Sophie Lin is a multidisciplinary technician and artist based in New York City, with skills ranging from fabric painting to jewelry design and wig maintenance. She was called to art at the age of 9 after a spilled ice cream cone led to a sketching session that changed her perspective on life. When she saw her first theatrical production in 2016 at Taipei National University of Arts, she knew where her talents needed to be put to use and ended up studying at Purchase College for Costume Design/Technology. Post-graduation, she’s worked alongside Hochi Asiatico on Sweeney Todd and Hadestown for the distressing, and on Santa Fe Opera’s 2022 season (including Carmen, The Barber of Seville, Falstaff, Tristan und Isolde, and M. Butterfly) for an apprenticeship, and many more operative productions in between. Now, she’s touring with Into The Woods as the associate Wig Supervisor! Her advice to young artists? “ You need to be confident, stay calm, and bring joyful energy to the room! And never stop learning!” Read on to learn more about Sophie Lin and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Name: Sophie Lin (Liang Yun Lin)
Hometown: Taipei, Taiwan
Current City: New York City
Current project: Into The Woods National Tour
What are some of your favorite credits/projects:
Recently I’ve worked with Hochi Asiatico, one of the top costume painters in the industry, on Sweeney Todd and Hadestown for the distressing. After graduating in May 2022, I was mainly doing Makeup & Hair for operas. I did my apprenticeship at Santa Fe Opera for their 2022 season, which included Carmen, The Barber of Seville, Falstaff, Tristan und Isolde, and M. Butterfly. After the apprenticeship, I was working with David Zimmerman, an incredible wig & makeup designer, for Carmen and La Traviata at Lyric Opera Kansas City. I designed costumes for Life Is A Dream, did makeup for a few film sets, and worked with Cynthia L. Ludwig on Dialogues of The Carmelites, Opera Trio, and Le Nozze di Figaro before I graduated. I enjoyed all of the productions I’ve worked on, being able to learn from every interaction with people is what I appreciate a lot working behind the scenes. Now I’m traveling with the Into The Woods National Tour as the associate Wig Supervisor!
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
Just relax. Having a relaxed mindset when you’re creating/working is very important – try to be calm and present all the time. It’s like a ripple effect – when you’re always ready and believe in your own skills people will trust you and become peaceful too. Be kind, be passionate and respectful. Embrace all the changes in life - enjoy every moment, everything you’re doing. Let yourself be like water, no space and no one can change your quality. Working backstage require you to have good communication skill especially with hair and makeup. You need to be confident, stay calm, and bring joyful energy to the room! And never stop learning! Don’t be afraid to ask questions – the day you stop pursuing would be the day you stop improving. Whenever you make mistakes, carry them with you as a lesson to grow!
How did you get your start?
I was working as a freelance makeup artist, illustrator and writer when I was back home in Taiwan outside of school. When I was applying to college, my art teachers told me to try to get into theatre, since it contains everything I love – storytelling, art, costumes, makeup, hair, music and much more! Before then, I didn’t know of such a powerful form of storytelling until I saw a show and moved by it. It was a small production at Taipei National University of Arts in 2016 – The ending scene was a helicopter landing on the grass field, everyone in the small village looking up, facing it. The shadow gradually covered their faces with a whole unknown future ahead of them. I wish to myself I want to participate in a production like this – because of the strong emotional impact it brought to people. I walked out of the theatre and it was raining, as if the sky was tearing up like I did after the show. An old man handed me an umbrella and vanished in the woods – I thought it was a calling, an invitation to the theatre community. I only applied to that university for theatre design major after graduated from high school among other art universities in Taiwan, because I was so desperate to learn more about the industry and was so certain of my own talents. Unfortunately, in our society people took grades very seriously at the time. I got very high grades on both of my portfolio and interview, yet my SAT score did not match their standard, so I was on the waitlist. As an ambitious young artist, it really humbled me a lot. I went home, pulled myself together, and started to figure out another plan for the future. I did my research and found out some of the professors in that university were from SUNY Purchase College in New York. I made up my mind, told my parents I wanted to study abroad – and they were pretty supportive! I promised them I would get the scholarship from the school so I could support myself, and I did. I spent the whole year traveling and practicing English before I came to the States, and here I am, working with so many wonderful artists because of my determination and the trust in myself back then.
Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you'd like to share?
There were so many! I would say working in operas were a very nice treat since you get to listen to beautiful music while you’re working. And my favorite moments in Into The Woods are whenever the cast members find time, they dance/workout together backstage, and I get to join them!
What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?
Working with people! It’s funny that I chose theatre because I’m actually very introverted. Growing up, I enjoyed solitude a lot more than being surrounded by people. When I first got to America, I thought I was not meant to be in the theatre because I did not like working with people at all. Communicating and collaborating with people seemed extremely difficult for me since I’m very used to working, creating, and being alone. “We are here to tell stories, all of us, this is what theatre is about,” my professor once said. This sentence has stayed with me for so long, and I’ll never forget it. It made me start to ponder why I chose theatre in the first place. There are so many stories in my mind that I want to share! Unlike painting and writing,I wanted to let people know the exact music I heard in my imagination, the fragrance I smelled in my thoughts. I want to tell stories in a way that everything can materialize in real life, vividly, to let people actually walk into my imagination. I’m certain people who are like me thought the same – so now we need to learn how to work with people so we can make the magic happen together.
After these years, I fell in love with working with people. Sharing thoughts, creative inspiration, feelings, stories together are so inspiring and fascinating. I’m learning new things literally every single day from so many different people. Being able to reflect on ideas you’ve been having for years and overthrow them, as well as embracing other perspectives, is what I’ve learned the most in my career. Working with people is still not so easy sometimes, as people can be so different from one another. One thing I have to do is constantly reminding myself The Four Agreements:
And voila, it makes everything so much easier!
What are some interesting facts about yourself? (Do you have any other “special skills?”)
I dream 3-15 dreams every night and I’ve been recording them since I was 14. Most of my paintings and writings were inspired by my dreams. I would be different people (different genders, different ages, different nationalities, different professions with different personalities and lives) in each dream, and usually they were all complete stories. I’d live each person’s life for days, months or even years. It’s really fun and scary at the same time – imagine you met incredible people, went to astonishing places then they were all gone when you woke up. That’s my life every morning, I could be a writer living in 1979 Germany or a photographer living in early 2000 Japan with a whole different lifestyle and history backgrounds. And my dream usually have subtitle if it’s not in the languages I know, I think it’s sort of a nice super power — never stop creating even when I’m asleep?
Who do you admire?
My parents for sure! My father was an extraordinary writer who ignited my imagination and made me fall in love with telling and appreciating stories. My mother taught me the beauty in life and how to appreciate art. Both of them were very supportive as I was growing up, giving me so much love and always believing in me. They are the people who taught me how to love, and to be kind and grateful. One of my favorite things they ever said was that they wanted me to travel and to learn consistently, as if I carried my home with me wherever I went and brought the world back home.
When did you know you wanted to have a career in the arts?
Since I was a kid! Maybe when I was 9? I remember one day I dropped my ice cream on the ground and was very upset. I went to hide in my father’s studio and chose not talking to anyone in the house. On his desk there was a sketchbook and a set of pencil, I started drawing the view from his window and my mood just started to become lighter. When I finished the drawing, I was so happy and felt healed by the art. I ran out and told my parents I want to be an artist – my creation had the power to heal myself, and I hope maybe one day people can be healed by my art too!
Did you have any interesting “odd jobs” you worked at between gigs to pay the bills?
I know how to sew and build costumes as well – after working at Santa Fe Opera for hair & makeup, I went back to New York, trying to find something to do. A friend of mine needed some extra hands in the puppet studio she worked at, so I went there to help – we were basically building big heavy duty bags for mascots (roughly 14 feet of fabric) and repairing mascot costumes used for more than a decade. The shop was pretty small with all kinds of puppets hanging everywhere staring at you, which was kind of creepy. I only worked there for a week and realized how much I didn’t like sewing and the general atmosphere! I left and decided to sell some of my paintings or make jewelry to pay the bills instead. Life is too short to do something you don’t enjoy.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?
