On Monolids And The Language Of Beauty

Photos by Ruo Bing Li

If I didn’t have a crease, did I still look real?

When I was in the second grade, I learned that I looked different from my classmates. In art class, Mrs. F, a bony brunette with green glasses, told us to turn to our partners so that we could draw each other’s portraits. “Look at the shape of their face. Is it circular or oval?” she asked.

I turned to the boy next to me, who was blond and freckled. He had a square face, I thought. I diligently tried to copy the straight lines of his cheeks. 

“Now let’s do the eyes,” Mrs. F said. We watched as she drew a sideways seed with a circle in the center. She raised her pencil high, punctuating the air. “One very important thing to remember! See the line over your partner’s eye? That’s called a crease. It’s important to have the crease or your person won’t look real.”

“But Crystal doesn’t have any lines!” my partner yelled.

My hand flew up to my eyes. I wondered if he was lying, if something was wrong with me. I wasn’t embarrassed yet—that would come later. In that moment, I was only confused. Mrs. F stuttered as she tried to reel back her words. Her cheeks splotched red, and I understood that this was an awkward situation, that indeed something was different about me. Even then, I was disappointed by her reaction. She was the adult, and yet she had no quick answer to this boy’s claim, which he hadn’t even raised his hand for. She had made a mistake, and yet I felt as if I were to blame. 

“Not everyone has a crease, that’s true,” Mrs. F said. 

My classmates, registering her discomfort, stared at me. “That’s because she’s Chinese,” a girl across the room said. 

I wanted to say that I was Korean.

I wanted to say nothing was wrong with me. 

But instead, I touched my eyes. If I didn’t have a crease, did I still look real? 

I became acutely aware of my otherness that day. As a seven-year-old, I knew I was Korean, but that had meant we ate different foods and spoke a different language at home. I hadn’t thought of my physical self as dissimilar from those around me. After that art lesson, I compared myself to the others in class. I watched brown-haired, hazel-eyed Ashley, who sat beside me and stole the lead from my mechanical pencils. Her skin was pinker and paler. My hair was shinier and slicker. And yes, she had creases over her eyes. How had I never spotted them before? 

I asked my parents whether they’d ever noticed that some people had lines over their eyes. They didn’t have them, I pointed out. My younger sister and I didn’t either. My parents laughed, and my father explained what the crease was called in Korean—ssangapeul. “Your face is beautiful as it is,” he said. “You don’t need to worry that you don’t have any.” 

Was I supposed to worry? I stared at myself in the mirror, examining the curve of my eyes and how my skin disappeared when I blinked, folding in. It seemed to me that when adults spoke of this crease, this ssangapeul, the understood sentiment was that to have one was better or more desired. This physical standard was not only reflected in my classmates’ faces, in my art teacher’s portraits, on TV, and in the movies, but in the way we used language to describe beauty as well. 

By the time I was a teen, I was an expert at scanning people’s faces, always in search of eyes like mine. I devoured glossy magazines, ever mindful of the language we used to talk about beauty. The sections on how to apply makeup intrigued me most precisely because their audience never included me. Swoop eyeshadow up to the creases. Blend along the natural line. Pick a lighter shade for the skin above the crease. I imagined what my face would look like with this presumed “natural line.” Would bullies stop pulling their eyes at me then? Would I be considered beautiful? Or at least, normal?   

Words have power, and especially in the realm of beauty, how we speak about ourselves is important. To have a crease was natural. To have a crease was to look real. You’re supposed to have a crease. Eyes with creases are just called eyes. Eyes without creases are given a name that sounds clinical, alien: monolid. 

So what happens when you’re surrounded by language that presumes a part of your face is unnatural? You search for ways to fix the problem. Many people with monolids experiment with double-sided eyelid tape and special glue to create temporary creases. This particular makeup brand advertises their product as “perfect for hooded, droopy, uneven, or mono-eyelids,” which again shows the language we prescribe to eyes like mine. Imperfect, undesirable. There are tons of products to “fix” monolids, many of them strange, suspicious-looking tools like this glasses-eyelash curler hybrid, which claims to create semi-permanent creases when used every day. I know plenty of people who have gotten plastic surgery for a more permanent fix as well. 

