For Blanche Macdonald Makeup graduate Lyle Reimer, the infamous concept of the ‘selfie’ means so much more than a simple point and shoot portrait. Utterly enchanting, zany and full of wit, Lyle’s Instagram account @Lylexox features no duck faces, and no instances in which he ‘woke up like this’; it is rather a gallery of extravagant handcrafted beauty installations, visual sprees of the creative self. These works of app art have garnered him a following that boasts tens of thousands of avid fans, including iconic fashion Hair Stylist Eugene Souleiman, Fashionista.com, The Huffington Post, and not a few other big-league industry names.
“Vogue liked one of the Instagram images, and as of last night Edward Enninful, Fashion and Style Director at W Magazine, is liking pictures which I am super stoked about. There are people who I really look up to in the industry who are on board, which I think is very cool,” beams Lyle.
He also happens to be one of only seventeen people that Cher follows. Yes, THE Cher. Yet Lyle insists that it’s the ability to inspire and connect with people that drives him, and reading through the comments sections of his posts is enough to make your heart well with warmth. It’s hard to top the vivid spirit of the @Lylexox creations, yet the artist himself is one of the most lovely and engaging people you are likely to meet, and he carries over this shimmering passion for interaction to his day job as trainer with the Artistry & Development team of MAC Cosmetics.
“Recently, we started a thing called ‘Play Shop.’ At this time, it was the first ‘Play Shop’ for MAC within Canada and they asked if I would do an Instagram look for a room of attendees. After the makeup was done, I went behind the scenes, did my wig and put on all of my accessories, and came out. It was one of the pinnacle moments of my MAC career for sure because the artists were crying, and it was like a receiving line at a wedding. They came up to me to hold my hand and they were beside themselves saying ‘When we have a hard time getting up and getting ready in the morning we just think of you and what you do and get inspired.’ I wanted to break down and cry, it was so sweet and so touching.
You’re not going to run out of ideas because there’s this constant flow that takes place, and if you’re always open to that there’s always going to be stuff that just comes to you.
“You know at that moment, that what you’re doing has an impact on people beyond the makeup. I feel so often that makeup becomes very materialistic and very lah-di-dah, but when you have the ability to impact people and inspire their lives personally – that is what I can take home with me.”
Having worked his way up from a summer contract to part-time, and finally to his coveted position running core training for BC overseeing three locations (including the Pro Robson store where his journey began), Lyle has now been with MAC for nearly 15 years, and he couldn’t be happier.
“Honestly, I always wanted to be in that role. It was just a matter of timing. I love the aspect of teaching and of being a source of inspiration but I knew that I needed to get enough work under my belt to have a larger body of knowledge to share with a team. As much as you want to apply for those jobs right at the get-go, you can’t. It was one of those situations where I had to work and really hone things, and then move on from there.”
Though he grew up in the small Saskatchewan town of Wymark (population under 200, no typo on the zeroes), the seeds of Lyle’s passion for makeup were planted early on with visits from his fabulous Aunt, a jet-setting Makeup Artist who would teach him how to do latex ageing with “Rogers maple syrup and kleenex”. He can recall also putting on elaborate lunchtime stage productions for his mother and an audience of stuffed animals, complete with fantasy makeup and full costume changes.
“Talk about things that are intrinsically you – no one told me to be like that. It was like that’s just Lyle and that’s how it is. My mom, thankfully, was so nurturing in that regard. She saw that and decided that she was going to embrace it, and let me run with it. I always knew that. I never felt like I had to not do my own thing.”
There was no question about it; I wanted to go to the best school. As soon as I walked into that space at Blanche Macdonald... it felt like coming home. It felt like this is where I belonged.
When it came time to sculpt this deep-seated passion, Lyle wasn’t about to go halfway with his education. He returned from a year’s jaunt teaching visual arts in Cuba, ready for big leaps and looking for advice on where to turn.
“When I was talking to a friend of mine she said ‘My dad works in the film industry, and the one school that has the most amazing reputation in terms of the industry standard is Blanche Macdonald.’ So I thought, ‘OK, then that’s where I’m going to go.’ There was no question about it; I wanted to go to the best school.
“As soon as I walked into my first Vancouver Makeup classes, I know it sounds super cheesy, but it felt like coming home. It felt like this is where I belonged. My relationship with Blanche was started on such a positive note right from the beginning that I have nothing but positive things to say.”
The immediate connection he felt within the halls of Blanche Macdonald carried through to the classrooms, where his ambition in knowledge was met with a wealth of industry experience to indulge in.
“My favourite memory isn’t necessarily a moment, but the teachers there. I told them that I wanted them to be hard on me, to be critical, to really critique and not just be like ‘oh that’s pretty, that’s good and leave it at that.’ If it needs to be corrected, or if it needs to be whatever I want that feedback. They always came through.”
This head-first approach to learning saw Lyle excelling in every class, but he quickly learned that being great at something doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the right fit.
“I thought that I was going to go into film. I wanted to do crazy prosthetic masks and Star Trek-like things. I was really drawn to this because, in my mind it was so much more about the artistry and creating things that were beyond the human face. I did a short film while I was at Blanche Macdonald, and another after I graduated; it was a great experience, but at the end of that it was like ‘and that’s a wrap for me’. It takes a very special kind of person to work in the film industry because you always hear of how difficult it is with a personal life. My partner and I, we’ve been together for fifteen years and I would not want to sacrifice that, so I was taken down a different path.
