The global makeup industry is booming right now as we strive to achieve looks made popular by celebrities and experts on Instagram. But the potential of makeup can go far beyond contouring, and one Vancouver-based makeup artist proves this.
Mimi Choi has amassed one million followers on her Instagram account, and just one look at her profile lets you see why. She pushes the boundaries to levels you could never imagine possible with surreal, optical illusions through unique and thought-provoking looks.
Everything you see on Choi’s Instagram account is her original work, inspired by shapes, patterns, and sounds — elements that evoke emotions within her. Digital and surreal artists also inspire her, but some of her more morbid looks have come from suffering sleep paralysis.
“During my bouts of sleep paralysis, my mind is awake, but my body is paralyzed and I often experience vivid hallucinations that can be frightening,” Choi tells Daily Hive.
However, she finds that when she paints one of her visions, she doesn’t have that particular dream again. “In a way, makeup is a form of therapy for me.”
The in-demand makeup artist doesn’t use Photoshop to edit her looks, so everything you see is real. Of course, her specialized work takes time to execute. “When I’m at home in Vancouver, I usually start a creative look late in the evening when I feel free from distractions.” She details how her looks can take anything from two to nine hours, plus up to four hours to photograph, edit, and caption.
Like many creatives, Choi has the flexibility to design her own workday for when she’s inspired most, “I often go to sleep when most people are waking up,” she says.
Choi credits the continuing support she receives from Blanche Macdonald, the Vancouver school where she started her makeup journey. “Through Blanche, I learned the techniques and fundamentals that I use every day and I have met so many incredible students, staff, and instructors that have become mentors and friends to me. The positive energy at the school is infectious and I owe a lot of my character to Blanche.”
As well as this, the makeup artist says, “I owe a lot of my success to social media.”
She describes how she gains inspiration from many artists on Instagram, and the platform makes it easy for her to share her work with a vast audience she wouldn’t otherwise have. “Instagram is so visual and is such an effective tool for artists like myself that it has replaced the traditional portfolio.”
In 2018, Choi launched her own Illusion palette in partnership with Mehron, for which she hand-picked the products included based on things she uses all the time for her creative and beauty looks. She explains, “It’s very rewarding to create something that is so versatile and useful for condensing a makeup artist’s kit.”
Today, the artist’s work takes her to all corners of the world. “Most recently, I’ve taught master classes in Taipei, Sao Paulo, Naples, and Buenos Aires, and have worked on video shoots in Montreal and Paris.” Despite her success, she says she never takes these opportunities for granted and remains grateful to be able to meet her followers and supporters in person.
When asked whether she feels makeup artistry is a supportive industry for women, Choi says that it is. “Most artists are open-minded and willing to share. It’s a saturated industry and we know how difficult it is to make a living through art. As a result, I’ve met many friends through makeup and we have bonded over similar experiences.”
She also recognizes that because the makeup world is so competitive, “there are dishonest individuals who are willing to step on others to get ahead.” However, she continues, “I suppose that it is like any other profession and we all come across positive and negative individuals.”
“I always encourage aspiring makeup artists to step outside of their comfort zones,” Choi says. By doing this, she believes that artists will see the most growth.
“While it can be good technical practice to recreate somebody else’s look, it is so much more rewarding to develop a unique style and to create your own trend,” she concludes.
Check out more of Mimi Choi’s work on Instagram.