Growing up, I've always felt strangely conflicted by the colour of my skin. Life really puts you in a unique situation when you grow up crossing over between two cultures. In South Africa, girls spent their days tanning in the sun while slathering on self tanning lotion. In China, women walked around in public with umbrellas in the middle of summer. Not to mention, every second commercial I saw on TV were for whitening creams to lighten the skin. Isn't it funny how the standard of beauty in one culture can be the total opposite in another?
One summer on a trip up to the Cameron Highlands, a lovely German girl told me a hilarious story of how everyone in the office would make fun of anyone who'd return from vacation without a glowing tan. I laughed so hard. Because women in Asia were definitely not chasing after that golden sun-kissed glow.
Personally, I'm somewhere in the middle when it comes to the spectrum of Asian skin tones, but I tan very easily in the sun. Ten minutes outside will get me a tan most of my Caucasian friends have to work up for weeks. It's just too easy. But it's always been something I used to hate, and so I slathered on sunscreen and hid from the sun.
Because the standard of Asian beauty is to have white porcelain skin and a lot of women in Asia go through some very extreme measures to achieve it. But as I have grown more comfortable in my own skin in these past few years, I have learned to love myself and my golden glow no matter what the standard of beauty is in China or anywhere else in the world. Whether you are an Asian girl with beautiful porcelain skin or a natural sun-kissed glow, a cool undertone or a warm undertone, or anything in between -- there is no need to hide it. And there's no reason to judge other women based on the colour of their skin either, which happens way too often than it should in Asia. But this leads me to these next questions. What exactly is beautiful? Who defines it? Why and how did we create this standard of beauty? Image is powerful. But also, image is superficial. I think real beauty is about empowering women. It is a sisterhood, not a competition. As women, we should inspire one another. Beauty is felt, it’s energy. A simple compliment, like “You look great today”, goes a long way. Achieving your best beautiful has always been a fellowship, never a competition.
Photo by Chris Esquivel