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In The Eyelid Of The Beholder

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In a lifetime full of harrowing uncertainty, it’s important to have certain constants to stay sane. For me, that means a steady supply of cold lime seltzer, pizza in bed on Wednesdays, and a little glass pot of black eyeliner— MAC Fluidline in Blacktrack. Every morning, I grab an angled brush and paint a thick line across my top lid, following the natural curve until the outer edge, where I flick it down to connect to the bottom. The end result is a dark, sharp angle, shaped like a bird’s wing that completely surrounds the eye. I’ve done this every day, without fail, for the past 10 years.

My fixation began in sixth grade, when my classmates first started wearing makeup to school. There was one look in particular that caught on quickly: Violet pencil liner, deep purple shadow on the lid, and a lilac shimmer along the crease and lower lash line. I thought it was the chicest thing, and tried to copy the look by sweeping the shadow along the “crease.” Having no idea what a crease was, I applied the eye shadow in a thin line along my lashes, over and over again, but it made no difference. The shadow still appeared, too shiny and too obvious, on my single eyelid.

Before blogs, makeup tips and tutorials did not cater to different eyelid shapes in the US. Even today, the issue of the eyelid is often swept aside by beauty bloggers like Michelle Phan, who like to remind people that Asian eyelids come in all different types. That may be true—my mom and sister were both born with double eyelids—but it’s unhelpful to us single-lidded girls, who must go it alone.

Over in Asia, the eyelid has been an issue for years. The world is familiar with South Korea’s status as a plastic surgery capital of the world, with nearly 650,000 procedures performed in 2011. And for those unwilling to pay big, there are countless beauty products, like double-sided eyelid tape, to create a temporary crease. Really, those are your options. Needless to say, I developed an difficult relationship with my poor, unloved lids.

It took years of trial and embarrassing error (iridescent navy shadow, summer 2005) to find my liner look. It may be no substitute for, you know, plastic surgery, but the heavy black liner draws attention to my eyes in a way that makes them pop. I never once received compliments on my eyes until I started wearing it.

I will admit: It can be exhausting to feel so tied to a product. Although I’ve always been against the cultural pressure towards plastic surgery, my eyeliner addiction was really saying the same thing—that single eyelids alone cannot be beautiful.

Then came Liu Wen. Finally, a stunning, high profile model with a single eyelid, who hadn’t had surgery to change it. I practically sobbed with joy when I saw her in Vogue for the first time. Soon they were everywhere: Hyoni Kang, Soo Joo Park, Xiao Wen Ju. Their influence was even felt overseas, where on a recent trip to Seoul, I found a growing support for natural beauty, driven by untouched idols like Park and Yuna Kim. Many people find the fashion industry to be an alienating one, one that promotes a single, almost unattainable idea of beauty. But in many ways, I’ve found that fashion has helped me embrace beauty that is so different from the norm. And so it was with my eyelids.

So, I’ve started shifting towards a more naked eye look. Not completely, I’m not there yet. But these days, I prefer to go out with a coat of DiorShow Iconic Mascara, Innisfree Brow Pencil, and a hint of Chanel Stylo Yeux Eyeliner smudged along the bottom lashes, as though I’ve slept in it. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I now find that I look prettiest with my freshly washed, makeup-free face. I think that’s called progress.

—Monica Kim

Photos via Style.com, Lurve Magazine, and CR Fashion Book .