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Lhouraii Li is the otherworldly artist spreading joy with her nail designs

The unique creative talks press on nails, webbed-elf ears and turning her skin permanently blue

The Dazed Beauty Community is our ever-expanding encyclopedia of creatives and emerging talent from across the world who are redefining the way we think about beauty. From supermodels to digital artists to makeup prodigies transforming themselves in their bedrooms, these are the beauty influencers of tomorrow who embody everything Dazed Beauty is about. Discover them here.

Contrary to reports, her “Alien Freak” Instagram bio, and the otherworldly antennae affixed to her brilliant blue forehead in certain looks, Lhouraii Li says her make-up isn’t inspired by aliens. “But I do enjoy pretending I’m a space pirate haha – I don’t purposefully look alien, but I don’t mind it either,” the nail artist explains. It’s an easy conclusion to jump to, given her skin tone (which she wants to make permanent), the webbed, elfin ears poking through her long wavy lilac wig, and her otherworldly make-up. Pink eyebrows above a vivid swoop of eyeshadow, thick graphic black eyeliner and a thick strip of false eyelashes, purple contour and glitter patterns embellishing her cheeks and chin, with a strong, complementary-toned lip. But the pièce de résistance are the press-on nails – delightfully fake, long and pointy, dotted with as many charms and cute cartoons that will fit – that she makes herself and sells on Etsy

“I consider my make-up Gyaru but with blue skin,” Li explains, referencing a lesser-known Japanese fashion subculture with very distinctive beauty looks that veer from princess to valley girl to 90s R&B popstar according to the internet. “Gyaru are fabulously tacky,” she says, right down to their nails, which spurred her into action. Living in a houseboat (painted in intergalactic hues to match her skin), Li may spend hours doing her expressive make-up but barely anyone sees it in real life. She rarely goes out due to her agoraphobia and she told Metro that having blue skin helps her cope and feel more like herself. Li’s posted pics and nail sets are, therefore, a portal into her pastel-pigmented, fantastical world. So if not extraterrestrial life, then what is the nail artist trying to communicate with her beauty looks? “Absolutely nothing. At least intentionally, anyway. I just dress how I feel comfortable and (put on) what makes me happy.” 

Here, Li breaks down the rainbow of elements, inspirations, and characters behind her extraordinary aesthetic.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and where you grew up?

Lhouraii Li: Where I’m from, everyone is expected to blend in. You’re living correctly if you don’t stand out. So, obviously, I had a lot of hate for being different. I started dressing differently while I still lived there and people would shout abuse and throw things at me. I had absolutely no friends and I got into a lot of very bad situations. Eventually, I ventured out and found people I liked – although I’ve still not been able to make friends (especially in the last four or so years of severe agoraphobia). But I did meet my current partner at a gothic night club when I was 16.

What’s your earliest beauty related memory? 

Lhouraii Li: The earliest thing I remember doing with make-up is just playing around with glitter.

What is it you do and why do you do it? 

Lhouraii Li: I’m a nail artist. I make press-on nails however people want them, usually with lots of glitter and 3D decoration using acrylic and gel. Pretty much anything that will fit on them – charms, pendants, crystals... It’s a hobby but I sell them because I love how happy they make people and, of course, because I need money to survive.

How did you get into it? 

Lhouraii Li: Whenever I saw women in films and TV shows who were portrayed as ‘cheap tarts’ (with stereotypically long, bright nails, big cheap jewellery, leopard print, big hair etc) I would just think they had the best fashion sense – it just looked so much fun! I saw Gyaru girls wearing such beautifully tacky nails and that’s why I decided to learn how to make them for myself.  I learned through trial and error and watching nail courses on YouTube.

Who or what inspires you? 

Lhouraii Li: Inspiration is everywhere. Plants, animals, fantasy films, books, dreams… 

Can you talk us through some of your favourite make-up looks?

Lhouraii Li: I don’t really have a favourite, but the response I get now is usually very positive with a sprinkle of ‘Smurf’ comments. I (usually) paint my skin blue with two layers of Diamond FX Light Azure face paint. Then I brush on purple eyeshadow as contour and then move on to my eyes. I add rhinestones to my lower eyelashes with eyelash glue and I always paint my hands last. Those alien ears (in a few looks) were cheap, green costume ones – I repainted them to be the colour I wanted.