I would tell myself to cherish every moment! You never know what could happen in life. I lost my father in freshman year in college, he even drove me to the airport that night! Being on the plane for 16 hours and receiving the call was heartbreaking, as if I couldn’t see my future anymore. I couldn’t create for a long time because everything I did I thought of him – he was the light of my life. Thinking back, I wish I spent more time with him and shared more thoughts with him. I wish I watched more films with him and learned what he was doing at my age. It forced me to grow up rapidly, and now I love people with my entire heart and spread positive energy all the time as if there’s no tomorrow! Be more conscious of your surroundings and appreciate things more. Knowing your priorities in life, listen to your heart.
If you work in more than one facet of the entertainment industry, tell us a little about what else you do!
For theatre and film I’m mainly doing makeup & hair. I also design costumes and know how to dye, paint, and distress fabric. Outside of theatre, I do painting and drawing mostly, and sculpting too. I make jewelry when I have time from gig to gig. My personal interest also includes photography! I’m planning on selling my prints in the near future.
Where did you study at?
Purchase College, State University of New York for Costume Design/Technology
What are some goals you hope to achieve?
I don’t have any specific goals at the moment, but my end goal is to make the world a better place by doing what I love to do.
What do you love most about what you do?
As a makeup artist that grew up in Taiwan, it’s fascinating that there are more races in America and every face is uniquely beautiful with different skin tones. I love how diverse this industry is, and I get to learn new things from different people everyday.
Do you have any self care practices you do to stay focused and sane? What was your self care routine before the pandemic and how has that (as well as your views of self care) changed throughout the pandemic?
The pandemic definitely changed me in a very very excellent way! I never really considered self care important until I was doing too much and burnt myself out. I took for granted that I am young and can do as much as I want, and ended up working hard but not smart. I was tired all the time and didn’t eat nor sleep enough. I remember a week before the pandemic started, I was working on 3 shows at the same time along with my school work, doing illustrations for a publisher outside of school, and helping my friends overseas. One day my friend and I were sitting in the diner and she asked me what my biggest goal was for next year, and my answer was “I want to have a proper reason to stay away from people and work.” I was so tired, I wanted some rest! I missed spending time with myself and having time to create from the heart. In Chinese, busy (忙) is two words forming together – the dying heart. I felt like keeping myself busy was leading my heart to death. And then a pandemic happened, As if the universe was helping me to start my healing process. I went back home to Taiwan and finally started painting and creating for myself. I spent a lot of time with my family, and it was the best time ever. I took up cooking and eating very healthy, meditating, reading, and exercising more. Everything seemed more reasonable during the pandemic. To slow down, rethink a lot of values and priorities. I found happiness and myself back again. I thank the pandemic for helping me find the balance between work and self care – to create the best work is taking care means taking carte of oneself first! Being selfish first before you want to be selfless. For the longest time I felt like a floating log in the water, and people were trying to grab me so they wouldn't drown. A lot of people are always saying how much they need me and I realized I need myself too! They didn’t need me – they needed to find a solution in their lives on their own instead of seeking all the answers from me. I think the pandemic was well-needed at that point in my life to help reflect everything I couldn’t see unless I had time and distance. My self care routine is simple – lighting incense or candles, meditating and doing some yoga in the morning, and making a cup of coffee to start the day. Only eating what my body told me to eat, creating time to do something I love. I cook a lot and barely eat out, it just makes my body feel lighter and cleaner. A lot of long walks and self talk, learning new things and skills.
What inspires you?
Everything in life, every moment. If you live in the present, everything could be enlightening.
To find out more on Sophie Lin, please visit her at:
Instagram: @lianggg_bao & @sophie_art
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