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Aryuna Tardis mismatched contacts
courtesy of Instagram/@aryunatardis

Why are people wearing mismatched coloured contact lenses?


TextJessica Heron-Langton

We meet the pioneers leading the newest Instagram trend

Every day people are finding new ways to redefine and push our perceptions of beauty. Elf ears, horror-inspired prosthetics, make-up illusions, wavy brows, and in some cases, using Photoshop to distort faces beyond all recognition. But it isn’t always so dramatic. A new trend which flirts with this notion of subtle subversion has taken off on Instagram: mismatched eyes – an underground craze of changing the colour of only one eye, either through wearing a contact or through photoshop.

There’s digital artist MLMA, who when she's not making mindbending illusions or fashioning herself into monstrous forms, will wear a single blue or green contact len, contrasting her natural brown, to add an element of the otherworldly to her everyday look. But look closely, and you might find the contact containing a miniature photoshopped version of herself. Then there’s make-up artist Aryuna Tardis who often uses an icy blue coloured contact lens to make a small transgression on an otherwise traditionally beautiful, natural look.

While this particular effect is achieved through the use of contacts or photo manipulation, there are people who have risen to prominence as beauty icons on Instagram who were born with mismatched eyes – a condition known as heterochromia. There’s model and ex-felon Mekhi Lucky AKA Prison Bae, who was born with one blue eye and one brown, and Insta sensation Sarah McDaniel, who has one hazel coloured eye and one luminous blue one. Then there’s influencer Liza S, who is always playing around with her eye colour, so much so that fans still can’t tell what's real or not.

While having mismatched eyes may feel like a small protest against traditional beauty standards, it is one making a massive wave on social media. To find out more about the motivations and inspirations behind this new trend, we spoke to three individuals championing the style.

Sophia, designer, artist and founder of TEETH, Seoul

Wearing contacts for practical purposes, but also wanting to add some creative flair, Sophia joined the mismatched eyes craze when one of her coloured lenses tore. “I liked it when I looked in the mirror,” she says. “I think it is weird and beautiful to wear a different coloured lens on my oriental face. I don’t think there has to be a single standard of beauty. I like imperfect beauty.”  

An artist, model and founder of jewellery brand TEETH, as a child Sophia struggled with her self-image. Believing that she was not up to traditional beauty standards, the older she got, the more she started to appreciate that beauty is not a fixed thing. “I'm not tall and thin. I'm glad the standard of beauty seems to be gradually expanding,” she says. “Not everyone is perfect and elegant, and such a world would be uninteresting.”

Though the majority of her fans have praised Sophia for her daring take on beauty, she’s also been the victim of trolls.“Some people mock me. They ask, ‘Do you want to be white?’ Or ‘Do you want to be someone else?’” she says. “But I don’t want either. I just like imperfect beauty. I think my choice is part of me. I just choose what I like, what I consider beautiful.”

Aleece Wilson, model, Canada

Aleece believes beauty does not lie in perfection. With naturally brown eyes, the Toronto-based model wears one blue contact in a protest against conformity. “They make me a more unique than I already am. Being unique, being different, and standing out - that is beauty.”

While Aleece only started wearing one contact due to discomfort, she now appreciates the beauty in difference. “When I originally started wearing it, it was because one of my eyes wouldn't take the contact and then I thought ‘well one looks cooler anyway,’” she says. Aleece also took inspiration from her love of anime, where many characters have two different eye colours - “it is often a symbol of the character possessing a unique power,” she says.

Donnell Brathwaite, multi-media artist, Barbados

Using the app, procreate, Donnell draws contact lenses and pastes them on to his eyes. Not confined by traditional eye colours, the multi-media artist enjoys playing around unnatural hues to add an element of the otherworldly to his art. “I find it interesting to not only do the eyes blue but different colours like red to match the mood,” he says.

“I always thought it was beautiful and mesmerising,” Donnell says of heterochromia. But feigning it hasn’t come without its problems, with his photos sometimes starting huge debates in the comment section, accusing him of fakery. However, he sees it as a learning experience. “People do come with informative/factual statements,” he shares. “But most people like it!

Though different coloured eyes have become part of expressing his individual identity, Donnell takes comfort in it being embraced as a wider trend online. “It makes me so happy that people are now being drawn to this,” he says. “I think people have become more open-minded to the club kid community and people who are generally a bit different. Even though many see fashion as a cycle, I want everyone to get to the point where fashion is what you determine it to be and not what the person next to you decides.”

Aryuna Tardis, make-up artist, Russia

“I like to distort my appearance in photos,” Aryuna says, “I want to show the full spectrum of people’s uniqueness.” Growing up, Aryuna never really felt like she fit in. Coming from an Asian-Russian background and living in the European part of Russia she didn’t really look like anyone around her. The feeling of isolation this created for her led Aryuna to want to celebrate differences and beauty from all perspectives, which she says people are really thankful for. Although Aryuna mainly wears her mismatched contacts for photos, she says she loves the feeling of uniqueness they give her and would wear them forever, if she could. “I’m trying to show that beauty can be very different and that people should give themselves a chance to look at it from a new perspective. You should learn to accept yourself no matter how different you or others think you are.”  

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