And your hair?

Lhouraii Li: I rarely style my own hair because it’s so long (knee length), my natural hair is very dark but I bleach it purple. I usually wear wigs (just easier) and I don’t own many but most are purple. I style them with hot water to shape the waves and I love ‘princessy’ hairstyles like Princess Zelda. I’ve never managed to pull off those two long bundles of hair at the front when I’ve tried that style.

You have to replace your body with that of an animal or a mythological creature. What do you go for and why?

Lhouraii Li: I’d choose the type of mermaid that has legs when on land and a tail when swimming because that would be an advancement. 

It's 30 years from now. You stumble home at 3 am and catch your reflection in the fridge door. What do you look like? 

Lhouraii Li: I’d like to think my face will have kind wrinkles and I hope I would have found a way to be blue permanently too. Maybe I’ll be bald, I’d love to be bald but I also love having knee-length hair... maybe I’ll buy a bald cap!

What’s been your career highlight so far?

Lhouraii Li: When I see photos of people wearing nails I made and smiling. I just still can’t really comprehend how, even though I’m mostly alone each day in real life, that these people are wearing nails I made and it brought them joy. It’s kind of like I’m not trapped in the boat as much when I see that.

Can you describe your beauty aesthetic in three words?

Lhouraii Li: Creative, space, and pirate.

It’s the sixth day and you are creating humans. They can look however you want them to. What do they look like and why?

Lhouraii Li: I wouldn’t change them because I’d have no right to. I’d never force my differences on others but I would perhaps add in a few blue people (I wouldn’t really).

What beauty, skin and hair products are you using the most right now?

Lhouraii Li: My boyfriend actually buys my make-up from markets since I can’t go out. The cheapest glitter he can find, I’m not sure if it’s branded. I don’t use nail glue, I use nail stickers as I treat my nails as jewellery. They go on at the same time and come off when the rest of the jewellery does. I’m currently trying to find new skincare products because the ones I used are no longer cruelty-free. But I use a special spray every morning/night which I make each full moon (rose water and glycerin). I’m a fan of The Ordinary products, they’re affordable and effective so I use Niacinamide, various oils and a few other products. I also love Korean skincare products, like the Pyunkang Yul toner but I can’t repurchase it because it’s applying to sell in China (which has mandatory animal testing). 

Which fictional character do you most relate to and why?

Lhouraii Li: Maybe Data from Star Trek. He’s just very unable to connect with people and constantly confused by human emotions and behaviour. I remember watching Star Trek with my boyfriend for the first time and he would laugh and say ‘that’s you’ whenever Data did something.

You encounter a hostile alien race and sound is their only mechanism for communication. What would you play to them to inspire them to spare you and the rest of the human race?

Lhouraii Li: Probably some meditation music in hopes it calms them. One of those eight-hour-long videos of specific frequencies with chimes and other calming noises in them on YouTube that people put on to go to sleep. 

Who is your favourite beauty icon of all time and why? 

Lhouraii Li: I love how the Zora in The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time video game look. I’ve always admired anyone I saw with blue skin in films and video games, mostly them and Diva from Fifth Element. I would play that game and just swim around staring at the various Zora people. They were so beautiful to me because they were blue. The same with Diva – I would sometimes just skip the DVD to her scene and stare at her for the same reason. 

What does beauty mean to you?

Lhouraii Li: Beauty is overrated and humans have clung to it throughout our whole history. Various beauty standards have resulted in so many lives ruined, or even ended. Beauty should be something people explore for fun and enjoyment but society definitely puts too much emphasis on it and uses it to define people. I’m most definitely against that.

When do you feel most beautiful?

Lhouraii Li: Honestly, I’ve never felt beautiful in my life. But the closest I get is when I’m blue because I feel the most comfortable like that.

Are you optimistic about the future? Why?

Lhouraii Li: I am because if I wasn’t I wouldn’t get through each day. There are many things to look forward to so I focus on those and try my best not to worry because ‘worrying is just suffering twice’ – a quote from Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

What is the future of beauty?

Lhouraii Li: Hopefully not held with as much importance as the history of beauty.