Next in Beauty

Meet the Woman Behind Your Favorite TikTok Filters

Grace Choi and I meet at Art’s Café, a quintessentially Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) spot that has a big red bus inside. As we sit at a table by the window, Choi, a TikTok Effect House Ambassador, and founder of the world’s first 3D makeup printer, Mink Beauty, has just wrapped up her masterclass titled “The Beauty of Tech” at SCAD’s Next in Beauty event, co-hosted with Refinery29.
Before we get to talking about her tech ventures, it’s evident that Choi’s passion for beauty runs deep. Her affinity for skincare shines through as she reveals her holy grail products: Goodal’s Heartleaf Calming Moisture Sun Cream and Etude House’s SoonJung 2x Barrier Intensive Cream. Describing the former as her go-to K-Beauty sunscreen, Choi emphasizes the pivotal role beauty plays in her life. “If it wasn’t for beauty, I wouldn’t really be doing tech,” she explains. “[For me], beauty is the gateway to tech.” Her career sits at the intersection of these two worlds, a perfect blend that fuels her creativity and drive.
In her role with TikTok, Choi has collaborated with prestigious brands such as Dior, La Mer, Kosas, and Fenty, and seeing her work, it’s clear that her vision extends beyond mere aesthetics. Her filters empower users rather than altering their appearance. This commitment to education and innovation has earned Choi a bronze lion at Cannes Lions for her collaboration with Fenty Beauty for the Match Stix Snatch filter.
@gracemchoi Go to my instagram to try Fenty Beauty’s “Match Stix Snatch” IG filter and yes I have includes ALLLL the face shapes in this version! (Also🔗in profile) TikTok version here: @gracemchoi ♬ original sound - gracemchoi
The most interesting thing about Choi, however, is why she’s so invested in what she does. She tells me, “The best and most rewarding part of making filters is that you make other creators go viral. Once an influencer used one of my filters and got over 80 million views.” I get a sense that her work is more people-forward than anything else. Sure, the technology is impressive, but the platform that Choi’s work gives other creators is the most impactful, as I found out during our conversation...
How did your experiences at Cornell University and Harvard Business School influence your journey as an entrepreneur in the beauty industry?
At Cornell I studied hotel administration, which was very hands-on. It was very vocational, in a sense, which taught me work ethic. It also taught me open-mindedness, because we had to make beds, run restaurants, and do a lot of things you don’t normally do in college. I had a very non-traditional college experience, so it definitely taught me innovative thinking, in some ways. In business school, I learned it’s all about networking.
Can you walk us through some of the biggest challenges building your 3D printer? 
Taking a prototype and building a supply chain for something that didn’t exist was definitely a challenge. The printer was a first of its kind, because there was no mold for it. There’s no manufacturer for that and you have to build it all from scratch. The regulatory aspect was also crazy, because it’s something that goes on people’s faces and it should be treated seriously because of safety. The process took seven years to release it to the market, so it really felt like I was making a medical device.
Your approach to filters is more about education, rather than alteration of people’s faces, which I love. What inspires you?
My first inspiration was the eyebrow filter, the very first one I created. Personally, I have uneven eyebrows and I tried everything to make them even — even the stencils, and it didn’t work. I needed a simpler way. So it stemmed from my personal experience and I knew other people would like it (and they did, all 2.6 million of them on TikTok).
Can you share any anecdotes from seeing your filters being used by people around the world?
I think the first celebrity that used my J-Fox eyeshadow filter was Shay Mitchell. I thought it was cool and really funny... Sometimes I feel like I should have been a talent agent. I’m more excited about what it does for other creators. I am a creator for influencers, so if my product gives you millions of views, then I’ve done my job. If it makes you go viral, then I’ve done really good filters. That’s the most exciting.
How do you stay ahead of the curve in an ever-evolving industry like beauty tech?
Beauty and tech are very fast-paced and always evolving. Especially in the filter world, I can never repeat anything because I know it won’t do well. In order to be a viral filter creator, you have to be able to constantly come up with something. You don’t really have to be on top of the next new technology, you have to be on top of culture… Understand culture and the nuances of what’s going on right now, so you can come to a brand and say, I have an idea because this just happened. It’s not about trend reports either, because that’s what happened last year. You have to be in culture and love culture. Be with the peeps and consume the content.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to break into the industry? [Editor’s note: At this point, Choi takes a minute to think about her answer.]
Looking back at my own life, nothing’s really been a mistake or a failure. A lot of people tell you to really love what you do. And yes, I agree, but if you stop loving it, stop doing it. Know that if you don’t love it anymore, you can stop. Try things, and find out what you like and what you don’t like. You don’t have to make every decision the biggest decision of your life. Do things when you want to do them, and stop things when you don’t want to do them anymore.
Would you say then that your career path has been very intuitive as you’ve shifted gears?
Yes. I’m someone who needs to love what they’re doing. I need to love it or I can’t do it. I guess I’m like an artist in that way. It’s like being in a relationship with your career. You need to find the things you’re in love with.
Who would be your dream partner or collaboration?
It’s probably someone I’ve never thought of. I’m looking forward to being surprised. 
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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