Growing up, I fluctuated between wanting to modify my looks and embracing them. My Korean-American friends and I pasted those slivers of double-sided tape onto our eyelids and blinked at each other. Were our eyes bigger and rounder? Were we prettier now? But for some reason, I never liked the sight of myself with those fake lines. Who was she, this girl with suddenly creased eyes? So forced, so strange.  

In 2012, I got my makeup done professionally for the first time. My best friend’s brother was getting married, and we were invited into the bride’s suite. The makeup artist offered to do our faces gratis. I hesitated. “Why are you nervous? I know how to do Asian makeup,” the woman said. “I never get to practice though. Come on, it’s free.” She wheedled, and I complied. With my face raised, I asked her how she’d do my eyes as she brushed my cheeks pink. “The trick is to draw a dark line where the crease is supposed to be. You’ll look great.” Supposed to be? The woman smiled, oblivious. 

Thankfully, the way we talk about and portray beauty in America has changed significantly in the last few years. The internet, especially, has provided a unique platform for those who are embracing and claiming their beauty. From YouTube tutorials on monolid makeup to #monolid self-love movements, it’s been exhilarating to see the ways we are expanding our definition of normal. In 2016, Broadly published an article about Asian makeup artists that are accentuating monolids rather than trying to westernize them with the creation of fake creases. Last year, Allure published “The Beauty of Monolids” about the personal experiences of five Asian beauty bloggers. BuzzFeed is a treasure trove of self-love, with articles like “22 Gorgeous Girls with Monolids” that my younger self would have cherished. Those words—beauty, gorgeous—may seem insignificant or even superficial, but to a young adult trying to understand their self-worth, it is transformative to see yourself represented and praised. More of these, I say to myself, as I open tab after tab. More, please. We need more visual representation of people with monolids in the media, but we also need to change the conversation around monolids as well.  

Funnily enough, a strange thing started happening to me a few years ago: a crease forms along my left eyelid whenever I’m tired or stressed. The first time I noticed, I held a hand up to the right side of my face. So this is what I would look like, I thought. I saw the appeal—larger eyes, seemingly brighter. But I had come to love my face as it was, and this felt like a betrayal. 

When I complained to a friend, she suggested using double-sided tape on my right eye. There’s no way to get rid of the left’s eyes new crease, so I might as well add one to the other, her reasoning goes. But I do not want that. It has taken me this long to understand that my monolids are normal, natural, desirable. I don’t want to let go of that now. 

I rub my left eye, willing myself to be less tired, less stressed, less old. It doesn’t always work. I look in the mirror again and laugh. My ssangapeul eye and my monolid eye. Maybe I’m lucky. I get to have them both. 

Crystal Hana Kim's novel If You Leave Me is out August 7, and available for pre-order here.

Screenshot via YouTube

The band shared details about their new St. Vincent-produced album that will drop "you into the world of catastrophe"

Sleater-Kinney just shared more information about their St. Vincent-produced album and dropped a new single.

Per Billboard, Sleater-Kinney revealed that their new album, which they've been teasing since early this year and will be their first since No Cities To Love from 2015, will be called The Center Won't Hold. It's due out on August 16 via Mom + Pop Records. "We're always mixing the personal and the political but on this record, despite obviously thinking so much about politics, we were really thinking about the person—ourselves or versions of ourselves or iterations of depression or loneliness—in the middle of the chaos," Carrie Brownstein said in a statement. Corin Tucker further noted that the new album will "[drop] you into the world of catastrophe that touches on the election."

Janet Weiss noted that the band will "explore a different sound palette" with this album, and pointed to St. Vincent as the reason behind it. She said that St. Vincent "has a lot of experience building her own music with keyboards and synthesizers so she could be our guide to help us make sense of this new landscape and still sound like us."

To satiate us until then, the band released a lyric video for new single, "The Future Is Here," which is very grungy. Bump it, below.

Sleater-Kinney - The Future Is Here (Official Lyric Video)


This is so satisfying!

