Tina Chow Rudolf began painting when she was five years old. By the ripe age of 10, she was still painting — but she had also taken it upon herself to start moisturizing.
“Being creative was something that I’ve just always been attracted to,” said Rudolf, who founded Strange Bird Beauty, which she describes as a “spiritual skin care brand,” in 2019. For the founder, wellness and creativity go naturally hand in hand.
“Everyone needs to have at least one thing in their life where they’ve given themselves the permission to be fully free,” she said. Rudolf’s one thing is painting, an outlet through which she expresses her emotions, and one that she also sees as a form of self care — which is also a core tenet that Strange Bird is built on.
“My understanding of self care has always been tied to skin care,” said Rudolf, who grew up watching her mother execute an hourslong skin care regimen each night after dinner. Thanks in part to her culture as a Chinese American, Rudolf said the importance of a rigorous skin care ritual has never been lost on her.
Having founded Strange Bird with the goal of helping women build better relationships with themselves, Rudolf wondered if, rather than being an avenue through which women see fresh opportunity to self-criticize, skin care could instead allow them to empathize and be in tune with their thoughts — negative ones included — without necessarily buying into them.
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“How often do we actually look at ourselves in the mirror and really connect to the thoughts and feelings that come up, and what’s triggered by that reflection?” Rudolf said. When it comes to Strange Bird, Rudolf feels that intention is just as important as the products themselves — and her art is informed by the same approach.
“I like to sit with my whole self, and really connect with all the uncomfortable feelings, and all the positive feelings and then alchemize it and translate it by putting it on canvas in a different way,” she said.
Her preferred mediums are dyes and acrylic paint on raw canvas, although with two young kids under her roof, it’s not uncommon for the artist-slash-entrepreneur to reach for whatever watercolors or other art supplies are within arm’s reach at any given moment.
In addition to skin care products, Strange Bird also carries wellness products designed for relaxation such as candles, incense holders and singing bowls, which are used for meditation and sound baths. Just like with art, Rudolf sees the potential for skin care to be an outlet through which people can practice mindfulness.
In fact, when it comes to both, Rudolf moves past cynicism not by glossing over it, but rather by giving it space, “Everyone always says, ‘enjoy the journey,’” Rudolf said. “But it’s really hard to enjoy the journey when you’re resisting emotions that come up every day.”
After obtaining her bachelor of fine arts degree at Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rudolf went on to pursue her master’s degree in clinical social work at Fordham University, a full-circle moment for the founder, who identifies beauty and mental health as the two recurring themes in her life.
In partnership with e-tailer Thirteen Lune, Strange Bird products will launch at 300 J.C. Penney stores across the U.S. this spring, furthering the brand’s goal of bringing self-kindness to skin care.
“I’m not saying that enlightenment or self-love or self-awareness comes in a bottle. But I do think that for me, it makes that whole journey a little bit more playful,” Rudolf said.