Lessons In Cool: Photographer Mei Tao

  • Written By:Alexandra Perron, Managing Editor
  • Photography:Ben Ritter
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Welcome to Lessons In Cool, a new series all about the people we’re constantly inspired by. They are tastemakers, curators of style, thought leaders, and well, just cool.

Meet Mei Tao, she’s a Chinese-born and Brooklyn-raised fashion photographer who has worked with everyone from Kule to J.Crew to Warby Parker. Her style is energetic, fresh, and, most of all, cool. As a long time fashion lover, Tao thought she’d pursue design, but ended up studying photography in college and spent a decade assisting various photographers. She really learned the ropes shooting for teen catalog Delia’s (my personal fashion bible as a 90s kid) and the rest is history.

“There’s no handbook in my field. You can observe how others have found their success, but your career is your career,” says Tao. “Having a strong point of view is crucial. I am hired for the way I see, but it’s all subjective. It’s a constant reminder to follow your gut and remain true to yourself.” (We recently asked her to take a turn in front of the camera for Jones Road and we think she nailed it as a model, too.) Read for her skin care essentials, style inspiration, and advice she’d give her younger self.

It’s a constant reminder to follow your gut and remain true to yourself.

- Mei Tao

Name & occupation:

Mei Tao, Photographer

Your Bio:

I am a photographer, proud mama to an incoming college freshman, and an unnaturally frequent YouTube watcher. I love to know what the kids are into while secretly thinking we had it way cooler when I was their age.

First thing you do in the morning:

Open up my email (terrible habit), when I should just stare at the ceiling a bit longer.

Biggest challenge?

Finding balance. Having been a freelancer all of my adult life, my work schedule is constantly shifting—I miss out on more family events than I would like. I feel guilty when I am not superwoman and can be there for everyone and everything, but I’ve come to realize I am only required to be me, and I can handle a lot already.

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Who inspires you?

My Dad—he's 78 years old and still curious. Always manages to find the positive angle, even when all seems doom and gloom. He taught me to look beyond the surface and care about the details. “Why be good when you can be extraordinary,” he would say. No pressure dad :)

Last person you texted:

My daughter Dash. Ever since I linked my photos to iClould on my phone, it does a thing called “feature photos,” where old photos pop up. Every time a baby photo of her comes up, I text it to her. This happens a lot since I shot so many of her growing up. I am sure she doesn't enjoy my constant texting as much as I do…oh well.

Most scrolled app or site:

Instagram—great place to connect with people you admire. (It’s where Bobbi and I met). Beware of #FOMO. It’s just an app, not your life.

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The 5 beauty products you can’t live without:

Beauty is skincare to me. I barely wear any makeup, but I am the moisturizer queen. Currently loving: Clarins Hydra-Essentiel (daily), Elemis S.O.S. Emergency Cream (when my skin gets super dry and stressed), Jones Road Miracle Balm Tawny (for a healthy flush glow), Jones Road Eye Cream (rich but not greasy), The Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm (I stole it from my daughter), and Palmers Coconut Oil Body Lotion (it just works!).

It’s all going to happen when it happens.

- Mei Tao

Your style icon?

Columbo (Get dressed, but unravel it.)

Advice you’d give your younger self:

It’s all going to happen when it happens.

What does “cool” mean to you?

Being kind, belly laughs and integrity.

For more from Mei, follow her at @taomeitao.

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