As Asian women, we have the misfortune to feel pressures to conform to society’s westernized beauty standards based on our gender and race. From the shade of our skin to the size of our eyes, we are scrutinized for having what we have instead of being told that we are beautiful and that we are enough. In this episode, I will be holding my largest group interview with my fellow Southeast Asian gals, Gift Inthaly, Danielle DeGuzman, and last but not least, Rosenna Moungyiv on their personal insights on what really matters (hint: #bodylove).
Gift Inthaly is a second generation Thai-Laotian American who is currently pursuing a bachelor of science in nursing. After graduating college and becoming a nurse, she hopes to be able to someday travel all over the the world.
Second generation and Filipino American, Danielle DeGuzman is currently in college pursuing a bachelor's degree in nursing. She hopes to experience all the world that it has to offer, so she can better understand herself and others.
Rosenna Moungyiv is a second generation Cambodian American who is currently studying nursing and enjoying her newfound passion in her work taking care of patients at a local nursing home.
TRANSCRIBED BY WAEN VEJJAJIVA
JESSICA NGUYEN, HOST: Today’s podcast is brought to you by Audible. Get a free audiobook download and a 30-day-free-trial at audibletrial.com/projectvoice. Over 180,000 titles to choose from for your iphone, Android, Kindle, or MP3 player.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
NGUYEN, HOST: (LOUD AND EXCITED) Hi, welcome to Project Voice! Okay, that was a bit too much, sorry! (LAUGHS) Welcome to Project Voice, this is Jess again. Here, I have three friends and this is going to be the biggest group interview ever, because let’s just hope that all of our wifi is good. We need all the wifi we can get, so yeah, let’s cross our fingers, but if not we can just continue AND see how it goes. Anyway, so here I have my friends - actually I’ve just been interviewing all my friends lately, but they are actually people I knew from high school back in Illinois, and I’m on the East Coast here, and yeah we’ve been friends since, for like I don’t know, more than four years now? So I’m just going to have them introduce themselves, and then I’ll turn to our topic of the week. So yeah, who wants to go first?
GIFT INTHALY, INTERVIEWEE: Okay, I’ll go first! So my name’s Gift.
NGUYEN: Hi, Gift.
DANIELLE DEGUZMAN, INTERVIEWEE: I’m Danielle.
ROSENNA MOUNGYIV, INTERVIEWEE: I’m Rosey.
NGUYEN: Hello Danielle, hello Rosey, sorry I just caught up with- I was like, I thought there would be more… (LAUGHS) Do you guys wanna talk a little bit about yourselves, what you’re doing in life, how’s it going, where you’re at, what your dreams are? Okay, I mean maybe that’s a bit too much but…
INTHALY: Well, right now I am in nursing school, and I know Danielle is, too. We both go to the same nursing school, and I guess our biggest goal is to finish and graduate, and you know along with having fun with school.
NGUYEN: Yes, five more months I think for you guys, so that’ll be fun, just cherish all the moments you have in college I guess, and then the real world comes around and yeah that’s something else, but anyway, Rosey!
MOUNGYIV: I’m Rosey, I am right now a server, and I’m at school but I don’t know what I’m at school for so that’s exciting.
NGUYEN: Whoo, that’s exciting! Thank you for introducing yourselves. So, today all of us are going to be contributing to a topic that is often talked about, often seen on TV, often read in magazines, and that is beauty expectations! How Asian women are perceived in media, how these stereotypes are being perpetuated. You know, oftentimes we feel the pressure to look a certain way - you know, tall, skinny - usually aspiring to meet Western beauty standards instead having our own set of beauty standards. So yeah, the media often glorifies Western beauty and there are many ways how they take form in the makeup industry. Let’s talk about that, what do you guys think?
INTHALY: Well, I definitely think it’s true that we follow this idea of like, that Western beauty, one of the biggest things is with our skin color. Well, not me personally, but I think as a society we expect Asian women to look very fair-skinned. And I know there’s this thing, at least in Thailand, in my part of the country, there are people who… it’s similar to racism but it is called colorism. So based on your skin tone, you know, they decide, oh, if you’re very white, that means you’re very pretty, you meet the expectation you’re a very “hiso” woman. But if you’re dark, it kind of means like you’re poor, you’re dirty, and I think it just follows that idea.
