SPOTLIGHT

In conversation with

Mimi Choi

September 2022

“My goal is to understand and
achieve realism as best I can, with
the experience and practice
that I’ve accumulated throughout
the years.”

Mimi is an illusionary makeup artist based in Vancouver.

Á: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

MC: I was born in Macau and immigrated to Vancouver when I was 11 years old. After graduating from university, I became a Montessori preschool instructor and taught 2-6 year-olds for a few years prior to becoming a professional makeup artist. I’m glad to have made the leap when I was 28 years old and grateful for the encouragement from my family to change my career and pursue my passions. I’ve never been happier, as I feel that this is my true self.

Á: What prompted you to venture into illusion artistry?

MC: It was my first month as a makeup student at Blanche Macdonald Center and Halloween was around the corner. I wanted to explore creative makeup rather than wearing a basic Halloween costume. I used two kohl eyeliners to create a broken face illusion and posted it on Instagram. The shock and love I received from that look really surprised me and people instantly started recreating the look and re-pinning it on Pinterest. That motivated me to continue exploring the genre and continue to elevate my looks each time. Because I had no prior art training, everything was created through trial and error. My goal is to understand and achieve realism as best I can, with the experience and practice that I’ve accumulated throughout the years.

Á: What was it like to transition from education to illusionary art?

MC: The transition was very quick as I left my preschool teaching job and enrolled in makeup school within a few days. As a Montessori preschool teacher, I learned to be patient and very steady with my hands. This has greatly helped me as a professional makeup artist as my looks take several hours of intense concentration. I also travel around the world to teach masterclasses and lead workshops. My teaching background has definitely helped with that as well.

Á: What made you seek a change in career?

MC: I realized that I wasn’t completely myself when I was teaching preschool. Although I’ve always had a strong passion for educating children, I felt that my creativity as a person was suppressed. For example, I couldn’t dress the way I wanted to when I was teaching, and on my days off I would look very different. I would do my hair, wear colorful makeup and get creative with my clothes. I wanted a job that would let me be myself completely, without judgement. In my current career, I feel that people embrace my uniqueness which is a very liberating feeling.

Á: What is your creative process for creating illusionary makeup looks?

MC: My process is usually very spontaneous. I typically do not draw my concepts out beforehand unless it is requested by a client. Instead, I come up with a concept in my mind and paint directly on my face or body. My feelings and emotions affect my work, so often I add different elements to my initial concept as I go. Spontaneous art is the most beautiful and authentic to me.

Á: Has your international background influenced the art that you create?

MC: Growing up in Macau has definitely influenced my work. Macau is a mosaic of Portuguese and Chinese cultures. Growing up, I took my hometown’s uniqueness for granted and it wasn’t until I started traveling as an adult that I truly appreciated it. I attended a multicultural international school, so I was exposed to many different cultural backgrounds when I was young and that has also contributed to my style of art. A lot of my looks have been inspired by the different types of Portuguese and Chinese architecture and art that I was exposed to as a child.

Á: Where does your inspiration come from?

MC: I’m inspired by photography, architecture, films, literature, classical art, digital art – really anything and everything that I come across. I have also suffered from sleep paralysis since I was 4 years old. It’s a condition in which my mind is awake but I am trapped inside an unresponsive body. During these bouts, I often hallucinate as I struggle to wake up fully. These can be frightening visions and have inspired some of my more morbid looks. Interestingly, I found that after painting a vision on my face, I would stop experiencing that specific hallucination. So in a way, sleep paralysis is a source of inspiration for my makeup and my makeup is therapy for my sleep paralysis.

Á: What is the most challenging aspect of creating a makeup look?

MC: Having enough time and patience is the biggest challenge for me. The more time and patience I have, the better and more mind-blowing my work will be. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to put the brush down because I always notice areas where I can improve.

Á: In what ways has social media affected your creative career?

MC: Social media has helped spread my work and has led to many unique opportunities around the world including campaigns, music videos, television shows and masterclasses. I treat my Instagram feed as my portfolio and I like to see how my art has evolved over the years. Social media is also an endless gallery, where I can gather inspiration and ideas from different artists such as photographers, sculptors, digital artists, musicians, dancers, and videographers.

Á: Do you have a preferred social media platform?

MC: Instagram will always be my preferred social media platform because it was the first platform that I used, and it has truly helped propel my career and spread my illusion art worldwide. It’s a visual platform and simple to use, so it’s perfect for my style of art!

Á: Do you prefer working on yourself or clients?

MC: I like working on both equally. One benefit of working on myself is that I can take as long as I want and take naps in between. Because I am able to focus for long periods of time and don’t have a time limit, I usually save the super intricate and hyper-detailed looks for my own face. However, working on models allows me to use features that are very different from my own. I get inspired by the beautiful faces and bodies of my models, which gives me new ideas for looks.

Á: Can you describe your experience producing a look for the Met Gala?

MC: It was a very surreal experience to be able to create the first-ever illusion makeup look at the Met Gala. Working with open-minded celebrities like Ezra Miller is inspiring because they trust me fully and allow me full creative freedom. The concept started with a phone call with Ezra to discuss his vision and the next thing I knew I was in New York starting at 4AM the morning of the event. The day was long and chaotic, but it was such a special memory that will stick with me forever.

You can find more of Mimi’s work here and here.

