Pro Race Car Driver Samantha Tan Talks Beauty Tips, Championship Titles, and Self-Confidence

Pro race car driver Samantha Tan wearing a racing jumpsuit.

(Image credit: @samanthaatan)

If you've kept a close eye on the adrenaline-filled worlds of racing and fashion in the last couple of years, you will have noticed they've become one and the same. Without following a single pro driver on social media, there's a pretty high chance you may have spotted a celebrity wearing a custom driver suit or jacket, even if they've never been in a race car. It's just as easy to recognize familiar faces of the sport without noticing the individuals not included on the Formula One winner's podium and in TikTok fan edits.

Enter Samantha Tan—a 26-year-old Chinese Canadian professional race car driver and the owner of Samantha Tan Racing—who strives to challenge the status quo of professional racing. Recently, she became the first Asian woman to place first at a major international endurance racing championship, breaking barriers in the male-dominated sport one major win at a time. When Tan's not behind the wheel of a high-powered race car, she enjoys all things beauty and proudly sports eye-catching makeup underneath her helmet during races.

I had the opportunity to speak with Tan about everything from this year's 24 Hour Le Man Race in France to the makeup products that the G-force and heat inside her race car don't stand a chance against.

Meet Professional Race Car Driver Samantha Tan

Pro racing driver Samantha Tan in a gray suit.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Joy Wong)

How did you begin racing, and why were you drawn to the sport?

It all originated with my dad. He's a really big car enthusiast and racing fan, so I grew up around it. He would always bring me to the local car meets and track days. When I was finally old enough to learn how to drive at 14, my dad started to enroll me in these performance driving schools because he really wanted me to be a safe driver. I absolutely loved it!

At the end of one of these programs, I had the opportunity to sit in my very first race car and go out with a professional driver—they were absolutely sending it! As soon as I got out of that car, I was like, "I want to be a race car driver as well." So I started training when I was just 16 years old and began the process of learning how to drive race cars, and it's been a journey since then.

I took a look at your Instagram, and when you're not posting car pics, you're posting some amazing beauty shots. Do you have any tips and tricks for keeping your makeup in place?

A lot of setting spray—no, layers of it! The holy-grail setting spray that I've used since high school is the Urban Decay All Nighter Waterproof Makeup Setting Spray. I've also recently been really loving Milk Makeup's Hydro Grip Primer. I typically don't wear a full face of makeup unless it's media day on the track. An eyeliner I really like is the Tarte Double Take Eyeliner because it just doesn't smudge. When I get out of the car, everyone asks me how my makeup still looks good!

For media day, what is your go-to look? Do you do your own makeup for media day, or do you have a makeup artist that helps out?

I love doing my own makeup and experimenting with different looks. I do my own makeup for media day. Right now, my makeup routine for them includes It Cosmetics' CC+ Cream since it gives really great coverage and has SPF 50. I pair it with the Milk Makeup Future Fluid Concealer and Laura Mercier Translucent Setting Powder, which is great for keeping your makeup on all day.

I use the Sephora bronzer, and the blush I've been loving is Em Cosmetics' Heaven's Glow Blush. I'm also a fan of the Fenty highlighter on the the inner corners of my eyes to brighten them up. I use Urban Decay's Moondust Liquid Glitter Eyeliner to add even more brightness. For my brows, I only use Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz.

Pro racing driver Samantha Tan wearing a helmet with winged eyeliner.

(Image credit: @samanthaatan)

Being an athlete can take a major toll on your skin. What is your present skincare routine, and are there any products you can't go without?

When I'm not in a full face of makeup, it's just me taking care of my skin. I also have eczema, which is difficult to manage when I'm racing. My skincare routine consists of the Caudalie Beauty Elixir, the SK-II Anti-Aging Treatment Essence, and the Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum. It really calms down my skin, which is important! I also use Glossier's vitamin C serum and Ilia's Base Face Milk Essence to lock in some of that moisture before I go in with the Weleda Skin Food Ultra-Rich Cream and Kiehl's Creamy Eye Treatment.

How do you like to prepare mentally and physically for a race?

Staying on top of your mental and physical health is very important in racing. For the physical aspect, I train five times a week in the gym if I have the time available (and not traveling) and do a lot of cardiovascular endurance. I also do some strength training because your dealing with G-forces while racing—up to 2G. It can reach up to 130°F in the cockpit, and I can lose two pounds of water weight, so hydration is key.

Mentally, I still get really nervous and anxious before I get in the car. When I feel doubtful of myself and don't think I have the confidence on a race day, I sit down in a quiet spot before the race and remember all the times I was very successful and when I've proven myself wrong. It gets me in the right mindset to get in the car and perform as well as I do.

Pro racing driver Samantha Tan for BMW M Motorsport.

(Image credit: @samanthaatan)

You recently became the first Asian woman to win a major international endurance racing championship! What did that win mean for you?

It was my very first season in international endurance racing. To go through the season and win all six championship titles that we were eligible for, it truly meant the world to me. Becoming the first Asian woman to win was amazing, but I don't want to be the last. I've always wanted to be the role model I never had in the industry, and I hope to continue inspiring and empowering other people to follow my footsteps.

Your next goal is to be the first Asian woman to win the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans. What does this race mean to you?

The 24 Hours of Le Mans takes place in France, and it is the most prestigious sports car race in the world. It's really difficult to get into it, and they have an extensive history reaching back 100 years. It's always been my goal to be the first Asian woman to win this race, and every decision in my career has been toward that goal.

Do you have any advice for the next generation of female professional race car drivers?

I made a video recently talking to my younger self about how challenging things can be and not to listen to people who say you can't do things. Believe in yourself, and believe in your intuition. We as young women are very hard on ourselves, and we're always striving for perfection. Perfection is not real! You're going to make mistakes. One thing I had to get very quickly is to learn from failures and get stronger.

Over the next few years, what do you hope to see change in professional race car driving?

There's definitely exposure being given to women in racing, but I also don't agree with separating us into a different series. What I hope to see is these series sponsoring women to be in the top series because we can compete against the men. There's no reason why we need to be segregated.

Shop Tan's Beauty Must-Haves

Maya Thomas
Assistant Beauty Editor
Maya Thomas is Who What Wear's assistant beauty editor based just outside of Seattle, Washington. Her strong love for all things beauty and fashion stems from a strong childhood interest in the fine arts. During a gap year spent in Paris studying the history of French fashion, she shifted her focus to English literature and journalism as a student at Loyola Marymount University with the goal of one day pursuing a career in fashion. After graduating in May 2021, Maya began freelancing for as a contributing commerce writer while also building a following on her lifestyle blog, When she's not writing, Maya spends her free time catching up on reading, perusing art galleries, and enjoying a night out at the ballet every now and then.