NGUYEN: Definitely, skin tone itself is a privilege. Being lighter-skinned, I didn’t know this, but it is a privilege. And there is a hierarchy, in Asian cultures, too. Oftentimes, in the media, East Asians are seen more as this group that represent all Asians, forgetting the fact that there are South and Southeast Asians. I think one of the reasons is that East Asians are closer to living up to that aesthetic, that Western appearance, again that light skin tone, and those who have darker skin tones, you don’t see that often in the media. You don’t see celebrities, in films, or TV - they’re often light-skinned. They’re often chosen too, like those who have the expected appearance that Westerners have for us, and we forget that there are other people with many different skin tones. And I don’t know, I didn’t realize this until my friend pointed it out. I think it’s more something that just passed through me. I don’t even consciously notice it, but I retain it. Another example is cosmetic surgeries that help add in a lid, oftentimes monolids aren’t the hottest thing, apparently, in Asia. So what people do is that they go through surgery and they add a lid, so they can have a double eyelid, or they have these tapes that they would stick on their eyes so that they would create this fold, creating the look that they want.
DEGUZMAN: I was going to mention noses but I didn’t know if it was...
NGUYEN: Yeah it is. Yeah, what about noses, Danielle? (LAUGHS)
DEGUZMAN: Well, personally, like me and Gift, we get this a lot. I just remember when I was much younger i didn’t really notice my nose as being different, or like flatter, or smaller. It wasn’t until I got to school and people started pointing it out, and I was like, kind of confused about it, and then I started noticing and then, oh, I guess it’s not the norm, or this is not the best feature, I guess. So, you see that a lot of Asian women sometimes get that bad quality... and then we become insecure about it so...
INTHALY: And then comes plastic surgery!
NGUYEN: Yeah, plastic surgery - it’s like you have to have this bone structure, the nose and the eyes, the lips. No, no, I’m like, are there any other parts on their face that people want to be altered? (LAUGHS)
MOUNGYIV: K-pop stars shave down their jaws.
NGUYEN: (GASPS) Oh, yeah! It’s crazy.
MOUNGYIV: They shave it down so that they get more of an oval face, a smaller jaw.
NGUYEN: Oh, yeah. That’s really weird.
MOUNGYIV: Yeah, but it happens.
NGUYEN: Yeah, and it’s like, people face pressure to conform to this look. It’s not like, oh, one person does it and then no one else does it, or they look down on this person who is doing it. It’s actually being supportive. People are like, oh, this is a good idea, I’m going to follow through with it too, and then see more and more people doing it too, which is weird. They should be proud of what they have, what they are given, when in reality it’s not the case. Oh, also, I know that Rosey shared with me this interesting story with me before, so why don’t you share? (LAUGHS) You know that story where you were telling me about the skin whitening thing? Like when...
MOUNGYIV: Oh yeah, when I was a kid, I was - when we were going to Virginia, when I was I’d like, I’d say 10-11 or 11 or 12, my mom brought me and my sister into the bathroom and bleached our skin. (AUDIBLE GASPS FROM OTHER GUESTS) Personally I’ve never had a problem with my skin tone, I’ve always loved my skin tone. Because as a kid, I grew up in a mostly Korean community, and other girls would be like, “Oh I love your skin, it’s so pretty,” and I was like “Oh, thank you.” It was encouraged which was, I guess weird to everybody else. But for me, I’ve always loved my skin tone and it was weird for my mom to bleach my skin. was like, this doesn’t seem right, but it happened. But I only did it once.
INTHALY: You know like a lot of the times too when you go to Asian beauty markets, they always have that skin whitening cream, too. Like it’s always, it’s just a constant thing, like even your story, you were young, and we see it everywhere and we’re told it and then it’s done to us. Then it’s just solidified in our heads that you need to have very white skin to be pretty.
