Image Courtesy Derek Lam
Let’s talk about Asian beauty — and I don’t mean the 10-step regime. I mean, do we consider ‘Asian’ to be beautiful? Many of you may find this an odd or even confusing question to ask, so I’ll start with an analogy (because I’m a nerd).
Asian is to beauty what female is to strength.
Females have not traditionally been associated with strength and there are people who still believe strength is the dominion of the male. Likewise, in Western society, Asians have generally been excluded from the domain of beauty, which has been ruled largely by the white standard. In a society that strongly bisects beauty and smarts, Asians have been seen to excel in the latter, not the former.
Image courtesy Cue
Growing up, I often imagined peeling the Asianness off my face to reveal bright blue eyes, a sharp nose and white skin. I would have traded all the times I’d been told “you’re brainy” just for a single “you’re pretty”.
Thankfully, I no longer feel these sentiments. I like my Asian features and don’t require the same level of external affirmation. Most of it is growing up, but a not-insignificant part of it is thanks to the rise of the Asian model army and their impact in widening our definition of beauty.
Here, it’s hard to ignore that money has had a sizeable role in forcing the hand of advertisers, casting agencies, publications, and designers to include more Asian faces. Asians are key customers for both high-street and high-end labels and it’s no surprise that we want to see people who look like us on billboards and magazine covers. Whatever the reason, the impact has been positive.
Today, a myriad Asian models stare witheringly from ads selling the latest in Chanel, Gucci and Estée Lauder. Liu Wen, the first Asian spokesmodel for Estée Lauder penned a beautiful opinion piece in Vogue about changing beauty ideals and her own experience of not fitting into the beauty norms of her home country China.
Image courtesy Gary Pepper Girl
Alongside the model army, Asian fashion bloggers like Nicole Warne aka Gary Pepper Girl have enjoyed huge success. As an all-round social media and fashion maestra, digital consultant for Qantas and brand ambassador for Net-a-Porter, Nicole is normalising the public prominence of Asians and allowing Asianness to be attractive.
I hope that this momentum continues, because we still have a fair way to go. Asian male beauty along with other sects of the population such as plus-size beauty needs more mainstream acceptance, and Asian countries must reflect on their own self-image.
As a Korean fashion blogger, I cannot understand why such a large number of Seoul’s designer lookbooks feature blue-eyed, blonde-haired models since few Koreans share these traits.
While it saddens me that we’re overlooking our own kind in our home countries, the leaps and bounds I’ve seen in the West since my childhood give me confidence that my own place of birth will have a similar awakening, remembering that sometimes, beauty is in the almond-shaped eye of the beholder.