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Makeup Magic: Meet Sheila Kyaw!

By Christopher Varaste

9e2affcb-1f7b-44ee-ba74-948e4ca18795.FulHave you ever looked at Barbie® doll’s face with a magnifying glass? If so, then you were probably surprised by what the high-powered lens revealed. Multiple shades of color define her eyes, different shimmering hues highlight her eye shadow, and a dark shade of liner enhances her lips. You can also see the vivid black or brown paint that outlines her eyes and delineates her lashes in dramatic strokes.

These elegant details work together to create a vision of beauty —Barbie® doll’s face. It’s a marvel to behold! This flawless “makeup” is rendered by the hand of a highly skilled artist who understands exactly what colors best complement each unique fashion sketch. For the past twelve years, Sheila Kyaw has done just that for Barbie® doll. A talented technician with a steady hand, Sheila’s fabulous faces appear on many of the most popular Barbie® dolls created for collectors, including designer dolls like Versace, Versus, kate spade, Carolina Herrera, Byron Lars, Bob Mackie and the first series of David's Bridal dolls. Sheila also created gorgeous faces for Ferrari Barbie® doll, the second and third Hard Rock Cafe® Barbie® dolls, the Lindsay Lohan-inspired doll, and special auction dolls like Cher and Whoopi Goldberg.

Sheila can claim the entire Barbie® Fashion Model Collection among her extraordinary makeup achievements. She created glamorous face paint for each and every doll! 

How does she do it? Sheila enthusiastically took us on a journey, showing us the remarkable evolution from a blank face to the sophisticated features that make up a finished model. It all begins with a fashion sketch from the designer.

“The designer will give me a sketch and they will attach fabric swatches to it so I can coordinate color. Sometimes we review different fashion magazines for inspiration and makeup tips,” Sheila explains.

3dae3190-df4a-4309-882c-420383cf41fd.Large.jpg?1Armed with this information, she prepares her brushes and starts creating a face that best suits the fashion design. “I dive right in, laying the groundwork for the eyes, the lips, and brows. Some artists concentrate on one feature at a time, but for me, it’s important to see it all come together as a whole.” Surprisingly, Sheila does this with a medium sized brush with the tip whittled down to a fine point.

“People think you need a teeny tiny brush because Barbie® doll’s face is so small, but I prefer a normal brush because it holds the paint better with fluid strokes.”

Sheila demonstrates this by quickly laying down the foundation for a doll’s face: the brows, eyes and lips. With this initial outline in place, she can apply her special mix of color for maximum effect. Again, with quick and steady strokes, Barbie® doll’s eyes seem to magically appear. Her lips come next. And finally, Sheila is ready for those delicate finishing touches, glittering eye shadow and cheek blush.

How does all this translate overseas at the factory?

00896c2b-fee6-4307-bf19-2702d1b9c230.Large.jpg?1“I sometimes need to make a special trip to the production facility to make sure that the production model is as close to the hand painted sample as possible. It’s time consuming but worth it in the end. We make sure the finished product is a perfect copy of the original work.” 

Sheila’s hard work and diligent attention to detail is evident in the beautiful faces that have come to fruition under her watchful eye. Her dedication and commitment doesn’t stop with these contributions.

“Part of my goal for the future is to recruit talent and train existing team members to maintain both paint quality and techniques so I can pass along the things I have learned over the years.”

That means quite a busy brush for Sheila Kyaw — and many more magnificent faces for Barbie®!


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