Mimi Choi has achieved the kind of #celebritystatus that needs no introduction. If you haven’t read about this Professional Makeup Artist and Blanche Macdonald Graduate-turned-Instructor on BuzzFeed or Huffington Post, chances are you’ve likely seen the incredible pictures of her optical makeup illusions splashed all over the websites of Allure, Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue, Business Insider, Yahoo, PopSugar, and countless other media outlets. Or perhaps you’ve seen her looks on a clip posted to Youtube. Most probably, you recognize her from her Instagram feed: @mimles. She posts a new, mind-blowing makeup creation almost every day, and she’s amassed over 515,000 followers because of it.
But just like her illusory makeup, Mimi is multi-faceted and full of depth. She’s more than only her talent. She’s an extraordinary presence: warm and bright. She radiates the kind of internal star-power that causes students to become rapt with attention, fans to fall more deeply in love with her, and clients to instantly trust her with their special day, on the set of a photo shoot, or walking down the wedding aisle.
People of all ages and affiliations smile at her when she enters a room – even before she’s recognized! And what makes her so special as a Global Makeup Artistry Program instructor is that she combines a longstanding passion for teaching with an approach to art that is articulate, encouraging, and all-encompassing.
I never lose sight of what makes me the happiest - which is creating art spontaneously, at home, in the middle of the night! It really doesn't feel like work because I love what I do so much.
She comes by her knack for mentoring bright young students honestly. Before she was a Professional Makeup Artist, Mimi was orbiting a very different career path: She taught at a Montessori preschool, where she practiced a different kind of art.
“I did a lot of crafts,” she explains, “and I’d post pictures of them on Instagram. That was one of my favorite areas of teaching. A lot of parents enrolled their children in my classes because they saw these crafts I’d do. I’d turn toilet paper rolls into flowers, pencil shavings into dresses; I’d flip a child’s handprint upside down to make a Santa Claus beard they could decorate. That was my way of expressing creativity. People originally followed me on Instagram for that.”
But the face she wore to her classroom was not the face she wore by choice. It was as if she lived a double life. “If I saw parents or children on my days off,” she says, “they would be like, ‘Teacher Mimi looks like that? She wears lashes? Eyeliner? Funky eyeshadow?’” She widens her eyes like a scandalized mother. “I decided I didn’t want to teach for the rest of my life. I love children, but part of me had to be suppressed every time I went to school. I didn’t like how I had to be a different person on the weekends than I was on the weekdays. I wanted some unity.”
So she took a leap of faith—and landed at the Blanche Macdonald Centre. “I remember talking to my mom and saying, ‘I don’t know what to do. All I know is I’m not happy,’” Mimi recalls. “My mom said, ‘I can tell you’re burnt out. When you’re stressed, you escape into art.’ So she asked, ‘Why don’t you explore different options? It’s not too late to learn something new.’ Because she suggested that, I was brave enough to do it.”
Not one to waste time, she toured the City Square campus, talked to one of Blanche Macdonald’s Admissions Directors, and sat in on some classes. It was an eye-opening experience. “My first day in the Global Makeup Artistry Program, I already knew it was the right place for me,” she says. “Every teacher had something new to offer and a different style I could learn from.”
Fast-forward to today, and the exceptional student has become the exceptional teacher. In addition to her faculty position at Blanche Macdonald, Mimi has been a consultant, a collaborator and a guest speaker for several established brands, conferences, and media events. From collaborations with all of our favourite mega beauty brands like MAC Cosmetics, Sephora and MAKE UP FOR EVER, to projects with major global brands like Capitol Records and Samsung, as well an on-air shout out during ABC’s The Chew, Mimi’s influence has permeated beyond the world of beauty. She has also been flown around the world to teach makeup masterclasses with Kryolan, and even present her illusory makeup in person on the International Makeup Trade Show (IMATS) stage in places like LA, Vancouver, and New York. But despite the rise in popularity of her specific brand of makeup oddity, Mimi insists that she would be creating the same art even if it hadn’t taken her to the global heights it already has.
“No matter how much recognition or job opportunities my work brings me, I never lose sight of what makes me the happiest – which is creating art spontaneously, at home, in the middle of the night! It really doesn’t feel like work because I love what I do so much.”
Let’s be clear: Mimi doesn’t want you to learn Makeup Artistry “by the book.” That’s not the kind of mentor she is. As a Blanche Macdonald instructor, she goes further than simply teaching you a technical, foundational knowledge; she’ll guide you in emphasizing your own individuality, letting your freak flag fly, and, ultimately, using what makes you unique as your guiding artistic compass. When you take a class with Mimi, you learn how to think artistically, lean in to your creativity, and to find inspiration in the everyday.
“Like…” Her eyes cast around. “…The color of your hair. The carpet. I love geometric shapes; things like sharp edges and lines, architecture. Lines on a cupboard that I want to draw on my eyes. The patterns and textures of her cardigan.” She points to a woman in an oversized knit. “I’m an observer. Ever since I was young I’ve liked details and people watching. Little things fascinate me. That’s why you can sometimes catch me zoning out, thinking about wherever I am. I see beauty in everything.”
Having the courage to try something new and to create from within will only make you a better artist and a happier individual.
You also get comfortable with “moving out of your comfort zone and constantly challenging yourself.” Mimi’s prodigious talent and technical skill brought her from daytime preschool teacher and aspiring artist to worldwide online viral sensation because she fostered her love of play and experimentation, and paired them with daily application. To put it simply: She practiced and practiced, and let her own curiosity take her where it wanted her to go.
“Instead of following trends,” Mimi explains, she encourages her students to “explore [their] own style and create [their] own trend. I know that it’s easier said than done, but having the courage to try something new and to create from within will only make you a better artist and a happier individual.”
Study with Mimi and you’ll find that your path to Professional Makeup Artistry is more than just a desk, a grade, and a diploma. It becomes an education in experience and immersion: a path that begins in in the classroom, and branches out into every aspect of your life – each full of color, shape, shadow, and possibility. With Mimi as your mentor, you’ll see things differently.
And what’s more? You’re going to succeed because of it. “Every student can do well if they’re determined and passionate,” Mimi insists. “If you want to succeed, don’t just dream about it, do it. Don’t say ‘maybe.’ You only have one life. That’s why, when I teach classes, I tell students that if you see something that really inspires you, don’t be afraid to create something out of it. And one of the hardest but most important things I’ve learned is to not compare yourself to others. The universe will provide you a path that is unique and good for you.”