Growing up in a buzzing, internationalized city like Hong Kong, the commingling of Western culture and Asian cultures is inevitable; it is essentially a kaleidoscope of life, a sophisticated blend of the East and the West. This coexistence and diversity created a conflict within me - the pressure to be more like others - which turned into a desperate attempt to disassociate myself completely from Chinese culture. I became ashamed of where I was from. Being brought up in a place where people are defined by a westernized definition of ‘beauty’, I realized the value placed on having pale skin and how it can even boost a person’s social standing.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve been the tannest girl in my family and at school. People would constantly point out how unusual it is for a Chinese girl to have such tan skin, and I often get stopped on the streets by beauticians trying to advise me on ways to achieve pale skin by using their whitening products. There are even posters on buses and sides of buildings to lure women into plastic surgery to look more ‘western’. The importance of achieving this western ideal made me become self-aware, and led me to consider myself as the opposite of what is seen as ‘attractive’. I was forced to strive for something that is unrealistic and out of reach.
I still remember the time when a friend of mine told me that in terms of attractiveness, I am above average for an Asian but not so much compared to white girls. This stuck with me for a long time, especially now when I’m in an entirely different continent surrounded by people with blonde hair and pale skin. I’ve created this standard for myself, making me feel like who I am will never be enough because of my ethnicity. Sometimes going out with my white friends makes me feel uncomfortable and misplaced, as if I were sticking out like a sore thumb. It fuels my struggle to find self-acceptance and self-love.
White standards of beauty, now a global disease, are still being promoted through the media continuously even though they’ve been called out for being normative and downright racist. White beauty is an extensive trend, a popular fashion phenomenon that is ignorant towards non-white ethnicities. The lack of appreciation for Asian beauty is a problem that needs to be addressed. Because once standards of beauty are implanted, they are extremely difficult to remove and reverse their effects.