NGUYEN: Definitely. I remember when I was younger, my mom, or my family would tease me whenever I get dark. Like when we were out in the sun, playing on the beach, and we’d get super tanned and then I’d come home and then my family would be like “Wow, you got so dark! Why? How?” You know, and it’s like, they would tease me and my sister about it. It was seen as something like comical. It wasn’t seen like something that was like, I don’t know - I know that a lot of white people like to tan and it’s funny. It’s ironic that they want to get darker skin tones, while we want to get lighter. So yeah, reasons like that, our parents conditioning us at a younger age, selling these, again, beauty expectations that we didn’t realize were unhealthy.
Also, eye shape, too, I would always get self conscious about how I looked when I was getting my picture taken, like I would yell out like, “Oh I look so Asian!” In a bad way, like I’m embarrassed for looking “Asian”, for looking that way where my eyes were small or something, and that’s not good. That’s a really, really bad- everybody is different and beauty is a social construct, and we just have to accept for who we are. It sounds very cheesy but it’s true. You know, just love yourself! This seems like something that should be shared at the end, but I’m just going to put it out there now. Because I think it’s the best way to-
INTHALY: I think it’s definitely hard to do that. Nowadays, it’s easier to say that, like it’s easier to be like you know, love yourself for who you are regardless of your size, shape, color, or however you look. But I think before like, when we were growing up, it was harder to say those things, and I agree with the whole squinty eye thing. Again, it’s like that whole conditioning when we were young. And I think our parents didn’t mean it. It’s just how they grew up as well. And even now I subconsciously, when I take pictures, I will widen my eyes, you know, because I don’t want to look like quote unquote, like you said that “Asian” look. I don’t want to look Asian so I’ll widen my eyes. And it’s hard for us to break that sometimes, but again like you said, I think it’s easier to say now, like “love yourself”, and we are slowly starting to change out of that mentality.
NGUYEN: Yeah, and see that your Asian features are cute too, not ugly at all. It is how we perceive these features that we have, and that may take years. I think it took me years to finally come over that ‘oh, smiling in front of the camera,’ and just sort of naturally, you know, squinting my eyes or whatever, doesn’t matter. So Asians trying to emulate Western features, that is one big topic there. And in beauty queen contests, in a way, we see that, too. And in some countries, people use plastic surgery as a coming of age kind of thing. I know that in countries like Korea, where it is normal for them, like the practice has become normalized, where it is acceptable to pursue surgery, to make yourself look different... more Western...
INTHALY: To look towards the standard, I think.
NGUYEN: Yeah, and then self-consciousness over one’s body image. Do you guys… this might be.. you’re willing to share as much as you want. But have you experienced self-consciousness over your own body image?
INTHALY: For that one, I guess, it’s the whole idea of being very skinny. And it’s funny because I mean at least for me, and I think most Asian moms, will tell their kids “Oh my God, you’re too skinny! You need to eat more,” and then you’re like, ‘alright, well let me stuff my face,’ and the next second it’s ‘oh you’re looking really fat, like you need to stop” and it makes you really self-conscious. You think, “Wait. I thought I looked okay and now you’re telling me I don’t look okay”. And I think also with Asians, we’re very blunt with weight. Like, I’ve had my mom’s friends, they’ll say hello and then the next word out of their mouths is ‘wow you look really fat, you need to lose weight,’ And it makes you very self-conscious about the way you look, and how you perceive yourself after that.
DEGUZMAN: I see it in my family, recently, when I saw my dad’s side of the family. And one of my cousins, she’s a little bit more overweight, and I saw one of my uncles just happen to mention it. He’s like, “Oh you shouldn’t eat that, because you’re already too heavy right now.” And then we were like, my cousins were kind of confused like, why would you say that kind of thing, because she would take it more personally, even though it was just some comment that he didn’t really mean too much. So I think it’s really important as us, as this generation to be more aware of what we say to our kids, because those little things on their body can really affect them, even if they don’t really mean too much when you say it.