Even Jon Snow knows just how unsatisfying the final season of Game of Thrones was, and he's ready to apologize. Well, a deepfake of him is at least. A heavily-edited version of Snow's speech from the fourth episode—just before the bodies of those lost in the Battle of Winterfell get burned—now features Snow apologizing for the conclusion of the show and lighting the script on fire.

"It's time for some apologies. I'm sorry we wasted your time," Snow begins. "And I know nothing made sense at the end. When the Starbucks cup is the smallest mistake, you know you fucked up! We take the blame. I'm sorry we wrote this in like six days or something," he adds, before signaling to his peers to light the script with torches and "just forget it forever." "Fuck Season 8," he says before the pages begin to crackle and burn.

If there were more lines left to alter, we would have loved to see Snow also tackle how messy Brienne of Tarth and Jaime Lannister's story line ended up, as well as Bran's kingship, Cersei's boring demise, and the water bottle appearance.

Watch the entire deepfake and try to heal the wounds left by HBO below.


Photo by Darren Craig

It premieres today, exclusively via NYLON

In LP's song "Shaken," the most recent single from her 2018 record Heart To Mouth, she tells the story of seeing her lover out with someone else—ouch. Today, exclusively on NYLON, she releases a cheeky animated music video that pokes fun at the song's heightened drama and perfectly demonstrates all the angst that comes with falling hard for someone.

"She looks at you like I used to/ And I'm just sitting in the corner sh-sh-shaken," LP sings, as the visual—with art by Maayan Priva—depicts the singer hanging out in a bar, watching the girl she likes meet up with another girl. Despite the situation's inherent drama, "Shaken" is less of a ballad and more of an upbeat bop. LP told us she loves the way "this little video captures some of the fun of the song, and its inherent comical anxiety." Sure, heartbreak isn't that funny, but our (sometimes) overly dramatic reaction to it kind of is.

"'Shaken' feels like a bit of a wild card on this record," LP says. "It's the closest I've come to writing a musical, which I hope to do one day." We heartily endorse this idea: Please, LP, give us the queer jukebox musical we crave.

Until that day comes, though, you can watch the music video for "Shaken," below.

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Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures.

This cameo has the Beyhive buzzing

I went to see Men In Black: International alone. Which would have been fine if it wasn't for the shock I received when I saw two specific characters on the screen. Unable to keep it to myself, I shared a curious look with the stranger next to me, who was obviously thinking the same thing as me. "Is that them...?" I whispered first. "I think… so," she replied. Then the two men in question started to dance, and we were both sure: "Yep, that's them."

It was Laurent and Larry Nicolas Bourgeois, better known as Les Twins. Fans of Beyoncé will recognize the duo as the talented brothers who often accompany her on tour and in music videos. In Men In Black: International, the two of them play shapeshifting entities—they're more like energy forces than aliens—who pursue Tessa Thompson's and Chris Hemsworth's characters throughout the duration of the film. The twins' ability to manipulate their bodies in ways that are graceful and otherworldly really helps sell them as extraterrestrials and is fun to watch.

So if Thompson in a suit or Hemsworth shirtless weren't enough motivation, here's another reason to go see it. If you look close, you can see them in the trailer below.


Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

"I am honored to share this bonding experience with my own daughter"

In a heart-warming Instagram photo, Serena Williams shares the history of hair braiding and the importance of the tradition. The tennis player shared a photo of herself braiding her daughter Olympia Ohanian's hair and spoke about how "honored" she was to be able to "add another generation" to the tradition of the practice.

The photo shows Williams attentively braiding her daughter's hair while Olympia smiles, obviously loving the experience. Williams noted that hair braiding was created by the Himba people in Namibia, Africa, and that "we have been braiding our hair for centuries." "In many African tribes braided hairstyles were a unique way to identify each tribe," she continued.

Williams pointed out that braiding is a bonding experience. "People would often take the time to socialize," she wrote. "It began with the elders braiding their children, then the children would watch and learn from them. The tradition of bonding was carried on for generations, and quickly made its way across the world."

Williams closed her post with a sweet message about her daughter, saying that she's "honored to share this bonding experience" with her.

See the post, below.