Michelle Li

As a Fashion and Beauty editor at Teen Vogue,
Michelle Li is always ahead of the trends — tattoos included.
Read here about her favorite ink and the story behind it.

Tell us about yourself. In your opinion, what does it mean to you to be a person of substance?

Hi! I'm Michelle Li, I'm a stylist and fashion editor based here in NYC. I grew up in Indiana and my parents immigrated to America from Beijing and Shanghai. I think being a person of substance means living for yourself and the people you love and letting your values dictate your actions. It's a hard thing to do and I find myself questioning why I'm doing something a lot more because it is so easy to get sucked in with social media. It feels like such a performance and it can be a fun performance where you get to control and dictate all of the ways that you portray yourself, but who you are can easily get misconstrued too. I share so much of myself on social media but also none of myself at the same time. But I think knowing when to turn it off and come back to just living your life is really important (and hard) and that, to me, is a person of substance when you can completely exit the performance and live for yourself. 




What's your favorite tattoo? Tell us the story behind it.

My favorite tattoo is on the back of my right arm and it's of a girl hugging a ghost by Cory Feder. She's so special to me and I love Cory's work - I have a few of her prints hanging around my apartment as well. I started following her on IG when a friend from Indiana was going to college with her and fell in love with her art. I love the way she draws hair. So, when she announced on IG that she was coming to NYC I immediately requested to book. I went to the apt she was staying at and sat on the couch and got this stick and poke and it was so nice and intimate. I wish all of my tattoo experiences were like this. I love seeing my lil lady pop up in pictures, she makes me so happy because she is me. 



How do you think this story mirrors some of your personal values?
I think looking back now I really thrive on very personal, 1:1 conversations and these more special quiet, intimate moments. And that reflects in my tattoo too, she's affectionate and loving, but also kind of shy and hides behind her ghost.   



What would be your recommendation(s) for someone thinking of getting a tattoo?  

I think I would say don't feel obligated to have a meaning behind getting a tattoo, you feel empowered to get whatever you want for whatever reasons and not feel like you have to explain it to anyone! And also to not be afraid to ask for what you want and make adjustments. I'm always doubting myself when it comes to inconveniencing people and there have been cases where I'm trying to be ~chill~ and end up wishing I had spoken up when getting a tattoo whether it's about the size or shading.