NGUYEN: Oh yeah, like, we just subconsciously take them all in. It just keeps going in and it becomes a cycle, all these different expectations, forming this image in your head, where you have to come home to it. Is there a way, did you even at all - how did you cope with these pressures from your family? When they tell you, “oh eat more, eat less”, not just like weight-related, but also hair, our face. Hair is a big topic, too.
MOUNGYIV: Well, as a kid, well not as a kid, growing up, even now, I’m kind of the person people are like, “Oh, Rosie you’re so fat, blah blah blah you’re so big”. And like growing up it was like that, nowadays it doesn’t really bother me as much, because I’m so used to it. But as a kid, it really bothered me. There was a time… how I coped with it as a kid was I wouldn’t eat. I would starve myself. I didn’t eat a lot, and that followed me to I think maybe high school. I was always on like, the more, curvier side, while everyone else in my family is like super skinny, they’re not curvaceous or whatever the word is. So, I went through a lot of eating problems. And I don’t admit it, but even now, not that I don’t eat, but I think I eat more, so it’s like, ‘yeah I know I’m fat, I like to eat, so what?’ so I think how I cope with it is I just stuff my face, and I don’t really think about it. I know its really unhealthy but...
NGUYEN: Sorry, I was worried that this issue was triggering. Was that bad that we bring this up? Because I do want to stress that you should feel comfortable sharing what you are sharing. Again, like it doesn’t have to be weight-related or…(inaudible) but damn girl, that was good! Sorry, yeah love yourself! I’m embracing myself, fuck those people! (inaudible) Right? (LAUGHTER) Basically, I mean that happens to me and my sister, too. Growing up, I was actually pretty self-conscious about my weight, and it’s weird because no one else would have expected that. And there were times when I didn’t eat a lot. I tried cutting down on my diet, but I love food too much. So it was hard, you can’t break me apart from food. So yeah, I just accepted it that, again it’s really stupid, like honestly this isn’t something people should worry about, really. And my sister, I think she has it worse than me because yeah, she’s super skinny, but she gets nagged all the time about it. Wel,l she’s not super skinny, but she has a thinner frame so she gets nagged all the time about it, and she hates her body. Again, I think this is a woman issue, where we’re all just being put down upon based on whatever features we have, and not really being praised for what we have. And it’s sad, where we don’t feel like we’re enough. We don’t feel beautiful. We don’t feel comfortable, saying, “I am beautiful,” either. When we say it sounds almost as if it’s like a cocky thing to say. It’s pretty presumptuous for us to own our body, and also own our confidence towards our body image. Again, actions and words from your parents, and people from your community impact your self-perception greatly. And that’s something we as a younger generation need to have a conversation about, starting dialogues with our families about how we feel, and it’s hard, really. Like, my sister and I have spoken up about this before, and our parents would deny it, like, “oh, we just want the best for you, and we just want you to be healthy, but if you don’t live up to certain expectations, [that] doesn’t mean that you’re unhealthy”. Of course, I feel like that’s something very obvious, but what was not registering is just that we’ve internalized our parents and society's expectations longer, so it’s harder to have something going against it take over. My next question is, did you have beauty icons, growing up? Were there people out there that you looked up to, who you thought were physically attractive, defined what beauty is? It can be bloggers, models, other types of celebrities...
DEGUZMAN: For me personally I didn’t see anyone in the limelight. I really think I saw maybe more in my culture, in soap operas or TV shows from the Philippines, where I looked at them because I saw similarities in them, whereas in American culture, I saw them but I didn’t really pay too much attention because I couldn't relate to them at all, so...
MOUNGYIV: We’ve had this conversation before, and I think I’m on the same boat as Danielle. Do I sound like I’m screaming? (INAUDIBLE, LAUGHTER)
NGUYEN: (LAUGHS) No, you’re good. You’re good.