In conversation with

Mimi Choi

September 2022

“My goal is to understand
and achieve realism as best
I can, with the experience
and practice that I’ve accumulated throughout 
the years.”

Mimi is an illusionary makeup artist based in Vancouver.

Á: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

MC: I was born in Macau and immigrated to Vancouver when I was 11 years old. After graduating from university, I became a Montessori preschool instructor and taught 2-6 year-olds for a few years prior to becoming a professional makeup artist. I’m glad to have made the leap when I was 28 years old and grateful for the encouragement from my family to change my career and pursue my passions. I’ve never been happier, as I feel that this is my true self.

Á: What prompted you to venture into illusion artistry?

MC: It was my first month as a makeup student at Blanche Macdonald Center and Halloween was around the corner. I wanted to explore creative makeup rather than wearing a basic Halloween costume. I used two kohl eyeliners to create a broken face illusion and posted it on Instagram. The shock and love I received from that look really surprised me and people instantly started recreating the look and re-pinning it on Pinterest. That motivated me to continue exploring the genre and continue to elevate my looks each time. Because I had no prior art training, everything was created through trial and error. My goal is to understand and achieve realism as best I can, with the experience and practice that I’ve accumulated throughout the years.

Á: What was it like to transition from education to illusionary art?

MC: The transition was very quick as I left my preschool teaching job and enrolled in makeup school within a few days. As a Montessori preschool teacher, I learned to be patient and very steady with my hands. This has greatly helped me as a professional makeup artist as my looks take several hours of intense concentration. I also travel around the world to teach masterclasses and lead workshops. My teaching background has definitely helped with that as well.

Á: What made you seek a change in career?

MC: I realized that I wasn’t completely myself when I was teaching preschool. Although I’ve always had a strong passion for educating children, I felt that my creativity as a person was suppressed. For example, I couldn’t dress the way I wanted to when I was teaching, and on my days off I would look very different. I would do my hair, wear colorful makeup and get creative with my clothes. I wanted a job that would let me be myself completely, without judgement. In my current career, I feel that people embrace my uniqueness which is a very liberating feeling.

Á: What is your creative process for creating illusionary makeup looks?

MC: My process is usually very spontaneous. I typically do not draw my concepts out beforehand unless it is requested by a client. Instead, I come up with a concept in my mind and paint directly on my face or body. My feelings and emotions affect my work, so often I add different elements to my initial concept as I go. Spontaneous art is the most beautiful and authentic to me.

Á: Has your international background influenced the art that you create?

MC: Growing up in Macau has definitely influenced my work. Macau is a mosaic of Portuguese and Chinese cultures. Growing up, I took my hometown’s uniqueness for granted and it wasn’t until I started traveling as an adult that I truly appreciated it. I attended a multicultural international school, so I was exposed to many different cultural backgrounds when I was young and that has also contributed to my style of art. A lot of my looks have been inspired by the different types of Portuguese and Chinese architecture and art that I was exposed to as a child.

Á: Where does your inspiration come from?

MC: I’m inspired by photography, architecture, films, literature, classical art, digital art – really anything and everything that I come across. I have also suffered from sleep paralysis since I was 4 years old. It’s a condition in which my mind is awake but I am trapped inside an unresponsive body. During these bouts, I often hallucinate as I struggle to wake up fully. These can be frightening visions and have inspired some of my more morbid looks. Interestingly, I found that after painting a vision on my face, I would stop experiencing that specific hallucination. So in a way, sleep paralysis is a source of inspiration for my makeup and my makeup is therapy for my sleep paralysis.

Á: What is the most challenging aspect of creating a makeup look?

MC: Having enough time and patience is the biggest challenge for me. The more time and patience I have, the better and more mind-blowing my work will be. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to put the brush down because I always notice areas where I can improve.

Á: In what ways has social media affected your creative career?

MC: Social media has helped spread my work and has led to many unique opportunities around the world including campaigns, music videos, television shows and masterclasses. I treat my Instagram feed as my portfolio and I like to see how my art has evolved over the years. Social media is also an endless gallery, where I can gather inspiration and ideas from different artists such as photographers, sculptors, digital artists, musicians, dancers, and videographers.

Á: Do you have a preferred social media platform?

MC: Instagram will always be my preferred social media platform because it was the first platform that I used, and it has truly helped propel my career and spread my illusion art worldwide. It’s a visual platform and simple to use, so it’s perfect for my style of art!

Á: Do you prefer working on yourself or clients?

MC: I like working on both equally. One benefit of working on myself is that I can take as long as I want and take naps in between. Because I am able to focus for long periods of time and don’t have a time limit, I usually save the super intricate and hyper-detailed looks for my own face. However, working on models allows me to use features that are very different from my own. I get inspired by the beautiful faces and bodies of my models, which gives me new ideas for looks.

Á: Can you describe your experience producing a look for the Met Gala?

MC: It was a very surreal experience to be able to create the first-ever illusion makeup look at the Met Gala. Working with open-minded celebrities like Ezra Miller is inspiring because they trust me fully and allow me full creative freedom. The concept started with a phone call with Ezra to discuss his vision and the next thing I knew I was in New York starting at 4AM the morning of the event. The day was long and chaotic, but it was such a special memory that will stick with me forever.

You can find more of Mimi’s work here and here.