Newness Co-Founder & CTO Youri Park

“My parents emigrated from South Korea to Orange County, California, where I grew up. They were always working—I couldn’t ask them to drop me off and pick me up somewhere after school—so I’d use MySpace and AIM to ‘hang out’ with my school friends. Then I found other online communities. Chictopia was a space where you could post your outfits and people would comment on them. I also played a lot of MapleStory, which is a role playing game. Gaming is super social, and I think the chat functionality was really what we were signing in for. I’m still friends with a lot of people I met through that game—I went to college with one of them, and I actually just went to their wedding. When you’re spending so much time with someone on the internet, there’s a sense of closeness that is pretty hard to get in real life. It’s easier to socialize in a game than at a bar or a park, because if you have nothing in common at least you can talk about the game.

I went to college thinking that I would be pre-med. What changed my mind was a game, League of Legends. It’s a team-based role-playing game that people can play full-time and get paid. I went to watch the championship at the Staples Center, which was the first time it was in such a big venue. Everyone was so hyped and excited about this one shared interest, and it was an incredible feeling. It got me thinking about how gaming helped my mental health, and allowed me to create a support system throughout my life. I realized maybe I could help people by being a software engineer, and it also aligned better with my personal interests. I still didn’t know how I would connect the dots between being a software engineer in the gaming industry and not actually making games—my skill set is with the backend of websites. If you think of a car, there are things you see as a consumer, like the paint and the upholstery, but the engine is underneath the hood. That’s the stuff I work on. But I decided to switch my major and give it a shot.

Eventually I got a job at Twitch, which is a streaming platform, and later headed the Facebook Gaming Initiative, which was also streaming content. Streaming had the community aspect I loved about gaming. But there were some things that reminded me I was an ‘other.’ For example, a lot of streamers say things like, ‘Let’s go boys’ or, when you’re playing against somebody else, ‘He’s really good,’ assuming the other person is male. Not seeing many people who look like you changes what it’s like to experience being a part of something. If you’re the only one or if you’re one of a few, you feel like you have to be the best version of that to represent your community. When Jenny [Qian, Newness Co-Founder] reached out to ask if I would ever watch beauty live streams, my initial answer was ‘No.’ But I kept thinking about it, and realized that if I wanted to make these online communities more mainstream, maybe I had to meet consumers where they are. Women tend to be more interested in fashion and beauty, so what if there was a way we could take the learnings from gaming live streaming and apply that to a different industry? Jenny had already been thinking about this for quite some time.

When we first started Newness I said that my end goal was to host gaming content, but we’re solely focused on beauty now. We’re about to hit a year of streams. When I think about our beauty content, I don’t necessarily think about the traditional buckets of skincare, makeup, and hair because creators have other parts of their life that you end up learning about through their streams. Beauty isn’t just about makeup or skincare—it’s also generally how you want to present yourself to the world. It’s been pretty magical to see the communities that spun up as a result of our team working towards this ideal vision of what social could be like. I think that we are helping redefine what beauty means.

When you’re spending so much time with someone on the internet, there’s a sense of closeness that is pretty hard to get in real life.

I grew up reading things like Teen Vogue and Allure, and I saw very few Asian Americans or people of color in general. I was never going to be blonde and I was never going to be a sun-kissed tan—I tan a different color! On the other hand, in Korean media, plastic surgery is so commonplace. Even my mom casually asked if I wanted double eyelid surgery when I was young. I spent a lot of my beauty efforts, at least in the beginning, trying to look more like whatever ‘American’ felt like, which was essentially non-Asian at that point. I started undoing that in college. The other thing for me is that, being a woman both in gaming and a male-dominated field, I was always thinking of beauty as a strategic tool. People don’t often see female engineers, so when they did, I wanted them to know we can look like anything. Weirdly, now that I’m in the beauty industry, I feel like I need to put on makeup for calls so people don’t think I’m just another CTO from the tech industry who’s interested in beauty because there’s a huge market. I want them to see how much I love this.

Since I was in college, I’ve been getting facials at Studio Abasi in downtown Berkeley, which specializes in acne. My breakouts were under the skin—when I’d complain to my friends about it they’d be like, ‘I don’t see anything, your skin looks great!’ but I felt it, and it really bothered me. They also gave me salicylic and mandelic acid cleansers to help with my back acne.