MOUNGYIV: But if I have to decide on the beauty icons I have now, I would say maybe, I really like Beyonce or TLC. I’m more of a… more of Black culture. I’ve always had a special place in my heart, because that’s what I grew up listening to, grew up watching. So, those were the people I looked to for beauty, as beauty icons. Because I was never as light as the other girls, and of course I wasn’t as dark as those girls, but I felt more similar to them. I feel like the culture was the same. The people I met, were Black. I felt we had more in common as kids, because we come from, kind of, not of the same background, but kind of have similarities, like from our parents to our livelihood, to what kind of music we listen to, it’s just things like that. Does that sound (INAUDIBLE)?
NGUYEN: No, that’s very valid. That’s true, we did talk about this before. Oftentimes as Asians, we just connect more easily with people of color just because, people of color, we’re not white (LAUGHS), obviously.
As you can see the host is making a fool of herself, but yeah as people of color, we don’t live up to those visible expectations, we don’t look like them so that’s one common ground that we share, but also the socioeconomic aspect to it, too. Oftentimes our parents are immigrants who are not from here, or they had a hard past facing discrimination. Because of that, this history of discrimination towards us, and I’m going to say it, but all the different forms of oppression, systematic oppressions that we’ve experienced through generations, as we’re growing up, as individuals, we internalize all of the hurt and the pain and we connect with each other in that way too, being able to relate to each other, through the struggles, as people of color. And I read recently this cool article about how hip hop speaks to us Asian Americans, too. Although hip hop is an element of Black culture, and it will always be a part of Black culture, but then the question is that Asian Americans, we are involved, very involved in hip hop culture, too. And it’s because a lot of us grew up in those neighborhoods, a lot of us have experience of all the shitty things that have happened to our community.
In a way, we use hip hop as a form of expression of our frustration towards white America, towards the racism and discrimination that we’ve experienced. And I think that’s a really cool topic to dive in, whether we are culturally appropriating Black culture, because we are adopting certain aspects of their culture. But I think that’s really interesting that you bring that up, like being able to connect with Black people because they’re just more similar to us, based on our culture, interests, history. But also there’s a lack of representation of Southeast Asians, obviously, right? Oh, we’re all Southeast Asian, I didn’t realize! There is a huge lack of representation of Southeast Asians, a huge lack of healthy representation of Southeast Asian beauty on public media. And so we have to resort to other icons, other figures out there, who are closer to you know, our imagined ideals, to the ideals in our head. Yeah, I guess that answered my next question, right? Were you looking to people who looked like you, or were you trying to look like other non-Asian people? For me, personally, like I look to people who look like me growing up, just subconsciously there was this thirst to see people who have the same faces as me. That’s why I go on Youtube a lot, because that’s where they all are, and because Hollywood won’t accept them.
MOUNGYIV: I personally would lean towards people who did look more like me because I think that is a natural human instinct. I think just because there are so many white people, they don’t see it. Or I mean any other race, they don’t see it. Like our school is full of Mexicans, and Mexicans hang out with Mexicans. But if an Asian hung out with an Asian, they’d be like, “Why do you only hang out with Asian people?” I think it’s very natural for humans to go towards people who they feel are more similar to them, you know what I mean? I don’t think it’s just an Asian thing, or just a Black thing, because we all hang out with people who are more similar, who will get our jokes, who we can share foods with, and laugh about stupid stuff. When you want to do things like that, you find people who look like you because you feel like they’ll understand.
INTHALY: I definitely agree on that. I actually had the opposite of Rosey. Like when I was younger, I grew up in a very white community so for me, I never noticed that I was different, but everyone else did. So I would always try to look up to everyone else, and try to fit in with everyone else. But it was that constant rejection, because you just don’t, you just didn’t grow up the same way, you guys don’t understand each other, and the cultures are also very different and I had a hard time fitting in because of that. That was actually one of the reasons why I moved from my hometown. I was originally from Michigan, and my parents decided to move, because it got to the point of I couldn’t go to school. I was being bullied so bad, and we moved out to California, then we moved back to Illinois obviously. But both in California and Illinois, I started noticing people who looked like me because I was like, “Oh my god, there are different people other than that blonde-hair-fair-skinned-kind of look,” and it’s like you start realizing that, and like Rosie said, it’s like a human instinct, you go to people who are kind of like you because it’s comfortable and they’ll understand you and where you are coming from. So when you get older I think, or even at a young age, you are constantly looking for that acceptance and sometimes you find it and sometimes you don’t. But at the end of the day I feel like you do realize it at some point that you are different.