Cue the collective hurrah of Lyle’s fan base at this change of the winds. Yet his original intrigue at pushing the boundaries of makeup artistry past the confines of a face chart ultimately led him to the phenomenal pastime that has won the world over.
I feel so often that makeup becomes very materialistic and very lah-di-dah, but when you have the ability to impact people and inspire their lives personally – that is what I can take home with me.
“At MAC we had what we called a Five Day Makeup Challenge, and it was an initiative to get people to break out of their makeup habits and try out different looks for five days. So being a trainer, I needed to set an example and be a role model. I thought ‘well if I’m going to do it, then I’m going to DO it. I’m just going to go all out.’ I did four of the five days, and I went into the store and they said, ‘Lyle you can’t stop now – you need to make it into a FIFTY five day challenge. We LOVE it, so don’t stop.’ So I just kept going. Now I have a whole studio that’s designated just for @Lylexox. It’s this thing that I can’t stop now. I love it.”
Needless to say, he’s not the only one.
“As much as I can, I respond and send comments. I take the ability to have that connection with people all around the world very seriously. Relationships to me are vital; I think we all need to feel that sense of community. As an artist you understand this connection. I now have these people who are doing paintings and portraits and sketches of me, of my face and I’m like ‘What? You live over in the Middle East and you’re drawing my face?’ I mean, how can you not be impacted by that?”
It was after Lyle’s work had been featured on Instagram’s official profile, seen by over fifty million followers worldwide, that @Lylexox kicked in to vogue status. The dominos just kept popping into place from there.
“There’s a stylist in New York, Rachel Gilman, who started telling her people about my creations. That’s when the first article came out with Fashionista.com, and then the Dailymail.co.uk. The most recent one was in the Huffington Post.
“It is so lovely and touching to have these total strangers support me and support what I’m doing that I just want to keep pushing what I’m doing to the rest of the world. I’m so honoured that they actually care about all of the crazy that’s going on in my head. I’ve no words.”
With now over a hundred jaw-droppingly inventive, and absurdly unique creations up on his Instagram page, questions regarding just how long the ‘crazy’ will keep on are not wholly out of place.
“People ask me if I’m afraid that I’m going to run out of ideas. NO! You’re not going to run out of ideas because there’s this constant flow that takes place, and if you’re always open to that there’s always going to be stuff that just comes to you.
“When we talk about inspiration, the key for me is that you should never censor what comes into your mind. You need to always be open to whatever comes in and just run with it, because as soon as you start censoring, ‘is this appropriate, or are people going to like it or not like it’, it really starts to take you off track. If you repress that, then you don’t have that really true vision. You have to be fully committed to what comes into your head at that moment. Things aren’t planned out. I might have a general image of this or that, but if it’s taking you in a direction in that look, you need to go with that and trust that intuition… that instinct, really. It’s like a muscle; the more you do it, the more you will feel it easing out.”
As Lyle’s intuition would have it, the odder and more unconventional the material to use in his spectacular makeovers, the better. Just off the top of his head (literally) there have been cabbage leaves, ketchup packets, biohazard bags and spray nozzles.
“If it’s garbage, awesome, because then it can be completely taken apart, repainted and reglued into something, and given new life.
“Now the girls at work, if they’re unpackaging makeup and it comes in an interesting box, they’re like ‘oh save it for Lyle – he’ll turn it into a headpiece,’” he laughs.
It’s an odd thing, he muses, to meet with such a compelling pursuit, such an exalting necessity after having successfully worked in the industry for over a decade. Yet Lyle insists that it’s in clearing the way, rather than self-manufacturing that brings about these powerful discoveries of passion.
“It takes a long time, maybe a lifetime to get to what is the essence of you, but you have to be willing to strip away everything else and just focus on that essence. For so long my life was based on opinions and on what other people thought of me,” continues Lyle. “Growing up gay in a small town was very, very hard. It was insanely challenging to rise above that and feel that you had worth when everyone else was was telling you that you weren’t worth anything. You constantly have this sense of doubt as an artist, but that’s only from all of those years of insecure garbage talk. When you get rid of that, clean that out of your life, and just focus on who you are as an artist and tap into that, everything else becomes easy.”
Now I have a whole studio that's designated just for @Lylexox. I can't stop now. I love it. I could do this all day long and I would be ecstatic.
For the next generation looking to push past their set of personal obstacles and pursue their own strange and wonderful inner Makeup Artist, Lyle has advice you’d be wise to heed.
“Savour every minute of education. When you’re in your Makeup classes utilize the teachers’ wisdom to the nth degree. If this is really what you want to do, be very demanding of the need for feedback and corrective criticism. Be constantly open to it because really the only way to grow is to be open to hearing people’s critique and feedback, especially if it’s coming from someone in the arena of Blanche. You have such seasoned professionals teaching you, so soak up every drop and savour every minute because when it’s done, you’re into the world. Be really clear within yourself: this is my mission, this is what I’m going to do. And just soak it all up. Soak up every second of it.”
With a retrospective book in the works and a loving, well-loved position in the MAC Cosmetics family, Lyle is proof that passion can take you to your perfect nine-to-five, and beyond your wildest expectations.
“You know when you hear interviews and people say ‘oh I’m successful because I’m only doing what I love’? I always felt that that was cheesy and cliche to say, until I actually stepped back and looked at what I am doing now with @Lylexox. I could do just that all day long, and I would be ecstatic. It’s so weird to be tapping into it at such a later point in life, but I have now, and I’m going to run with it, and I’m not going to stop.”