*Note: All photos in header do not belong to me.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Coffee Chat: Real Beauty

Hi Everyone,

This should probably be titled Irish Tea With Milk and Sugar Chat but anyway, I wanted to take a moment to blog about something that I think about a lot, and that is real beauty. Apparently May 14th was bloggers without makeup day so I'm taking this opportunity to write about...the concept of beauty, body image, and my struggles with it all. I thought about doing a video today, since when I got home from work, it was really sunny, perfect lighting to do a video. But the more I thought about it, the more it became apparent that I have a knack for spewing out random crap in front of the camera and I don't think this is a topic suited for that. So in celebration of bloggers without makeup, here's my pic:

I am obsessed with beauty. If it's not already apparent, I love things that are beautiful, and not in just the Kate Beckinsale, Ashley Greene, etc. type of beauty but I love beautiful novels, I love literary explorations of beauty (e.g. The Picture of Dorian Grey) and I love beautiful bodily forms of expression (e.g. dance). But since this is a makeup blog, I'll spare you the details of my fanatic literary and artistic obsessions and discuss the beauty that is physical attractiveness. So I did a quick search online for 'asian beauty.' These three photos came up. If you take a look at these photos below, what do they have in common?

They're all what society deems as beautiful asian women. Yet, don't they all...kind of look the same? They all have fair, flawless, porcelain skin. They all have a tiny cute petite nose. They all have double eyelids. They all have a light pink mouth that suits the rest of their features. They're all stick skinny. They all look kind of ... doll-like. And as a 5 foot 15 year old girl with curly hair, -4.50 glasses, how the hell was I supposed to think of what the world viewed me?! Luckily I really didn't care. I was blessed in my childhood to have a mother who, to this very day, never owns makeup. She owns one stick of Loreal Long Lasting Lipcolor in Mauve and she owns a facial cleanser, a Dior moisturizer, and Banana Boat sunscreen. She does not and has not ever owned a Coach purse, a Kate Spade wallet, or fashion accessory that is over 40$. She wears flip flops and shorts from Old Navy. She thinks LOFT is couture and has never gotten a haircut at a salon or even gotten a manicure. She laughed and mocked me the day I spent $48 dollars on the UD Naked Palette. Until last Mother's Day, she had never stepped foot into a spa. And yet, every single day growing up, I was utterly struck by her exceeding gorgeousness. She was, and still is, the splitting image of a perfect stunningly beautiful woman.

But she's totally different from the three photos I posted above. When I left high school, I discovered not everyone had the same outlook on beauty as my mother did. When I went to college, which was the first time I bought makeup, got contact lenses, and actual money on clothes instead of the next NYTimes bestseller, I discovered this multi-billion dollar industry dedicated to commanding half the population on what being beautiful is. And accompanying that discovery was endless self-degradation, self-mockery, and self-criticisms. Let's be honest. How many of us have looked in the mirror and felt dissatisfied. How many of us have looked at a photo in a magazine and felt that emotional heart-gripping wave of jealousy. How many of us have stepped on a metal scale and been disappointed in ourselves for what? A number. I know I have. As a freshmen in college, I worked out excessively, I looked in the mirror and hated my hair, the next day I hated my legs, the next day I hated my skin, the next day I hated my height, the next day I hated my nails, and every day, I hated...me.

And then one day, no particular date, it became too much. I broke down. I couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't keep chasing these vapid and empty dreams that someone else in the cosmetic industry created. I won't go into the details or what caused this break down (mainly because I don't really remember) but I do remember the outcome. And I remember, with my two best friends at Penn, I sobbed and sobbed on the floor of my freshmen dormitory until all memory of that night faded away. But when daylight struck the next day and I woke up with a splitting headache, I realize I was stronger. And I was more in control. And I was different. And most importantly, I made a decision that I was going to live my life. Because you see when you're constantly counting calories, when you're wanting to be someone different, you don't experience your life as your own. You experience your life as someone you want to be. And the moment I realized this, and learned to accept myself, all flaws and features, all the good and the bad, I was able to really LIVE. Able to delight in the bliss of eating a chocolate cake, able to see being small as an excuse for heels-shopping, and able to spend my time and energy on things that deserved my attention. Of course I still love playing with makeup, I love the adrenaline that comes from finding a new dress, or reading the latest Vogue, but I am no longer defined by the world's perception of me. Honestly, who cares? People used to always say "accept yourself." But the word accept to me is on par with 'settling.' Kind of like "hey you ordered english breakfast tea but we only have earl grey, accept it." So I'll quote my mother, the example of the extraordinary, by saying "embrace yourself, love the good, cherish the could-be-improved, and when all else fails, put on a pot of tea and for goodness sake, will you stop taking yourself so seriously!"

:) Here's to redefining what's beautiful, living life without inhibitions, and having friends and family who make the first two easy.



  1. Love this post! You are such a great writer! Props for spilling on this subject and your feelings about it, thats awesome. Another thing all those girls have in common is that they are all wearing makeup too! lol the miracles that makeup and photoshop do.. =)

  2. A very touching post, it made me cry because I can see myself in your story, but I haven't come to the point that I can really embrace myself yet, I hope I will one day. <3

  3. very touching and beautiful post :)

  4. great post!!!! very well-said and thank you for your lovely, true message! :)

    "embrace yourself, love the good, cherish the could-be-improved, and when all else fails, put on a pot of tea and for goodness sake, will you stop taking yourself so seriously" :))))

  5. Great post--very honest and open, and I feel most women can relate to this. Adolescence was hard for me with beauty ideals, but by college I too was beginning to appreciate my unique features and the beauty of real women I know. I also love how your mother is an example of beauty for you--very touching! :)

  6. I know exactly what you mean... I had to stop reading Vivi magazine just because all the half models made me feel so ugly! I wasn't skinny enough, my nose was not small enough and I just felt very ugly! And some things I just can't change with make up, like I can't suddenly turn into being half-Asian like the Vivi models are! I'm glad you learnt to love yourself... i'm still trying to figure that out. Somedays I feel beautiful, but other days I don't think so at all :(.

    But on the other hand I don't know if you've noticed this, but i've been noticing a lot more Asians in western media and commercial advertising... issue is they're all really on the other end of the spectrum. Like very Asian looking with monolids and stuff. I'm not like that either! I'm not half but i'm not "super Asian" looking either... so now I don't feel like I belong anywhere :(!

  7. wow, I can't believe this post doesn't have more comments!~ I totally agree with you and our mothers are very similar~ My mom has never bought herself a coach purse, or even name brand clothes. She normally buys her shoes at garage sales for really cheap and she makes her own clothes. All her friends have Coach purses or name brand this or that so it was when I went to a Coach outlet, that I finally bought my mom her first Coach purse for Mother's Day this year. I think mother's are the most beautiful women in the world because they sacrifice so much for us. Don't hate any part of you, because only your beautiful mother can give birth to a beautiful child~

  8. great post! following ur site now