It took a while for Macie Oupraxay to find her bliss in life.
The 45-year-old woman was born in Thailand. She moved to California in 1989 and then relocated to Houston 1995 to attend college, where she graduated with a master of science double-major in organic chemistry and molecular biology. After spending time doing research and development in her field, she finally realized that fashion would always be her passion.
“Coming from an Asian family, you’re supposed to have a ‘traditional’ career, like a doctor or a scientist,” Oupraxay says. “It was expected. But you can’t really be creative in research. I just wanted to interact with people and be happy. I wanted to wake up every morning and be happy to go to work.”
Oupraxay had always loved clothes and makeup, and had been doing makeup for others since she was a teenager. Creating looks for others was a survival tactic, she notes.
After coming out to her family as transgender at 16 years old, her mother kicked her out of her home. “When you have to fend for yourself, you have to be more street smart,” she says. “You have to find ways to survive.”
While struggling to make ends meet at her coffee-shop job, Oupraxay met two dancers in California who allowed her to do their makeup for extra cash. She was soon painting faces for some of the dancers’ co-workers, and eventually built up a clientele of about 40 performers.
Today, Oupraxay is a full-time fashionista working as a sales manager at a large retail beauty store while continuing to do freelance makeup and wardrobe styling.
“I never thought I could make a living doing what I love, but I am!” she says, adding that she often shares her success story with others who are facing challenges. “Even if they’re not in the community and they’re going through something with their own family, they understand that I’ve been in their shoes before, and that [it gets better].”
You can see Oupraxay’s handiwork on Instagram, where she has over 5,000 followers. “I [specialize] in ‘no-makeup makeup looks,” she says, noting that her work ranges from doing wedding makeup to simple everyday styles. “Sometimes people just want to go out and look fresh and cute, so they call me.”
When she’s not working, she likes hanging out at coffee shops reading fashion magazines to keep up on the trends. Her favorites are V Magazine, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar (one of the oldest fashion and beauty magazines), and the more celebrity-focused Elle. She also loves pop culture and keeps up with television shows like The Real Housewives, Pose, and RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Oupraxay used to live in the Museum District, but moved downtown because of its easier access to the Galleria and her private clients. She also loves being closer to one of her favorite eateries, Mai’s Restaurant, which has been serving authentic Vietnamese food in Houston for three generations.
“My favorite foods are super-spicy Thai, Laotian, and Vietnamese—but not the greasy stuff,” Oupraxay explains. But she also enjoys the classic French cuisine being served at the River Oaks Brasserie 19 and Artisans Restaurant downtown.
Her favorite cosmetic lines are Kevyn Aucoin, Armani Beauty, and M.A.C. (which also makes her favorite brushes). “But I prefer the older ones with natural bristles,” she says. “Now they’re all synthetic because it’s cheaper, but they’re not as good to work with.”
When it comes to clothes, she loves the classic Diane von Furstenberg styles and the more contemporary Marni line from Milan.
As for relationships, she’s cautious.
“I’m single and ready to mingle,” she says with a laugh. “But it’s difficult to date when you’re trans living in Texas. Men are confused about that, so I’m not holding my breath. If I did, I’d turn blue like Smurfette!”
The pandemic hasn’t been easy for Oupraxay, since the store was closed during the lockdown last spring. But that gave her more time to work with private clients.
“I’d work one-on-one with previous clients and referrals,” she recalls. “People wanted makeup for a special brunch or family occasion, as opposed to special events. It was great to do the work I love and to catch up with clients. I enjoy talking with them.”
And she wasn’t too worried about catching or passing on COVID-19. “Coming from a science background, I’m very OCD about hygiene,” she says. “I only apply makeup with brushes, I don’t use my hands or sponges like some other artists do, and I don’t touch people’s faces.”
So that science degree is being put to good use, but in a way she never imagined back in her graduate-school days. And she’s happy with that.
Her best advice: “It’s all about living for today,” Oupraxay says, “not tomorrow. Follow your bliss.”
Keep up with Macie Oupraxay on Instagram @rankinworks.
This article appears in the May 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.