Today we’d like to introduce you to Amina Lei.
Amina, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
As a 2nd generation Chinese American born and raised in the Bay Area, I am a product of community and cultural intersections. I picked up my her paintbrush at the age of three, guided by my first art teacher, my grandmother who once was a school teacher in China. My most favorite memory was my grandmother telling me stories as she drew them out. Watching stories come alive in front of me will serve as a strong foundation in my art career. My childhood represented the complexity and beauty of growing up in the diverse culture of the Bay Area. I was raised simultaneously in the crowded and historical streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown and the hardened neighborhoods of Richmond, CA. It was the revolutionary spirit of Oakland, Ca that shaped my social justice thinking and my passion for women empowerment. As a child, teenager and an adult this always fueled my revolution as a woman, the ability to tell a story.
With an adventurous spirit, I moved out of the Bay Area and found my humble beginnings of my art career in New York. As a self-taught artist and with brushes under my tool belt, I quickly found success as a makeup artist and eventually became a National Makeup artist for Dior. Traveling across the nation, I taught makeup masterclasses and hosted beauty workshops. I always integrated my painting techniques and storytelling into my presentations. Through this, I connected with women from diverse communities. A woman’s face is a natural extension of my art canvas, as much of my paintings reflect the strength and light of women. In addition to traveling for Dior, I contributed my artistry to New York Fashion Week, editorial shoots and film.
While meeting sales goals in the beauty retail industry provided great learning experiences, I was ready to expand my artistry beyond makeup and connect deeper with the community. I saw a need for genuine connection in the workplace and innovative concepts for events in the beauty retail stores as sales were skyrocketing from online shopping. I realize the importance of bringing a different element than just meeting sales goals. Today customers demand authentic communication with personalized service and employees want their work to be meaningful. Using my experience as a National Makeup Artist and my love for painting and storytelling, I created a business of providing live art events and animation on the sales floor in various retailers and specialty stores. My business works with store and brand executives to discuss current trends, product launches, brand activations and how we can integrate live art and build genuine connections with customers. My business also offers corporate team building workshops.
Artistry became more than creating a beautiful face or canvas. It is a way to honor a creative part in all of us that can manifest new realities while instilling self-confidence and self-love. Art served a spiritual purpose. Following the footsteps of my grandmother, I also teach art at the Muhammad University of Islam. Building on the great foundation that my grandmother provided for me, I teach the power of storytelling through visual art. I teach fundamental art techniques and provide students with tools to develop their own creative style. They are encouraged to tell their story and other stories effectively and creatively. Self-love and empathy is the root of my art curriculum. I hope in teaching art at Muhammad University of Islam, I can give back to the community of South Central Los Angeles and bridge cultural gaps. It is my goal to show solidarity with the black community against racial injustices on all levels. Along with painting public art murals and illustrating children’s books, I provide private art sessions as well for those that want to take drawing and painting into a deeper level. I will always be grateful for my grandmother for her artistry and telling me great stories while expanding my imagination and teaching me self love.
Has it been a smooth road?
The biggest challenge was embracing my own story and learning the tools that I needed along the way that would help me create my own business. I had to embrace that my path was not the conventional path but it provided unique skills that served my purpose. Transitioning from a financially stable career using my talents to a purpose-driven career required faith, fearlessness and self-love. I was able to exceed sales goals with my artistry for Dior, how can I achieve the same for my own business? In addition, while promoting the power of art and storytelling, I had to be able to tell my story effectively. I had to develop my own voice and my artistry and step away from meeting the standards of a corporate artist and following Dior’s brand image.
I received criticism when I made the decision to step down as a National Makeup Artist for Dior to create my own business. I had to remind myself that I was not back at square one. With great skills, I learned being a corporate artist, I needed to figure out how I can translate the same skills to become a successful self-employed artist. I had great learning experiences that cannot be taught at schools and I had the tools I needed to manifest a new career for me that was aligned with my purpose. I had to redefine what freedom means to me. Art is the ability to manifest and execute a new vision and create a new reality based on self-love.
Please tell us more about your art.
Traveling through the country as a makeup artist and a brand ambassador, I saw a need for genuine connection in the workplace and innovative concepts for events in the beauty retail setting as sales were skyrocketing from online shopping. Today, customers demand authentic communication with personalized service and employees want their work to be meaningful. As a painter, my business, Amina Lei uses storytelling through visual art to build genuine relationships. Through live paintings at beauty events such as fragrance bottle paintings, fashion illustration, watercolor portraits, customized cosmetic package design, calligraphy or watercolor illustration cards, customers are given a unique experience of personalized service. I also offer team building workshops. Storytelling strengthens inter-team relations and enhances confidence in team creativity. By incorporating empathy training through customized team building workshops using art, the goal is to foster a purpose-driven culture in the workplace.
What makes my business unique is that I understand the needs of the business on many levels with my previous experience as a corporate artist for Dior and many other beauty brands. I use my selling skills to foster genuine connection with customers while using visual art and creating a new culture. I know how to bridge the gap between corporate needs and connect with the community in a genuine way and promote diversity. I understand the importance of brand message and story and how it can be translated visually. With this knowledge, I am known for my universal illustrating/painting style that represents beauty and luxury brand images well. Through teaching and traveling, I have experience in dealing with different cultural communities. My art promotes a universal change that unites all cultural communities. I have a firm belief that everyone is an artist in their own way and I am confident in bringing it out as an art teacher, live event artist, or a brand ambassador.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
I do believe that Los Angeles is a good place for businesses like mines. Los Angeles has a diverse cultural landscape and community events are celebrated. I also feel that communities are separated geographically. So there is a need for live artists to bridge cultural gaps. From public art to art animation at retailers, we can bring awareness to important matters and create solidarity. Art activism can be in different forms and in these current times right now, it is necessary to bring communities together. I also believe there is an opportunity to bridge the gap between corporations with the needs of the community through art.
- One on One virtual art sessions are $45-50 per hour during social distancing at this time
- Website: Leistory.com
- Email: Aminaleiart@gmail.com
- Instagram: @Aminalei
- Facebook: @Leicolor
Chris Harriel (Main photo- horizontal)