NGUYEN: Yeah, definitely. Oh yaaass, yassss, this is great. Keep it moving guys, I’m loving this.
INTHALY: It’s all you, Danielle! Go!
NGUYEN: Were you looking for people who look like you or, I think you might have answered it earlier….
NGUYEN: Okay,you can answer this next one then. So makeup, I think all of us use makeup, it’s great, we love it, sometimes it’s...or not? Honestly, I am pretty low maintenance so I don’t use it often. I wake up, I wash my face and I’m ready to go.
I forget about makeup. There are people like that and then there are people who take more time and effort on their makeup. I’m curious about what your relationship is to cosmetics. Did you try to look like someone with makeup? Why do you think people put on makeup in certain ways?
DEGUZMAN: I guess a big thing right now is contour, contouring your face and making it more slim, making it the way they want it to look. So, I mean it’s amazing to see the before and after, I’m like, “Whoa, what happened?” (LAUGHS) On your nose too, I see people trying to make their nose seem smaller, by contouring that.
MOUNGYIV: Yeah, yeah.
NGUYEN: Quite controversial, makeup. Like are you using makeup and trying to look in the way you personally want to look like, or are you doing [so] because others have told you so? Directly or indirectly through consumption of media and other people’s words.
MOUNGYIV: I think it depends on how I’m feeling that day, if I wear makeup or not. If I’m going to work, I never wear makeup. For me, personally, I just really like to get dressed up. I like messing around with makeup, I’m like the makeup girl. I don’t spend a lot of time on makeup, I spend a little money on makeup but not a lot of time. I, maybe subconsciously, I am trying to make myself look a certain type of way, but mostly, I just enjoy using it.
NGUYEN: No, that’s cool, that’s actually- that’s really tricky to navigate because in a way makeup is there for us to use. I think by using makeup we are all conforming to certain expectations of beauty, and again beauty is a social construct, so we are trying to live up to this image of beauty and what we think pretty is really. It doesn’t have to be in an unhealthy, anti-Asian way, of course, but it can definitely be that way. Again, the message is that makeup is there; it’s for us to consume, and it is for us to use, to translate what we want ourselves to look like, what we think is beauty, what we think is beauty-ful! Beautiful! Sorry, that was actually a trick question, JK, but really it is. I don’t think there is a correct answer to that because I mean makeup. You know in my class, well not my class, but there was a class at Smith, people were talking about how it’s an anti-feminist product to have. But then, because you know when you use makeup, you’re0maybe you are looking to look attractive to men. You are trying to please the male gaze. But at the same time there are women who use makeup- they argue that makeup is an empowering tool. We use this tool to empower ourselves, to make us feel more confident about ourselves.
So that’s a debate there, that will be as such. You know I think the basic message behind cosmetics is that you just use what you want to use, but be aware of why you’re using them, why you put these… why you put these products on your face (LAUGHS), but that was a good leeway to my, one of my final questions here, and that is what are the takeaways that you hope our listeners will gain from this episode? And I know that we’ve actually mentioned this multiple times, but it’d be nice to hear it again from you guys.
DEGUZMAN: Well, takeaways from this episode. (LAUGHS). Like Gift mentioned, being more aware of what you say to people, because some comments that you may not think are harmful of other people, they can be really bad. I think it’s really important to be more aware of what you say and love yourself.
NGUYEN: Love yourself people, love your body, love your flaws, love your curves, love your no curves, mmph!
DEGUZMAN: Be proud of how you look, even if it is not the norm.
NGUYEN: Yes, not the norm! Because the norm is stupid, okay, sorry!
