RUSSH catches Ako Kondo during the languid hums of a slow morning. The ballerina has been up since 6am – early for a principal artist at The Australian Ballet, given she finishes on stage around 10:30 pm the evening before – spending time with her husband (also a ballet dancer) and their one-year-old son George.
As a new mother and a full-time dancer, beauty can often feel like a luxury for Kondo. On the rare evening off, she'll apply a face mask and melt into the couch. But most days, she's running errands before dropping into rehearsals from 11am until curtain call at 6:30pm later that day. Stage makeup means skincare takes priority – the simpler the better, which is why Kondo favours Rationale's easy and customisable collections. They're no-fuss, hard-working and as an ambassador for the Australian label, she pops in for a regular facial treatment.
Below, Ako Kondo walks us through her morning beauty routine with Rationale, the best health advice she's ever received and why she'll never go home without icing her legs. Find our conversation, below.
What does a typical day look like for you?
If we're performing like we are at the moment in Sydney, we start at 11am with a daily morning class to get our body warmed up. Then we normally rehearse the next production we have coming up; so we're learning, practicing and rehearsing a completely different ballet. Then we have a lunch break at 3pm, which is quite late for normal people. Then I'm in hair and makeup from 5:30pm. At 6:30pm I start getting my body warm again. Then 7:30 the show starts and curtain comes down at 10:30pm if its a full length classical ballet. I end the night by icing my legs for recovery. Then some light snacks.
I find it really hard to sleep right after the show, so I normally have quiet time on the couch. Then 1am I go to sleep and we begin again.
Are you an early riser or do you sleep later because your nights are so late?
I used to be a late morning person until I had my son. Now I'm rise early as he wakes up around 6am. My husband, Chengwu Guo, and I usually start our day around 7am which is early for ballet dancers.
What does your beauty routine look like in the morning?
My skincare routine begins with the Rationale #1 The Serum, then #2 Hydragel, and I finish with sunscreen. I only really focus on skincare. Because of my job I don't put makeup on my face. I just keep it simple because since becoming a mother I don't have a lot of time for myself.
How do you unwind after a show?
Actually, having a son has helped me have time off. I always have Sundays off and go to a park, play with him and just do normal things. Instead of thinking about resting or preparing for the next week, I just enjoy the sunshine, ocean or water. In Melbourne we have two dogs as well, so we like to go to the cafe and eat lunch and have family time.
Do you have any beauty hacks for when you're tired or rundown?
Hot baths with magnesium really helps calm me down mentally as well as helping my muscles recover. Sweating, for my skin, actually helps as well.
But also getting Rationale facial treatments, for me, is a dream. Sometimes I fall asleep during the treatment. I try to pop in for one anywhere between once a week to once every two months – it really depends on my work schedule. With work, especially when I'm performing night after night, I wear very heavy stage makeup and sweat in it during the show, so my skin gets very congested. It also gets very dry from taking makeup off and just repeating that process. So I definitely need hydration and just a clean up.
How do you prep your skin before you begin your stage makeup?
For me, putting primer on is very important before I start putting on all that heavy stage makeup.
What does your stage makeup look like?
Very thick eyeliner, full false lashes and even the eyeshadow is quite heavy. At the moment, we're performing Jewels so it's very sleek. The costumes are so blingy, with all these jewels sewn in, so it kind of washes our faces out. I even put dark shadows around my hairline because lighting can be very harsh and make me look bald.
What's the one product in your kit you can't live without?
After becoming a Rationale partnership ambassador, I started using its Rationale #4 PreCleanse Balm to take heavy makeup off before cleaning. I used to use a different makeup remover, but it took off all of my skin's natural oils and my skin became really dry. Now since using this balm, it takes the makeup off but my skin stays hydrated.
Have you had to adjust your beauty regime after giving birth?
When I was pregnant my skin would instantly break out and was quite dry, which was upsetting for me. After postpartum, this partnership came up, and Rationale took the lead on my skin. I think they used Vitamin D to really boost my skin, and they created a great skincare routine with easy steps.
It's a common thing for moments when your skin is really dry, to reach for heavy moisturisers, but I learned that sometimes that creates the opposite result. Sometimes it's about the right texture, which is what I learned with the Hydragel.
What's the best advice on health you've ever received?
Definitely eating healthy as a dancer, because we have hard schedules and are constantly burning energy, so fuelling your body with the right things is important. But in the end I think you have to stay mentally happy to work healthy. I really take that onboard. Especially during the pandemic, when everything got shut down I got really depressed. But my partner reminded me to prioritise my mental happiness.
What things did you do during the pandemic to get you through?
I cooked a lot actually. Normally, when I'm working I'm very busy rehearsing and performing and will just order Uber Eats or go out for dinner. But I had spare time to actually cook, so I cooked Japanese homemade meals, stuff that reminded me of my mum's cooking; so chicken and rice and miso soup. That really brought me joy and reminded me of home.
Do you have a beauty icon?
I guess Audrey Hepburn. She's probably everybody's icon. I remember when I was little I would just look at pictures of her in a pink dress with roses in the background and think 'who is this pretty woman?'
How do you take care of yourself in order to ensure you can keep up the busy schedule?
This is my 14th or 15th year in the company, so to me it's all very normal. When I talk to someone else who's not in ballet they ask me 'how do you keep going? How do you work like that?' But this is just my routine. When we don't have a show, we still get the nights off. Sometimes we might not have to rehearse during the day, so that creates nice light and shade.
I also really enjoy being busy. So having a son, looking after him in the morning and having time in the night, and finding that balance between work and being a mum. It took time, he just turned one, but I think we've found that balance.
All images via @akokondo