In an era where all things digital continue to rapidly accelerate on a global scale, it is without a doubt that viewers begin to question the authenticity of reality, or perhaps question whether anything, really, is real at all. Most of us might agree that what is real is defined by things that exist, while those that do not are deemed unreal. While our internal reflections are what lead us to define our reality, the boundless growth of media today may challenge viewers to question the difference between what is real and unreal.
Interview taken from METAL Magazine issue 43. Adapted for the online version. Order your copy here.
Taking the Internet by storm is Seoul-born artist Me Love Me A Lot, the genius behind the wavy- brow trend who creates unique and outlandishly innovative imagery across her social media. Fusing playful elements with the grotesque, MLMA uses her body as the centerpiece for her art, which challenges today’s beauty standards and the authenticity of reality. From creating surreal forms of herself to the frequent use of avatars, MLMA is the make-up mastermind disrupting social norms in the digital world by defining her own reality. After all, is anything really real or fake?
As you were born in Seoul, do you believe your work would have gained as much exposure if you had decided to stay in Korea? And, has there been a shift in your confidence and self-identity since the move?
I think when I was in Korea, there was a point where I realized it wasn’t really going to work for me because the society, trends and culture weren’t ready for what I was trying to put out. I thought, okay, these people aren’t going to listen, they probably think I’m just this scary person. So, I moved to the next step, since I thought that Western Americans were more open and respectful towards different kinds of art. This is what made me decide that it was really time to move. I think my confidence and self-identity have always been the same, but, I do feel obviously more comfortable and confident because I see more people supporting me and appreciating what I do.
Looking at your presence and work as a whole, your own body is mainly used as the canvas across your imagery in order to portray your message, which can sometimes suggest a distortion of beauty standards. How do you think the use of filters, for example, can promote awareness and change in beauty standards for generations to come?
I think it gives people freedom of expression. Obviously, when using filters, it isn’t really the real you, but it allows you to look however you want; you could be anything. There shouldn’t be any rules or restrictions to face filters (laughs). It makes things more fun; you know?
Yes! Well, on that note, why have you chosen your own body to be the canvas showcasing your work?
I guess I was really broke (laughs), and I couldn’t hire any models, so I decided to just do it to myself because I’m free!
So, do you think that you’ll start working with others, eventually, or do you plan on still using yourself as a model for your work?
I started doing makeup on my face because it was just so fun and that really got me thinking, I want to have a purpose with this make-up and I don’t just want to show a new makeup look to viewers. I want to do something that can be in my music videos or, like, a song cover or look book. So, I really want there to be purpose behind my work, like going to a specific show to do a specific look for other people.
As we know, you are celebrated as the ‘digital queen’ and ‘the brains behind the viral wavy eyebrows.’ Did you ever think your work would go viral? Is this something you were hoping to achieve when you began publishing your art?
Oh, yeah! That did gain a lot of attention; I really didn’t think it was going to go international. You know, when I was shooting this, I was just hanging around and didn’t think it was something serious. My dreams are huge, so I don’t even feel like I’m close to achieving any just yet. I guess I’m on the way, but for now I’m just having fun and enjoying myself.
I wanted to touch base on other artists that have a strong digital presence and have a similar audience to yours. For example, Fecal Matter, a boundary-breaking duo on social media who are considered as “activist aliens proposing a new normal.” Given your subversive content, would you consider yourself to be challenging codes of normality as well? And, do you see yourself being classified alongside Fecal Matter and other artists alike?
I don’t really want to put myself into a category. I want to be that person known to be always doing something new with art, and I just want people to not be afraid of being themselves. I’m not afraid of being myself. I’m just very active with my thoughts, which is really who I am. I feel like I’m really not meant to be in a category.
As social media continues to rise, Instagram is a key platform for showcasing your art. How do you think influencers, artists and companies at large can sustain a realistic approach to consumers in order to maintain authenticity in the digital and physical world?
I think that nothing is real or fake; I don’t think there are any boundaries. I think anything could be real if you make it real, you know what I mean? Anything could be possible. Yeah, so, I feel like content is real when you are making an impact online and offline. If you are just putting work out there for no reason, no one will really find it inspiring, which makes it less real, I guess?
Would you consider the digital world to be a ‘getaway’ from reality?
Of course! I think people try to be some sort of different character than who they really are. When I’ve met a bunch of people, it’s happened that I got a bunch of questions asking me: “Is your work a way of playing some sort of character? Is this some sort of thing that you do to get attention?” I’m really just being me, and I think people should be real about who they are. There are so many different types of people; myself, I’m such a weirdo! It can happen that people say, “She’s not real, she’s fake and making this character up on social media,” but that isn’t the case for me.
Your creations often take reality for a ride. How do you think your persona keeps a balance between beauty and the grotesque, or reality and surrealism? Do you ever think that your viewers believe that your work may not be true to who you are?
I mean, honestly, I don’t really care about what other people think about me or about what I do, because there will always be opinions, which I don’t have to listen to, you know? I’ve never listened to anybody. I mean, I wasn’t even listening to my mom because I always felt that what I was doing was what I liked, which was my happiness. This is what makes everything feel better.