Recently, I’ve been using the Belif Aqua Bomb Jelly Cleanser. I also like the Fabulous Face Cleanser from Aesop, which feels a little more luxurious. Recently I’ve been using the Belif Aqua Bomb Hydrating Toner too, but it’s only because I ran out of my Indie Lee CoQ-10 Toner. I feel like it’s part of my job as a beauty founder to be familiar with different products, so I try not to stick to my ‘comfort blanket’ products and holy grails. Before I ran out, I was using the Hyper Clear vitamin C serum every day. I liked it a lot. But recently I’ve been playing with the Tatcha Dewy Serum, and then I’ll finish off with my favorite sunscreen, which right now is The Beet Shield. I had to stop myself from reordering this. It feels really light, and I’m a little shiny right after I put it on but it absorbs over time.

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At night, if I have makeup on, I use this Japanfusion Pure Transforming Cleanser from Beauty Pie. It’s a cleansing balm in a tube, which I like because I don’t have to put my fingers in it. Then I do a second cleanse with one of my morning cleansers, and after that I exfoliate. I’ve been playing with Tatcha’s Rice Polish Classic to rub off any dead skin or makeup I might have missed, and I’m obsessed with the Youth to the People Yerba Mate Resurfacing Energy Facial. I didn’t think I’d like it because it’s gritty and reminds me of St. Ives Apricot Scrub. But it’s actually not bad. I probably use it once or twice a week, and it makes my skin feel super smooth.

During the pandemic there were weeks where I felt so exhausted, that just washing my face was good enough. I could see my skin texture getting worse and worse. Curology [serum] has been a baby step to getting back into skincare. My formula has 0.01-percent tretinoin, 2-percent azelaic acid, and 4-percent niacinamide. And then I’ll either use the Curology moisturizer, since I buy them together, or I’ve been playing with Aesop’s Seeking Silence Facial Hydrator. Very rarely I’ll use Aphorism’s Night is Young Renewal Concentrate oil to seal it. I have a hard time differentiating facial oils, and don’t know what necessarily makes an oil good or bad. This one absorbs well, which I like, and has rosehip seed oil as the main thing. The tretinoin in the Curology has been making my lips a little drier, so I’ve been using the Tatcha Kissu Lip Mask before I go to sleep.

People don’t experience female engineers very often in the industry, so when they did, I wanted them to know we can look like anything.

I have hooded lids, and sometimes they get kind of greasy and crease, so the Smashbox Eyeshadow Primer helps keep my makeup from going all over the place. While I wait for the primer to set, I start on my brows. I get them microbladed by Mina over at Brow Club SF, who is really thoughtful about how they work for my face with and without makeup on. I love it because my brows are thin and light otherwise. I’ve been playing with different pencils lately—now I’m trying out the Jason Wu pencil from Target, which is thinner than I like, but it’s working. I also have the Ettusais Natural Powder Brow Liner, which I bought because the application is really interesting. It has kind of a hard, foamy tip to fill in any patchy spots softly. It’s more convenient than the alternative, which is brushing in dark brown eyeshadow. And my Glossier Boy Brow is clearly well-loved… the label is rubbed off because I used to carry around with me.

I like the Smashbox eyeshadow trios, because normally eyeshadows come with too many colors. The one I’m wearing now is Snap Queen, but I also have #Repost, which gives a fun lavender-y look. I also like the Charlotte Tilbury Icon palette [Ed note: discontinued], which comes with trios to do four different looks. Her powders are so fine, and the texture is really nice. The other eyeshadows I use all the time are the Laura Mercier shadow sticks. Nude Rose is my favorite, and I also like Plum for a darker shadow on the inner part of my eye. If I’m on the go or need to do a quick look, I like that these are easy to apply and blend with my fingers. For eyeliner I like to use a black crayon one to start, and then a pen to draw a sharp wing. I’ve used so many—the Stila one, the KVD one, the Better Than Sex… Right now I’m using Fenty Beauty’s Flyliner. I have these blue and purple UZ liners, which are fun to use as an accent when I’m not wearing shadow, but aren’t pigmented enough to go on top. And then I put on mascara, which has to be waterproof and volumizing. The Fenty Beauty mascara works well with their Flyliner, but I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite. I’ve also been trying this Japanese mascara called Ettusais Lash Version Up, and before that I used the one from Tarte.

