“Fashion isn’t as hugely represented, it’s whitewashed. There’s not a lot of interest in it at Tufts,” graduating senior Kaitlynn Hong said over Zoom. “Before [The Lewkk] there weren’t a lot of events highlighting students of color and also people who were interested in fashion, together.”
The Lewkk, a student-run fashion show, was the brainchild of Hong and fellow graduating senior Amari Diaw, emerging from Diaw’s eponymous Instagram page. The collaborators and friends created the show to create a space for fashion-minded students, with a specific emphasis on students with marginalized identities.
Hong described the show as a source of great pride.
“I’m proud that I was able to cement a place for people that may not have felt like they belonged somewhere, for future Tufts students … and I’m very proud that I was able to carve out a space for myself,” she said.
Hong also noted that she “definitely [wants] to come back and watch if Tufts is back in the fall … or spring,” laughing as she playfully addressed the uncertainty of the current moment.
Beyond coordinating the fashion show (the torch of which she and Diaw are passing onto rising juniors Anya Tisdale and Melody Khounchanh), Hong also spent a great deal of her Tufts career as a budding makeup artist slash “freshly delivered clown.” If you’ve ever spent time on her beauty Instagram, you’ve probably seen her abstract and vivid makeup looks, which she shares with an audience of over 7,000 followers. Her looks are expressive and at times surreal; one day, she’ll cover half her face in purple and green cartoon eyeballs. Another day she’ll paint clouds on in lieu of eyebrows coupled with bold brown lip liner. Regardless of what direction Hong takes when painting her face, she’s always serving something new and unique.
“When I was a senior in high school, I was only doing Instagram brows … really intense Kardashian makeup,” Hong said.
She described her movement toward avant-garde and expressive makeup as stemming from her desire to feel more sure of herself after coming to Tufts and to express her identity.
She described that she never anticipated her makeup amassing such a following online.
“[I thought] it would be fun to share some of my art with people,” she said. “I didn’t really think people would be into it as much as it has happened now, which has been really cool.”
Through people being “into it,” Hong was able to participate in a variety of creative endeavors over the past few years, whether they were on or off campus. In addition to having two separate spreads in Currents Magazine, a Tufts visual arts magazine, Hong has also lent her makeup wisdom to professional endeavors. One of Hong’s favorite moments in her makeup journey was a photoshoot with Refinery29 for a piece highlighting women with “bold beauty routines.” She described the experience as “really surreal.”
“I got to go out there, shoot with a real professional photographer … I got my hair and makeup done, which was crazy,” Hong said. “[It was] surreal, feeling like I was on the same level as them.”
By “them,” Hong referred to Reva Bhatt, a creative director and digital producer who has worked with the likes of Nylon Magazine and Puma, and Hannah Woldetsadik, a signed model.
Hong hopes to eventually move to New York by the end of the year (if a certain pandemic allows it) to continue both her professional and artistic careers.
“I think being in New York is really good for opportunities in makeup and photoshoots, so I really want to keep continuing with it,” she said.
However, Hong emphasized the balance of work and art, saying that she needed structure provided by consistent work. She intends to utilize both her computer science major and film and media studies minor as an associate analyst in Mastercard’s digital marketing department.
Considering herself to be a creative (and NOT a fan of STEM), Hong never anticipated studying computer science.
“When I got to Tufts I was totally undecided. I had no idea what I wanted to do and I definitely would not have expected myself to pick [computer science] at all,” Hong said. “I took a bunch of different classes that were unrelated to each other … and second semester [of my first] year, my friend Shannon recommended that I take Comp 11. I had never done comp sci in my life and I really doubted her … and I took it and really liked it, which was weird.”
She continued with computer science, eventually choosing it as her major.
Reflecting upon her four years, Hong noted that the best part of her Tufts experience was the people she met and the close bonds she formed with those who eventually became her housemates (and, often, artistic collaborators).