What is your take on body modification? Do you believe individuals set realistic limitations for themselves when modifying their bodies?
Some people like to have lots of piercings or tattoos on their face, right? I think it’s a good thing for people to have their own style because it makes things so much fun. Like, plastic surgery, being a certain weight, or cutting your hair, or changing your body form, anything is okay if you like it. For me, I just like to modify using make-up because I’d get sick of having the same look all the time. I like to change myself all the time. Everyone should do whatever they want!
Have you always had an interest in working with make-up?
I was always into make-up because I liked to change my form; I’m really into sci-fi movie make- up and I also watched a lot of YouTube tutorials. So, I used to just have fun in my house and would look in the mirror and be like “Ah, this is kind of cool!” So yeah, I spent a lot of time doing that on my own. At some point, I realized that I should actually put this out on social media. Basically, everything I do on social media now are things that I used to do when I spent time by myself.
I wanted to touch base on virtual reality. Donna Haraway once wrote, “The boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion.” What is your opinion on virtual influencers like Lil Miquela and technologies like AI? Do you believe that it can carve a path to redefine beauty or skew an individual’s perspective on reality and what is tangible?
Okay, well, I think Lil Miquela is a 3D persona that people made up. I’m assuming that there has been a personality that’s been associated based on what this character looks like online. I feel like Sophia, that AI robot, is her own creature, which I feel is a little more real than characters like Lil Miquela because she really is this completely made up character.
I find it all super interesting; I actually made my own anime character! On earth, we really only see one body form which is humans. So, if I could, I would be like an octopus alien. I want to look like that, but I can’t, so it’s cool to make up this kind of fantasy-like characters.
Do you think filters will always be relevant? 
Yeah! I really think it will be more useful in the future, actually. I think it makes things easier for some people. For example, if someone doesn’t want to put on makeup one day, they can just use a simple filter.
From adorning your face with abstract scribbles to taking the Internet by storm with the iconic wavy-brow, how do you think beauty standards have evolved since the emergence of your work? Do you think you’ve made a difference in how people define beauty and how they stay true to themselves?
I wouldn’t say I made it happen, but I think I was definitely part of this evolution. I think I just have a big number on social media now, so more people are seeing my unique work. It’s a good thing and such an amazing feeling. I feel like I’m making an impact in Asian culture too! I never thought I would get accepted as much as I am; I’m very surprised, I didn’t have many friends because people couldn’t understand me and would think, “What is she talking about? What the hell is she doing?” But, now, it’s working pretty well for me.
As your number of followers continues to grow, how do you manage to stay grounded and keep the unapologetic love and confidence you have for yourself? Do you ever feel like you are losing touch with reality because of your success?
I think it’s about balance. It’s about actually having fun with what you’re doing and not just putting things out there to say you are. I’m really just being myself.
Does defining what is real today challenge you at all? What is your definition of reality? Or, the first thing that comes to mind?
I really don’t think anything is real (laughs). I mean, when you think of it, everything is made up. Like, I’m sitting on my chair right now that someone made, I’m in my studio right now that someone made, and am using this phone to talk to you that someone made. Before all of this existed, what was really out there? Nothing! So, nothing is really real. Whatever we are seeing or using isn’t real. The only thing that’s real is when you’re in the mountains, for example, and are looking at the trees; these things were not man made, which is what makes them very real. Nature is real and I think people should go out there. I’m in nature right now; my studio is literally in the middle of nowhere. 
As your work has gained so much exposure, do you hope viewers perceive your art in a certain way? Do you have a specific message you’d like to put out?
I never necessarily thought about putting a certain message out there, but I really want my supporters to be themselves, to not be afraid to be different, to not be afraid to be crazy, or to not be afraid to stick to their own plan. Do whatever you want. I really want my fans to do that because that’s what I did and I feel great about it. 
What has your biggest challenge been in your career to date?
Biggest challenge? Oh, definitely music! I’ve been working on a new music video for a song I made a while ago. I actually found this amazing animator who helped me make this incredible animation for the video, but it took such a long time to get it all together. It really was a challenge for me; I was so stressed! Recently, I heard lots of people say that I’m just an Instagrammer and that really challenged me, honestly. I wanted to put this video out to also show, look! I’m good! (Laughs.) I’m not just an Instagrammer. I’m more than that! I’m honestly a good artist! I want people to watch something I made, even if it took me half a year! I want them to feel what I feel.
Do you have any major projects in the pipeline that you can share with us for 2020?
This year, I’m really aiming to drop my album. I’m in the studio with my producer, who also produces for Dua Lipa and Charli XCX; he’s worked in the pop industry a lot. We’ve been staying in this mountain house, which is where my studio is; we’ve made a lot of songs together recently. I’m going to be dropping a lot of singles too! This year is going to be a lot of fun for me; I’ll be putting another form of my art on YouTube and in real life. Now, I’m really going to be real! Yeah, I’m going to be super real! I really believe that people are going to see me everywhere. I’m going to make that happen.