INTHALY: I think definitely teaching the next generation; yes, this is how people look but don’t try to compare yourself to them, especially if it’s like we talked about before. Like role models. Everyone is always looking for a role model, like if its a movie star, actress, actor, whatever; they have millions of dollars to spend it on makeup, on beauty, and their face and everything, and that’s not attainable, do you kind of thing and be proud of what you are, and we just have to get out of that old mindset of what our parents taught us, you know? And just teaching the younger generation, again, love yourself and be proud of it.
MOUNGYIV: I don’t know what else to say.
NGUYEN: Alright, yeah that seems definitely repetitive but its okay, it’s all good. So what are some resources and spaces that you think our community should look into, when they are struggling to find people who look like them? Oh, also if there’s such a thing, makeup that appeals to our faces, our features, who do you go to?
INTHALY: I mean there’s the Internet now, oh, sorry (NGUYEN: Oh no, keep going)... I was going to say I know I’m always like looking at Amazon and eBay and whatever else is online, and I feel like Asian beauty products in general becoming more available, and you know how there are contouring kits but a lot of times those contouring kits are for a certain face shape, and I think the products that are coming out of the Asian market are more geared towards us, and certainly appeals to us more, which is really nice. And going towards your question of resources or things we should do is, I think, you know ,there are always youth groups, so I think a big thing is having groups for people so that they can talk about these things, and learn from older generations, or not older generation per se, but other people, like you know, it’s okay to be you and this is what you can do if you want, or this is what you don’t have to do kind of thing, just someone to guide them.
NGUYEN: Yeah, definitely. I know that Rosey watches makeup videos. Do you want to share on that? What are some resources and spaces that you think our community should look into? And resources and spaces are vague terms, basically anything that you go to for guidance to meet your beauty needs, if you have questions about again, like makeup or how to dress yourself even, or anything you find that requires someone who has been through this before. Wow ,I am making this very specific now, but I know that you watch makeup videos, if you can expand on that.
MOUNGYIV: I get a lot of makeup resources from Youtube, mostly just Youtube. And of course, I lean towards people are closer to what I look like, and I pick and choose what products they use. I also look up reviews on Sephora or Ulta. I read the reviews, if it’s a hit or if other people didn’t like it. I do that, I also... I’ve never been big on fashion, but I just like to walk around stores and look at the mannequins to see what they’re wearing, see what the hottest trend is, or even my little siblings. They always know what’s going on, what’s the coolest thing to have. So I think looking toward your family for anything, for resources, for support when you feel like you’re all alone. That is a big thing to keep or have, just to have your siblings or cousins there for you, because they know what you’re going through, they know what you’re feeling. Their parents are doing the same thing, so...
NGUYEN: Yeah, if you have a supportive family, definitely go to them. If they can give you positive affirmations about your appearance, about how you feel, then yeah, definitely go to them. I know that there are some people who don’t have that privilege to be able to connect with their family in that way, so yeah, going to your own peer groups, talking to friends who look like you, who have been through this before, who have the same struggles, is another way ,too. It’s interesting; using makeup that is geared towards your community, your group, is always definitely helpful, finding representation there. Except for the BB cream. I am skeptical about that product, especially because I mean some have this whitening feature to it. I mean it depends on what type of BB cream, so there are some kinds that really stress on that part, that whitening part, and I used it before and it made me look like a ghost, like I was like, this is embarrassing; I was just trying to cover up my acne! Danielle, if you have any resources or spaces that you think our community should look into....
DEGUZMAN: Definitely what they already explained, and then just cultural groups where you could talk to more people and discuss this more, so you can make it more aware to other communities and races that aren’t as educated about it. And then a big thing with me was family. Recently, I’ve been talking to my cousins a lot and they’ve been very encouraging in certain ways, and it’s been really helpful to have them encouraging me or telling me that i should be more loving with myself, for how I look and not how other people want me to look.
NGUYEN: Yeah, thank you. (LAUGHS) There was one more thing I wanted to talk about, and that was hair. I’ve been mentioning this a bit, from another episode of mine. I notice that all three of you have long hair, and was that a personal choice? Did your parents force you to keep your hair long? Because mine did.
