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These celebrity portraits are ‘like the Mona Lisa’ — but with wacky emojis

inspiration comes from whatever — and whoever — is in the cultural zeitgeist, including celebs like Dolly Parton, Rihanna and A$AP Rocky, and Snoop Dogg.
inspiration comes from whatever -- and whoever -- is in the cultural zeitgeist, including celebs like Dolly Parton, Rihanna and A$AP Rocky, and Snoop Dogg.

The modern-day portrait is the Emoji Lisa.

Lauren Edelstein has pulled countless all-nighters layering thousands of emojis on top of each other on her iPhone to create wacky celebrity portraits made entirely of the popular images usually relegated to social media and texts.

“A lot of them I’ve worked on for months,” Edelstein, 38, told The Post of the oft-lengthy process. “I have pieces that I’ve come back to for years — edited, added new emojis. They’re time-consuming, but fun.”

The Brooklyn-based fashion stylist says there’s one downside to her work, which she says is “very similar to the Mona Lisa, if the Mona Lisa was Dolly Parton and the paint was dumplings and disco balls.”

“At this point, my brain is seeing color in emojis,” she quipped. “It’s not great for my screen time, but it’s great for the art.”

Lauren Edelstein’s collection of nine celebrity emoji portraits was on display. Weston Kloefkorn
Lauren Edelstein’s collection of nine celebrity emoji portraits was on display. Weston Kloefkorn
The Brooklyn-based fashion stylist and artist first started making emoji art in 2018. Weston Kloefkorn
The Brooklyn-based fashion stylist and artist first started making emoji art in 2018. Weston Kloefkorn

Edelstein’s collection of nine celebrity portraits was celebrated in a one-day-only exhibition at a Lower East Side gallery on March 28, where more than 600 people got a glimpse of her wild works.

The collection — titled “Her Nails Are Chili Peppers,” after a key detail from her Parton piece — depicted big-name celebs such as snake-snuggling pop star Britney Spears, pregnant Rihanna cozying up to A$AP Rocky, and Snoop Dogg performing at the 2022 Super Bowl.

“It started as a funny thing I did on my phone because it brought me joy, and then I saw how excited other people were and how much they loved discovering the emojis in each piece,” Edelstein shared. “I’ve really learned to trust my creative instincts.”

Edelstein’s process is mostly done on her phone; She uses Instagram stories as her canvas, “layering thousands and thousands of emojis on top of each other” — constantly saving, just in case — until the full portrait eventually comes together.

The late March art exhibit was the first time Edelstein got to see her work blown up and not digitized on her iPhone — and the detail and quality held up.

The “Her Nails Are Chili Peppers” exhibition showcased portraits for sale at two different price points depending on the size, from $950 up to $2,600.

Lauren Edelstein’s “Her Nails Are Chili Peppers” art exhibition on the Lower East Side on March 28. Weston Kloefkorn
Lauren Edelstein’s “Her Nails Are Chili Peppers” art exhibition on the Lower East Side on March 28. Weston Kloefkorn
The “Her Nails Are Chili Peppers” exhibition is named after the main attraction, the Dolly Parton portrait. Weston Kloefkorn
The “Her Nails Are Chili Peppers” exhibition is named after the main attraction, the Dolly Parton portrait. Weston Kloefkorn
The portraits are up for sale at two different price points based on size. Weston Kloefkorn
The portraits are up for sale at two different price points based on size. Weston Kloefkorn

Edelstein first started making emoji art in 2018, inspired by a vintage jacket she was wearing. She started posting emoji self-portraits recreating her outfits on Instagram — and her craft took off.

“It’s funny — I’ll see a blue dress that has fringe, and I’m like, that’s the jellyfish,” Edelstein said with a laugh. “If there’s a pink furry coat, it’s brains. It’s knowing the textures of the emojis and the shapes.”

Her background in fashion plays a big role in her art since she’s “hyper-aware” of pieces that complete a look.

Dolly Parton’s nails are chili peppers. Lauren Edelstein
Dolly Parton’s nails are chili peppers. Lauren Edelstein
Edelstein’s portrait of dynamic duo Rihanna and A$AP Rocky Lauren Edelstein
Edelstein’s portrait of dynamic duo Rihanna and A$AP Rocky Lauren Edelstein
Britney Spears’ breasts are made from the top of the bald man emoji. Lauren Edelstein
Britney Spears’ breasts are made from the top of the bald man emoji. Lauren Edelstein
Edelstein recreated an image of Kim Kardashian <a href="https://nypost.com/2022/09/06/kim-kardashians-butt-baring-interview-cover-sparks-shade-memes/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:on the cover;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">on the cover</a> of Interview magazine. Lauren Edelstein
Edelstein recreated an image of Kim Kardashian on the cover of Interview magazine. Lauren Edelstein
The artist’s intriguing portrait of Julia Fox Lauren Edelstein
The artist’s intriguing portrait of Julia Fox Lauren Edelstein

Edelstein gets creative too, using the onion emoji for Kardashian’s butt, the bald man emoji to craft Britney Spears’ breasts and the bat emoji for Timothée Chalamet’s luscious hair.

“I just have an eye for shapes, color, texture. I’m always paying attention to the details,” she explained. “What’s the zipper pull gonna be made of? What are her nails going to be?”

Sometimes she ironically used emojis in a literal sense, such as the actual martini emoji to depict the drink in Tommy Lee’s hand alongside his nipple ring-nibbling ex Pamela Anderson.

“It’s really fun to present people that are constantly being talked about but to show them in a completely different way,” Edelstein shared. “Sometimes I feel like the celebrity is literally calling for me to emoji them because the elements are so good.”

Edelstein’s homage to an infamous Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee snapshot. Weston Kloefkorn
Edelstein’s homage to an infamous Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee snapshot. Weston Kloefkorn
Edelstein created an eye-popping portrait of Timothée Chalamet. Weston Kloefkorn
Edelstein created an eye-popping portrait of Timothée Chalamet. Weston Kloefkorn
“The Golden Girls” icon Betty White was part of her one-day art show. Weston Kloefkorn
“The Golden Girls” icon Betty White was part of her one-day art show. Weston Kloefkorn
This Britney Spears creation was on display. Weston Kloefkorn
This Britney Spears creation was on display. Weston Kloefkorn
Lauren Edelstein at her debut art show. Weston Kloefkorn
Lauren Edelstein at her debut art show. Weston Kloefkorn
More than 600 people RSVPd to Edelstein’s debut art show. Weston Kloefkorn
More than 600 people RSVPd to Edelstein’s debut art show. Weston Kloefkorn
Edelstein with the Parton portrait her art show is named after. Weston Kloefkorn
Edelstein with the Parton portrait her art show is named after. Weston Kloefkorn

For example, when Edelstein saw Kim Kardashian’s now-iconic cover shoot for Interview magazine, “inspiration struck.”

“It’s fun to recreate icons out of literal icons,” she said. “Of course, sometimes it’s very mind-numbing, but once it starts coming together, it becomes very exciting.”