Vancouver's extreme makeup artist Mimi Choi on the art of illusion

How the Instagram sensation created her unique style

Vancouverite Mimi Choi’s incredible illusion makeup ranges from the creepy to the cute, but it’s always absolutely jaw-dropping. What’s just as amazing is that she’s only been doing it for four years.

In 2013, Choi was a preschool Montessori teacher who enjoyed messing about with makeup. She was passionate enough about it to take a course at Blanche McDonald, but never thought about making it her profession. Then, that Halloween, she decided to experiment a little. “I tested out a cracked face design using just black and white eyeliners,” she says. “It was my first-ever creative makeup and, when I posted the image on

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Instagram, lots of people liked, reposted and shared it. That surprised me and motivated me to keep exploring and improving on this style even though it was uncommon at the time.”

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Choi doesn’t digitally alter her images and mostly uses everyday makeup brands. - Mimi Choi / Instagram

These days, Choi is a bona fide Internet sensation, with more than 450,000 Instagram followers – she says she uses IG as a way to document her progress as an artist. Her work has been featured around the world in publications like the Daily Mail and Allure magazine. Inspiration comes from everywhere – Salvador Dali’s work is a current theme. “It could be from the pattern of a shirt, a painting, a photograph or architecture,” she says.

“Sometimes I look at something in my surroundings and wonder if I could achieve the same effect with makeup.”

Choi doesn’t digitally alter her images and mostly uses everyday makeup from brands like Make Up For Ever and M.A.C. So what’s her secret?

“Continual practice, trial and error and hands-on experience,” she says. She never likes to repeat a look, preferring to create something new every time. “When I feel like creating, I look through my list of ideas and just execute the makeup in one go. I don’t plan extensively beforehand – I like to go with the flow,” she explains.

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“When I feel like creating, I look through my list of ideas and just execute the makeup in one go," Choi says. - Mimi Choi / Instagram

Her art has given her some incredible opportunities including travelling the world and collaborating with brands like the aforementioned Make Up For Ever, M.A.C and Samsung. There’s also the little matter of her celeb fans: Snoop Dogg got in touch to see if she could work on his Halloween makeup, and, though it didn’t happen, “it’s really cool to know that such a legendary musician follows my work,” she says.

So what does a famous illusion makeup artist look like in her downtime? “A good pair of mink lashes is a must. Other than that, I like to keep it simple with light mineral powder and a nice eyeliner,” she says. “I normally just wear lip balm on my lips because I hate it when my lipstick gets messy or smudged while I’m eating... And I am always eating.” Perhaps that might explain this year’s Halloween costume: A burger, eating a burger, in an oversized tee shirt decorated with... a burger.  

• You can follow Mimi at @mimles on Instagram.

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