Beauty

A Celebration of Monolid Makeup

Bold, bright, and the opposite of boring.

Asian makeup artists and beauty influencers reflect on their monolids and share their favorite eye looks and makeup products.

I don’t know when I first started thinking bigger eyes were better, but it felt like a fact of life—like knowing Disneyland was a happy place, and Mary-Kate was the sporty twin. It was my eye shape, after all, that instantly separated me from most of my peers, and for that reason alone, I resented them. My nose may have been flatter and my hair a rougher texture, but my eyes—dark brown and almond-shaped without any visible crease—made me distinctly, unmistakably Asian. As a child who wanted nothing more than to assimilate, they felt like an annoying roadblock. My otherness only felt more pronounced in high school, when the makeup tips I read in my treasured magazines never seemed to apply to me (see: the forever infuriating instruction, “blend in crease”—but what if you didn’t have a crease?!). When my friends and I traipsed to the beauty counter before prom, somehow they left looking sultry and glamorous, while I looked like I had just run into a door frame. Eyeliner smudged on my lids, mascara weighed down my already-straight lashes, and eyeshadow felt like a confusing secret I was not privy to. Makeup felt like a club I was invited to, then turned away at the door. I decided that the only thing my monolids were capable of withstanding was a swish of black liner, flicked slightly at the corners. Fine, but boring.

Ironically, it was leaving home that helped me finally appreciate my roots. In college, surrounded by the most diversity I had ever seen, I started feeling a deep appreciation for my own distinctly Chinese American upbringing. Slowly, my eyes became a source of pride instead of contention. In their crescent curves and edges that “kiss in the corners,” as children’s book author Joanna Ho describes, I saw my parents, who left their home and families behind in China to start a new life more than 20 years ago; I saw thousands of years of history, survival and resilience swirling in their brown pools. Around the same time, I started discovering monolid makeup gurus like @luciphyrr on Instagram, who made me realize just how versatile monolid makeup can be. These artists swipe neon hues across their lids with abandon—glitter liner flicked with the precision of a heart surgeon, holographic shimmer gleaming like frosted icicles. The works of art they create on their monolids can’t be recreated on eyes with a crease; only lids like ours exist like blank canvases, awaiting brushstrokes, flicks, and lines.

To continue celebrating the beauty of monolids, I’ve asked some of the industry’s most notable Asian makeup artists and influencers to share their personal reflections and favorite looks ahead. Read their words, jot down their product picks, and save their looks — bold, loud, and far from boring.

Who: Daniel Martin, makeup artist

“The beauty of having a monolid is the endless opportunities to be creative on a one-dimensional surface. Instead of trying to recreate conventional eye makeup looks of cut creasing and high brow arches, be adventurous with your eye makeup and recreate shapes and design as art with the space you’re given. Makeup in 2021 is celebratory, non-binary and the ultimate form of self expression!”

About the look: “I went the creative route with this look because I felt it was gender-friendly and different. I took inspiration from my shirt thats based off of a Keith Haring collaboration. This takes ‘life imitating art’ to another level.”

Who: David Yi, author of Pretty Boys and founder of Very Good Light and Good Light

“Growing up I was so proud of my almond eyes — my monolids that were so unique in their shape. My mother, a proud Korean woman, said monolids were en vogue in ’70s Korea. When she grew up, it was considered the standard of Korean beauty. And so I embraced my own — the elongated tips at the end, the beautiful way they deviated upwards. Today, I embrace my monolids and I hope they stay this way forever — a reminder of how my natural eyes are gorgeously, perfectly made!”

About the look: “I love this beautiful look to accentuate my natural almond eye shape and monolids. My skin has a natural golden undertone, so I like using warmer shades to blend in. Corals, reds, coppers, or clay are really great colors for Korean eyeshadows—they are beautiful shades, and really natural-looking. They make you stand out but still work with your skintone. This is my go-to look for a dinner gathering at night or date night—it's bold and forces people to give you a second glance. I love the radiance, the glow, and the powerful eyes—makes me want to step out and finally embrace myself after this pandemic.”

Who: Emily Cheng, makeup artist

“I haven't always embraced my monolids. I remember all throughout my teenage years, I wanted to have double lids and even considered getting surgery! I'm so glad I never did. This is why I think I have such a special relationship with eyeliner. I love eyeliner. It can transform your eyes in so many ways. While traditional crease contouring did not work for my eye shape, eyeliner allowed me to play and accentuate my eyes. It took quite a while to discover this, and when I did, my relationship with makeup completely changed. I've told this story before, but getting my makeup done at department store counters was always such a disaster! I truly believe that contributed to me going to makeup school in the first place. I just didn't believe that there was only one way to do makeup — it wasn't this simple recipe anyone could follow, because everyone has unique features.”

About the look: “Rather than trying to make my eyes look rounder or bigger, I've embraced and enhanced the almond shape and have really grown to love them. There are such different techniques when working with monolids, and I have such a fun time exploring the looks on myself and on fellow monolid clients. The classic look is my go-to. I always have this style of eye when I decide to wear makeup. I just love that flick and the way it accentuates my shape. The dramatic look is similar, but I'm playing with more purple and pink shades here.”

Who: Jenna Ushkowitz, actress

“It took a long time for me to embrace monolids. Growing up, I never saw makeup ads with Asian women in the media, and it was difficult to feel like I was being spoken to. As an adult in the industry, I also came across many artists that did not know how to properly do Asian eyebrows or eyeshadow 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’ve come to embrace my confidence in finding amazing makeup artists who know how to properly do an Asian eye, and also my own power in being able to do my own makeup and feel good walking out of the house.”

About the look: “I did this natural daytime look myself, and knowing I am using a brand like Joah that speaks to me is so empowering.”

Who: Jessica Carrie Lee, beauty vlogger

“I haven’t always liked my monolids — kids in elementary school would make fun of my eyes. My makeup took a journey, too. For a while I couldn’t figure out why my eye makeup didn’t look exactly right. Then, I discovered YouTube videos from AAPI beauty pioneers introducing the concept of monolids, and their tips helped me define my eye type. Through trial and error — and asking artists on shoots for tips! — I’ve learned to embrace my eye shape 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 flick to elongate the whole eye.”

Who: Mia Cho, CEO at LVL UP Management

“I immigrated here from South Korea at the age of nine, and until then, my eyes were never any issue. But after moving to the States, I’ve been called many names and bullied because I looked different. Although it has been a long journey, never once did I feel like I needed to change my eyes. I have always embraced my monolid, and still do. I feel it’s my best feature and fits my face very well.”

About the looks: “These are my everyday, go-to looks. I like to just put on makeup once and let it last all day—that way, it’s good for day and night. Depending on my mood and what I am wearing, I change my bottom eyeliner. On top, it’s always 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 on.”

Who: Sandy Lin, beauty influencer

“I didn’t always love my eyes. They made me feel like an outsider. There was a time I felt so insecure about them, I wouldn’t leave the house without makeup on. It took me a while to truly embrace them — and ironically, makeup is a big part of that journey. It was such a fun, creative outlet for me, but there were also times I felt so defeated because I couldn’t recreate the looks I saw on TV or in the 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’s in this little process of self-love that I learned self-acceptance. I’m way more confident wearing bold makeup looks, and in turn, it’s made me more comfortable with my eyes. Now I love the days when I can get away without putting any makeup on!”

About the look: “This look was created in part of my 7 deadly sin series and was inspired by the sin, pride. I knew I wanted to do something purple and bold, and I love how it turned out. In a way, its boldness came to represent the pride I have in my eyes and how I’ve embraced them.”