin Hotel, advising staff members how to do hair and makeup in preparation for the Olympics.
"Many Chinese women, especially those from the countryside, don't know a thing about makeup," she said. "I felt like a big sister who was making them more beautiful. It was really exciting."
Her client base grew steadily and she now also provides makeup services to brides and fashion magazines, as well as training and music videos. Progress wasn't always smooth though.
"For a while I doubted myself because labor is so cheap in China," Autumn said. "But now I realize that people will pay for high-end skills."
The makeup artist added that her niche is an ability to understand both Western and Asian aesthetics.
While most Chinese still believe that white, pale skin is a sign of beauty, Autumn believes the trend is changing.
"More and more Chinese women want to have a tan and look healthier," she said.
"Chinese women strongly believe in 'less is more'. They like to make their eyes look bigger and their eyebrows seem thicker."
Today, as a freelance makeup artist in charge of a small team of hairdressers and makeup artists, Autumn has decided to share her experiences - through her blog meiliautumn.com - with whoever wants to listen.
"I want to be a voice for Chinese beauty and tell people about the latest products in the industry and how to use them," she said.
"I want to make Chinese and foreign women look beautiful."