Hair & Beauty,  Writing

Masks We Wear

Introducing Katya Avila, a senior at Scotch Plains-Fanwood Highschool. Growing up can be hard, especially with the ever present beauty standards set by the media and society. Katya shares with us her experience growing up Chinese-Filipino, seeing little representation of women like herself in the beauty industry around her.

When flipping through pages of any style and beauty magazine, it’s easy to be drawn into the advertisements promoting the newest “peachy pink” eyeshadow palette or “skin perfecting” foundation, or really any cosmetics shown on the shiny pages. They feature beautiful women with flawless glowing faces and sparkling eyes, telling people that with this new product, they’ll be perfect too.  

As a 12-year-old using my mom’s magazines as my only standards of beauty, I was captivated by this “perfection”. I would spend hours secretly practicing with my Claire’s eyeshadow palettes to attempt to create the same looks I saw, and would feel so defeated when, no matter how hard I tried, I would always fail.

Naturally, as a middle schooler with low self-esteem, I felt like the only possible solution was to change everything about myself and continue, in vain, to conform to these standards. But what could I do when I couldn’t draw the same eyeliner wing on my Asian eyes, as others with double eyelids could, or if my Asian hair couldn’t do those same bombshell curls that all the models had? Still, I tried to hide away everything “Chinese-Filipino” about me, with hopes that if I look like the “popular girls” in school or the models on TV, people would accept me and I’d fit in.

Only now do I know just how wrong that was, how amazing the cultures I was born with are, and that I wasn’t—and still am not—the only one who encountered this. Racial representation is essential not only in film, in politics, and in the everyday workplace, but also in the beauty industry. I look Asian (and I love it) and always will, and no matter how much makeup I put on, that won’t change. But the cover girls I looked up to in 2012 didn’t tell me this, and the posters of movie stars I ripped out from teen magazines didn’t let me know. All I thought was that I would only be happy if I changed to be more like them.

Young minority girls all over America are still experiencing exactly what I did, even if it’s 6 years later. Feeling defeated when they hear their favorite Instagram influencer raving about this amazing foundation that doesn’t come in their skin color, or not being able to find Youtube tutorials for trendy cut crease eyeshadow looks on monolids. The photoshop and editing of images are already enough to make a girl’s self-esteem plummet, so the fact that many media trends are unachievable due to a person’s ethnicity could make them… us.. feel even more alienated.

It’s important to have a representation of all races so girls have people just like them to look up to, and so they don’t feel the need to change everything about themselves to be pretty, to be cover girls, to be movie stars. If I had seen more Asians represented in the magazines, runways, and on ads when I was younger, I never would’ve felt the need to change who I was to be accepted.

With the technology available to our generation, I’m glad that preteens and teens like me are able to have access to makeup tutorials from all around the world, even from Chinese YouTubers who finally taught me how to apply eyeliner to my eyes. But it’s important that brands and influencers—those who have a big impact on young minds and are trendsetters—also take advantage of this media boom and use it to reach out to young girls (and boys) of all cultures. It’s crucial to let them know that they don’t only have to fit into one box to be accepted. Even the small steps matter, such as showing lipstick swatches on light, medium and dark skin tones, so no one would feel like a brand or product is leaving them out.

It took me 4 years of putting on a mask, feeling ashamed and trying to hide my culture in order to fit in and not be thought of as “strange”. I’m so glad now that I’ve realized how beautiful my culture truly is, but still, even though it may not bother me anymore, many people (especially teens) are only accustomed to seeing one or two types of “ideal” beauty standards. That being said, I’m sometimes looked at as odd for dressing different or doing makeup that’s more for my culture.    

America is full of people with heritages from all around the world, so it’s important that this is represented. I hope that the media will continue to grow to teach people that there isn’t only one “way” to be beautiful and continue to represent and include different ethnicities in their campaigns so no one feels like they have to hide who they are to conform to a standard that doesn’t include them.

Hello! My name is Tyler Newman and I'm a magical creature.

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