I don’t know when I started to think bigger eyes were better, but it felt like a fact of life – like knowing Disneyland was a happy place and Mary-Kate was the athletic twin. It was the shape of my eyes, after all, that instantly separated me from most of my peers, and for that reason alone, I resented them. My nose might have been flatter and my hair a rougher texture, but my eyes – dark brown and almond-shaped with no visible creases – made me distinctly, unmistakably Asian. As a kid who wanted nothing more than to assimilate, they felt like a boring roadblock. My otherness only felt more pronounced in high school, when the makeup tips I read in my prized magazines never seemed to apply to me (see: the eternally infuriating instruction, “blend into the crease – but what if you didn’t have a fold?!). When my friends and I went to the beauty counter before the prom, they left looking sultry and glamorous, as I looked like I was bumping into a door frame. Eyeliner smudged my lids, mascara weighed down my already straight lashes, and eye shadow seemed like a confusing secret I wasn’t aware of. The makeup looked like a club I was invited to, then I turned away from the door. I decided the only thing my monolids were able to resist was a movement of black liner, lightly brushed at the corners. Good, but boring.
Ironically, it was leaving home that allowed me to finally appreciate my roots. In college, surrounded by the greatest diversity I had ever seen, I began to feel a deep appreciation for my own distinctively Chinese-American education. Slowly my eyes became a source of pride instead of contention. In their crescent curves and edges that “kiss at the corners”, as children’s book author Joanna Ho describes it, I saw my parents, who left their home and family in China to begin with. a new life more than 20 years ago; I have seen thousands of years of history, survival and resilience swirl in their brown pools. Around the same time, I started to discover monolid makeup gurus like @luciphyrr on Instagram, which made me realize just how versatile monolid makeup can be. These artists glide neon hues over their lids with abandon – a shimmering liner waved with the precision of a cardiac surgeon, holographic highlights glistening like frosty ice cubes. The works of art they create on their monolids cannot be recreated on narrowed eyes; only lids like ours exist as blank canvases, waiting for brushstrokes, films and lines.
To continue celebrating the beauty of monolids, I asked some of the industry’s most notable Asian makeup artists and influencers to share their personal thoughts and favorite looks. Read their words, write down their product choices, and save their appearance – bold, strong, and far from boring.
Who: Daniel Martinmakeup artist
“The beauty of having a monolid is in the endless possibilities to be creative on a one-dimensional surface. Instead of trying to recreate conventional eye makeup looks with cropped creases and high browbones, be adventurous with your eye makeup and recreate shapes and design like art with the space that is given to you. Make-up in 2021 is Celebration, non-binary and the ultimate form of self-expression! “
About the look: “I took the creative path with this look because I felt it was gender-appropriate and different. I was inspired by my shirt based on a Keith Haring collaboration. It takes “life imitating art” to another level. “
Who: David Yi, author of Beautiful boys and founder of Very good light and Good light
“Growing up I was so proud of my almond eyes – my monolids which were so unique in their form. My mother, a proud Korean woman, said that monolids were fashionable in Korea in the 70s. When she grew up, it was considered the standard of Korean beauty. And so I kissed mine – the spikes stretched out at the end, the lovely way they parted up. Today I kiss my monolids and hope they will stay that way forever – a reminder of how beautifully, perfectly made my natural eyes are! “
About the look: “I love this beautiful look to accentuate the natural shape of my almond eyes and my monolids. My skin has a natural golden undertone so I like to use warmer undertones to blend in. Corals, reds, coppers, or clay are great colors for Korean eye shadows – they are beautiful shades and look really natural. They make you stand out but still work with your skin tone. This is my go-to look for an evening dinner or a date – it’s bold and makes people give you a second look. I love the radiance, the glow and the powerful eyes – it makes me want to go out and finally kiss myself after this pandemic. “
Who: Emily chengmakeup artist
“I haven’t always embraced my monolids. I remember throughout my teenage years I wanted to have double eyelids and even considered having surgery! I’m so glad I never did. That’s why I think I have such a special relationship with eyeliner. I love eyeliner. It can transform your eyes in so many ways. While the traditional crease line didn’t work for my eye shape, eyeliner allowed me to play around and accentuate my eyes. It took a while to figure it out, and when I did, my relationship with makeup changed completely. I’ve told this story before, but putting on makeup at the counters of department stores was always such a disaster! I really believe it helped me go to makeup school in the first place. I just didn’t think there was only one way to apply makeup – it wasn’t this simple recipe that anyone could follow, as each has unique characteristics.
