How This Filipino Creative Went From College Dropout To In-Demand Makeup Artist

Get into his looks.

In his palette, Raffy So is turning beauty in a new way with creativity that is a testament that visions can come to life.

Related: Meet The Filipina Makeup Artist Who Did Raveena’s Eye-Catching Wanderland Look

As important as education is, sometimes, what you do in school is not the end-all-be-all of your life. There are times when destiny may guide you in another direction. Such is the case of Raffy So. While life in the creative industry can be tough and cutthroat, that doesn’t apply to Raffy, a makeup artist who is making waves through his works. Creatives come from different backgrounds, some have degrees in very different fields and some are like Raffy, who is a college dropout. But with that, he brought himself to the forefront.

He started his artistry when he decided to drop out and delved into a world that he bloomed. With a celebrity clientele that includes Andrea Brillantes, Rei Germar, and Ysabel Ortega, as well as being booked to work on shoots for some of the country’s top magazines, Raffy’s works resonate with finding his true colors by making chic, versatile, and creative glam looks through every stroke of the brush. Raffy’s story is a reminder that with passion, comes fruition, and unwavering commitment and creativity can lead to what you are meant for.

Get to know more about this talented creative and his journey so far by reading our interview with him below.

How did you start as a makeup artist in the industry? Did you intern or study? 

I delved into makeup artistry by accident. I was in my junior year of university back then taking up Fine Arts and then I decided to drop out. I planned to pursue Fashion Design and Merchandising at CSB but due to the academic calendar shift, there was a 3-month gap where I wouldn’t be doing anything. During this time, I decided to do makeup for my friends. While doing that, I realized that I dropped out because wanted to do things that would make me feel happy — and I did feel happy doing makeup for other people. Because of that, I put my plans of taking up Fashion at CSB on hold.

What or who inspired you to be a makeup artist? 

I draw inspiration from makeup looks on the runways. I’ve always been fascinated by them — specifically Pat McGrath. Pat McGrath’s show with John Galliano for Dior F/W 2009 really opened me up to what makeup can bring to the table in a creative sense. I realized that it’s not just about being pretty, it could be art as well.  If you’ve seen those looks — the vibes were ethereal, heavenly, and immaculate. The pale skin paired with hazy frosted eyes, the thin brows, and the pointed cupid’s bow all came together for that angelic, heavenly look. It almost looked like the models were saints ascending into heaven.

What is the Raffy So aesthetic as a makeup artist? 

In an editorial sense, I would say it’s artistic in that it’s always inspired by runway looks — not just current shows but mostly from past runway shows. For my clients, I’d say clean, matte skin, snatched eyes, and over-lined lips are a hallmark of my aesthetic. It took me a while to find my aesthetic but I’m really happy with it now — although I will also say that my makeup aesthetic is constantly evolving. 

When was the time when you had your first big break in the industry? Is it with a celeb or influencer, and how did it feel? 

I’d definitely put my work with NYLON Manila’s maiden issue back in November 2020 as one of my first big breaks. The muse was Andrea Brillantes aka Blythe and we did a look inspired by the Sampaguita flower. I was tasked to make a floral arrangement with real flowers on her face. I felt challenged because back then I hadn’t worked with real flowers for a shoot yet— and when the cover came out, it made me really proud that I could do it. That look started my love for flora and fauna.

Who is your favorite celebrity you ever worked with or the favorite look you have done? 

For celebrities, I’d have to say I love working with Andrea Brillantes because she’s one of the kindest people that I know. It doesn’t feel like work when I’m working with her, it just feels like I’m hanging out with a friend and doing her makeup. I really appreciate how she trusts me with the direction of her looks and that makes me feel good as an artist.

In terms of looks, I have two memorable ones: My work with Maris Racal back in 2022 where we did a vampire look featuring a red anime contact lens, a cool toned cut crease, thin brows, and a dark vampy lip. I actually had that look in mind for quite a while but couldn’t find someone who could pull it off. I was so happy that Maris gave justice to the look.

Another one is my work with Zam Dy for a series called Gabi ng Lagim: Tales of Filipino Folklore. We did four layouts inspired by Filipino Folklore and horror stories. We did one inspired by a white lady in Balete Drive, one as an aswang, one as a sirena, and one as a mambabarang. This one was memorable because it got featured in PAP Magazine.

What is your favorite part of being a makeup artist, and what is a day-to-day life of a makeup artist?  

I love how I can help models portray a different persona via my art. For example, I love how we had a sweet girl like Zam evoke a blood-sucking aswang. On the daily, it’s actually a lot of logistics and scheduling. From packing my kit the night before a shoot or a gig to getting to the shoot venue, doing the makeup, and then packing up and cleaning my kit for the next gig. It’s definitely a challenge as well to get around in this Manila traffic and I would say that it’s not as glamorous as it seems to be.

Tell us what your creative process is?

My creative process varies depending on the job that I’m doing. If I’m doing a fashion editorial, I will draw inspiration from runways and random things that inspire me. It could be as trivial as flora and fauna but the challenge is making it fashionable. For bridal and event work, I like looking at the unique features of each face and then enhancing these features to bring out their best self.

Being creative in the fashion industry is not always easy. In the span of your career did you face any challenges and how did you overcome them?  

One of the first challenges I experienced was with financing my career. I made the decision to drop out of university to pursue something that makes me happy but at the same time, I didn’t wanna be a burden to my parents. I needed to earn money not only to prove myself but also to build my makeup kit from scratch.

I’d also say it’s a challenge in terms of network. Back then, I didn’t really know anyone in the industry, and sometimes that made me feel lonely and lost. It also didn’t help that in those vulnerable moments, I now realize that there are people who will take advantage of the talent of young creatives who don’t know the ins and outs of the industry yet.

Within the industry though, I will say the competition is intense and it involves a lot of nepotism and seniority. It definitely made me feel like there was a barrier to fully entering the industry. Sometimes I wish that the industry as a whole, would be friendlier. I do understand that the problem is systemic, I only realized this later on in my career and now I want to take part in improving it. 

What are some of the milestones in your career so far? 

Nylon Maiden Issue Cover with Blythe, MEGA Awards: Artists to Watch Out For, MEGA Magazine – Kim Cam Jones Cover, MEGA Magazine Artist Confidential, SCOUT Magazine cover with Blythe, MEGA Style Cover with Blythe, MEGA Style Cover with Angelina Cruz, Beauty, and Fashion Editorial  for the maiden issue of Vogue Philippines

As a creative, what advice would you give to young creatives out there who are starting out in the industry without the resources and connections in the industry? 

To young creatives out there, I’d like to tell you that your dreams are valid — big or small. There will be challenges that you will face along the way but keep holding on. These hurdles will make you stronger. Think of every job you get as your last and always give it your best shot.

Continue Reading: Here Are 12 Filipino Makeup Artists Snatching Us To Other Worlds With Their Beauty Looks