INTHALY: I think when you’re younger, yes; it’s a big deal to have very long hair and I think to have your natural color is a big deal. I wasn’t able to dye, I mean, I could have done it anytime to be honest, gone to the store and got it myself but I was afraid of the consequences. But I wasn’t allowed to dye my hair until I was like, nineteen, I think, 19, 20, when it was finally like, “okay, you can have some blonde streaks”. And then from there, you know now my hair is kind of a blonde-brown, it’s hard to see, and now it’s okay but when you’re young, it’s like just not a good thing. And I still have some people look at me and be like “oh, her hair is blonde and she’s Asian, that’s a little weird”.
NGUYEN: Yeah, hair is definitely something very valued in our culture. Historically, too, women are expected to keep their hair long, and when they’re cut, it’s seen as dishonourable, as something that is… as equivalent to having their pride being stripped away. And I remember when I had my hair chopped, my mother screamed her head off. She was like, “Jessica, I cannot believe you did that! How dare you?” And it was so weird because it was my hair and something of my own, and I thought that I had the right to, I had the natural right to do whatever I want with it when that wasn’t the case. Apparently if you change your hair, it’s as if you’re not being a good child.
INTHALY: It’s like the whole family’s problem. Like, “Oh my god, why did you cut it? Why did you dye it? What’s wrong with you?” (LAUGHS)
NGUYEN: Yeah, and so they just want long virgin hair forever. I guess my mom was afraid of me looking more like a guy, like a boy, and that turns into something that’s not attractive, translates into something that’s not desired in the male gaze, like all the guys just want long-haired women. Again that is a beauty expectation, having long hair, but everyone is different, of course. Dying the hair, cutting the hair, is that all you can do?
DEGUZMAN: Straight hair?
NGUYEN: Straight hair, hmmm.
DEGUZMAN: Straight vs. curly. As Asian women, you see people like, “Oh, you have straight hair, it looks so beautiful”, and then us, we’re trying to curl it and then other people are trying to straighten it, like its complete opposites. Grass is greener on the other side kind of thing.
NGUYEN: Yeah, definitely, like people of color, we have, I mean not just people of color, but I mean white people too… (LAUGHS) Some people have more texture in their hair, they have curlier hair, but then it just seems in general like straight hair is more valued and so oftentimes we straighten it, and… or maybe is that just me? We straighten it and we just remove the curls. It’s like the curls are evil, the curls are not accepted because they’re just not pretty, apparently, according to society. And it’s weird, I wonder where that comes from.
NGUYEN: Yeah, I don’t know. Do you guys think so or maybe it’s just me? I know with Black American women, they straighten their hair. There’s this whole message that you should embrace your curls, your ‘fros, your afros, embrace the volume in your hair [instead of] straightening it out to look like a white person, and I think that applies to our community as well. That can apply. Then, we also have people trying to create unnatural curls, there’s a difference between, when you’re curling your hair with a curler, you can definitely tell that it’s not natural vs. naturally curly or wavy hair. And I read something recently in the news about the latest Victoria’s Secret show, where they often glorify women. They don’t put a lot of spotlight on Asian women, embracing their naturally straight hair, or naturally curly hair, but they emphasize it on other people of color, which is just weird to me.
But thank you so much for taking the time out to talk with me. I think it was very valuable, I also am very grateful for all of you to share, like some of you have shared personal stories and that means a lot when people do that, it’s a brave thing to do. And bullying, I would like to cover a topic on bullying, but we’ll see. We actually just had an interview on overbearing parental expectations.
INTHALY: Oh, that’s a fun one.
NGUYEN: So finally, if you’d like to give your feedback on this topic or would like to share more, or have something to say really, email me at email@example.com, tweet, or facebook us, and we’ll get back to you when we can. I’m excited because this is like our second season now, and I’m actually surprised that beauty expectations just come around the corner. Usually it’s one of the first topics that people cover, but I just wanted to lay it on the backend. But yeah, thank you. Tune in soon!
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