About the look: “Rather than trying to make my eyes look rounder or bigger, I adopted and improved upon the almond shape and really grew to love them. There are such different techniques when working with monolids, and I have so much fun exploring the looks on myself and other monolid clients. The classic look is my favorite. I always have this style of eye when I decide to do my makeup. I love this movie and the way it accentuates my shape. The dramatic look is similar, but I’m playing with more shades of purple and pink here. “
Who: Jenna ushkowitz, actress
“It took me a long time to adopt the monolids. Growing up, I never saw makeup ads with Asian women in the media, and it was hard to feel like I was being spoken to. As an adult in the industry, I also ran into a lot of artists who didn’t know how to do Asian eyebrows or eyeshadows correctly on me, and it was frustrating. I would just do my own makeup for press events to avoid the embarrassment of looking like a clown. Over time, I have become confident to find amazing makeup artists who know how to do an Asian eye well, and also my own power to do makeup and feel great when I walk out of the house. “
About the look: “I’ve done this natural daytime look myself, and knowing I’m using a brand like Joah that speaks to me is so empowering.”
Who: Jessica carrie lee, beauty vlogger
“I didn’t always like my monolids – elementary school kids made fun of my eyes. My makeup also took a trip. For a while, I couldn’t understand why my eye makeup didn’t look perfect. Then I discovered the YouTube videos of the AAPI beauty pioneers introducing the concept of monolids, and their advice helped me define my eye type. By trial and error – and ask the artists for advice on the set! – I learned to follow the shape of my eyes and overcome my insecurities.
About the look: “Today, I’m celebrating monolids with this triple liner look, with a liner accent to bring out the inner corner and a double swipe to lengthen the entire eye.”
Who: Mia cho, CEO of LVL UP Management
“I immigrated here from South Korea when I was nine, and until then my eyes were never a problem. But after moving to the United States, I was called multiple names and bullied for looking different. Although it has been a long journey, I never felt like I had to change my mind. I have always kissed my monolid and I still do. I think this is my best feature and I adapt very well to my face.
About the looks: “These are my everyday looks. I like to put on makeup just once and let it last all day – that way it’s good for day and night. Depending on my mood and what I’m wearing, I change my bottom eyeliner. Plus, it’s still my signature pink with yellow and of course, my eyeliner that I can’t live without. Makeup is like a way to express your creativity, as much as what you wear or your hair. Everything is complete with my face.
Who: Sandy Lin, beauty influencer
“I didn’t always like my eyes. They made me feel like a stranger. There was a time when I felt so worried about them, I wouldn’t leave the house without makeup. It took me a while to really kiss them – and ironically, makeup is a big part of this trip. It was such a fun and creative outlet for me, but there were also times when I felt so defeated because I couldn’t recreate the looks I saw on TV or in magazines. I kept practicing and trying different techniques, paying special attention to the way my eyes curve or flatten out, learning what can really accentuate them. And it was in this little self-esteem process that I learned to accept myself. I am much more confident wearing bold makeup, and in turn, it has made me more comfortable with my eyes. Now I love the days when I can get away without wearing makeup! “
About the look: “This look was created as part of my 7 Deadly Sins series and was inspired by sin, pride. I knew I wanted to do something purple and bold, and I love the result. In a way, her boldness has come to represent the pride I have in my eyes and the way I kissed them.