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On my skin, I just use primer and BB cream. I really like this Cover FX Blurring Primer. I have acne scars from treating my skin poorly when I was younger, and this does a good job of filling them in. It’s also tinted, so I can use it by itself if I want. If I use BB cream, I like the Nars Tinted Moisturizer in Finland or Smashbox Broad Spectrum BB Cream in Light/Neutral, which I was fully using as my sunscreen before I learned better. I’ve been putting the Kaja Don’t Settle Concealer in Boba Tea on my undereyes, right between my nose and eyebrows, above my lips, on my chin, and on any spots I want to conceal. I let it sit for a little bit before patting it in. If I’m doing a full look, I like to finish with the Laura Mercier Translucent Setting Powder on my T-zone. It’s super light and doesn’t make me too matte.

My go-to blush has been Patrick Ta She’s Seductive, which has a dark, neutral tone, and I use my fingers to apply it even though it’s a powder. I’ve also been playing with this Ilia blush in Lady Bird and the Westman Atelier one in Petal, which was talked about a bunch on Newness. The packaging is so luxurious I think I’ll keep it after I finish the blush. I don’t know if I’ve ever purchased a full sized Benefit Hoola, but that’s the only bronzer I use. The Ilia DayLite Highlighting Powder in Decades is another product I bought because of Newness. I like that I can just smear it on. I also like the Fenty Beauty Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter in Hu$tla Baby, and I’ve been playing with RMS’ Beauty Eye Polish in Utopia on my cheeks, because I don’t like how it looks on my eyes. I do the same thing with the Givenchy Ombre Couture Waterproof Cream—I really like products that are multipurpose.

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I usually go for a gloss or a lip tint because my lips tend to be dry. I used to use the KVD liquid lipstick in Ludwig, but then I realized I actually prefer a wet application. I switched over to the Fenty Beauty Gloss Bomb in Fenty Glow, and now I’m obsessed with Tower 28’s Lip Jellies. I thought the shade Fearless would look super weird—it’s not a color I’d normally wear—but on my lips, it looks really good. On everyone’s lips, actually. I’m always surprised. The other one I like is the Saint Jane lip gloss, which was definitely a splurge. It’s the Luxury Lip Shine in Alchemy, and it has CBD in it. This Kaja Heart Melter Lip Gloss Stick is a more matte option. I thought the heart-shaped applicator was so gimmicky, but it’s actually very practical for getting the top curves of your lips.

I had platinum hair for over five years. I was wearing a lot of monochrome black clothing, and I liked that my hair kind of acted as an accessory. Being able to change the color of my hair was a way to express myself even when my outfits were more plain. Eventually it became a signature thing versus something I did for fun—I was more recognizable with bleached hair, especially within the context of gaming conventions and meetings with partners. I went to a colorist in San Francisco named Victor, and I swear by him—he’s so talented at coloring Asian hair. I told him that when I was done bleaching I’d let him turn me back to black, but at this point, it might happen naturally before I get to him. I use Olaplex shampoo and conditioner, No. 4 and 5, and then to maintain my color I’d use the Viral Colorwash color-depositing shampoos from Celeb Luxury. I always felt like those worked better than color-depositing conditioners. You can buy them on Amazon, and they have a bunch of different pastel colors. I also like the silver one just to get the brassiness out. If I wanted brighter color, I’d let it sit as a mask for a bit.

Eventually it became a signature thing versus something I did for fun—I was more recognizable with bleached hair.

I’m sensitive to smell, so I’m very particular about the fragrances I use. They all tend to be a little bit sweet or musky. I started with the Miss Dior Cherie perfume, which is sweet. Then I started going more and more musky, like the Paco Rabanne one that looks like a crystal [Ed note: discontinued]. I liked that for a long time, then I switched over to Tainted Love from Tokyo Milk. I haven’t been wearing it because I’ve been inside, but I used to dab a little bit on when I’d go out.”

—as told to ITG

Youri Park photographed by Katie Thompson in Berkeley, California on March 19, 2020

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