Yu-Chen Shih was born in Taiwan to Malaysian-Taiwanese parents and raised in Singapore. Traveling with her family at a young age exposed her to many different cultures, which led to an early interest in beauty rituals from various traditions. After moving to Los Angeles at age 18, Yu-Chen found that most of the beauty brands on the American market did not offer makeup that was suitable for Asian skin tones and concerns, despite Asians representing one of the largest ethnic groups in the world. Yu-Chen went on to work in the diversity marketing industry, where she became increasingly passionate about creating a brand that honors women like herself. Designed in New York and formulated in California, Orcé is a fusion of Eastern ideals, Western artistry, and a holistic approach to beauty, optimized for the unique demands of Asian skin.
1. What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment?
My biggest accomplishment to this day would be taking Orcé Cosmetics from concept to reality. All the way from
formulation to physically being on the shelf, and creating a brand.
2. What inspired you to start this line?
The greatest inspiration was personal frustration. I am half Malaysian and half Taiwanese, and I am a little bit darker than the Taiwanese side of my family. Growing up, it was really hard for me to find foundation that suited my skin, even from Asian brands.
3. What is the meaning behind this name?
Orcé is a made up word, derived from the word force. I saw that a lot of Asian beauty brands tend to perpetuate this stereotype of Asian women being kind of soft spoken, and I want to challenge this by recognizing Asian women as a force of nature, a force to be reckoned with.
4. Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
I was told growing up that a woman’s greatest success is to find a husband who will take care of her, and provide for a good family. I did very well in school when I was young – in primary school, I was identified as a gifted student for ranking amongst the top 5% in the school. However, as I entered adolescence, like many teenagers I became distracted and unmotivated academically. My grades started slipping, and I felt that some of my teachers exacerbated things by making negative comments such as “You will never amount to anything,” or “You think you can get into a school like UCLA? Dream on!” Eventually, I became convinced that I wasn’t capable of having a successful career, and accepted that my greatest achievement would probably be a “MRS degree.”
Everything changed when I went to Pepperdine University. I started discovering my strengths in marketing, communications and analytical thinking. I excelled in my double major of advertising and marketing, and began my career as a media planner. When I realized that there was a way to combine my lifelong passion in beauty with my newfound expertise in diversity marketing, I finally felt like I discovered my calling. During this time, I attended a talk by Naveen Jain at the SEER Symposium @ Pepperdine Graziadio School of Business. His message truly left an impact on me: 1) Success is actually very easy – identify a problem, and create an effective solution to solve this problem; 2) The best person to disrupt an industry is someone who knows nothing about it. What truly propelled me to take the leap and become an entrepreneur, was my father’s support. I can still remember the exact words he said to me after he read my marketing campaign book for Orcé Cosmetics, “Why didn’t you tell me about your idea? I think this is brilliant and you need to do it. Don’t think too much, just do it. You are going to do it and that’s final.” I was shocked because my father has been a serial entrepreneur his entire life, and his recognition made me realize that my idea was truly worth exploring. Every day, I’m thankful that he had faith in me before I learned to have faith in myself.
5. What do you hope to accomplish with Orcé Cosmetics?
I hope Orcé Cosmetics will be more than just a makeup brand. I want Orcé Cosmetics to be a voice for Asian women globally, and create a community for Asian women everywhere to feel connected, heard and understood. Even if Orcé is not around forever, I hope to leave a lasting impact by starting conversations that may not be easy but necessary to be had – by highlighting the narrow and limiting standards of beauty within the Asian culture, and helping women everywhere to see the force of nature that they truly are.
6. How did you get into beauty?
When I was given my first eyeshadow palette by my aunt when I was young, I went to town giving makeovers. Whoever would sit down in a chair would become my “victim.” I was doing such a horrible job that one of my cousins whom I was doing a “makeover” on, looked in the mirror and started crying that I made her look like Ursula from The Little Mermaid with all the blue eyeshadow I applied on her face. My mother saw the horror that I was creating with my newest toy, and realized that something needed to be done. So, she sent me to her friend, who was a makeup artist. From age 11, I was taking makeup classes and learning basic techniques. Over the years, I continued to train under esteemed makeup artists, and give makeovers to friends, family and acquaintances. Nothing brought me more joy than helping a woman see her own beauty, and boost her self-confidence by teaching her how to enhance her natural features. Even though beauty was only allowed to play the part of a hobby until I decided to create my own cosmetics brand, I was always the go-to girl for beauty and skincare tips wherever I went.
7. How do you unwind?
I love bubble baths. When I look for an apartment, I have to have a bathtub. No matter how stressful of a day I’ve had, nothing can not be fixed by putting on some music, laying in the bath, and emptying my mind. It’s my form of meditation, because I’m not someone who can refrain from thinking about anything. Yoga is also a good way for me to unwind. I think of it as movement meditation, as focusing on alignment and breath allows me to detach from my thoughts.
8. What is your go-to coffee order?
I love a good flat white with whole milk
9. What do you consider the biggest problem facing Asian women today to be?
I think that there are a lot of negative, preconceived notions about Asian women. Because we’re Asian, we must be *fill in the blank*
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