Last week, I was asked to provide a quote for an article for Fashionista.com — with the aim to speak to the beauty industry/community as a whole and share my thoughts, feelings, frustrations, or reflections. Below is my reflection and response.
Where do I begin? There are so many things that I want to bring up, within the beauty industry and beyond. The foxeye trend, monolid/double lids, colorism, fetishization-sexualization-exoticism-orientalism, cultural appropriation, reducing all Asian people to a single (East Asian, usually) image/stereotype. Anti-Asian sentiment is nothing new in this country, but because so much history, especially as it pertains to BIPOC, is left out of school curriculums the mass awareness and education we’re seeing right now makes this issue seem new.
Mostly, I want the beauty community to reflect and educate themselves and their audiences. If you buy into K-beauty, J-beauty, TCM (ie. gua sha, acupuncture), etc you cannot remove yourself from speaking out and spreading awareness in support of the Asian community.
I was born and raised in America, I’m from here — Asian communities belong here. Growing up, my idea of AAPI representation was the yellow (eye roll) Power Ranger and idolizing Michelle Kwan. We’ve made some progress in the beauty industry in terms of representation, especially in marketing photography. And while it’s been a huge step forward in the industry showing that inclusion is important, it still feels tokenistic, a surface level attempt to include someone of every race simply for the optics.
It’s not lost on me that things I was once made fun of growing up (eating seaweed, drinking matcha, wearing jade) have now become major sources of revenue to non-Asian businesses and sold as novel and exotic to a mostly white, wealthy audience. Instead of appropriating cultures for profit, I want to see more companies build and design products for an audience that reflects the diversity of America. Not only that, I want them to be built by the communities they’re for — not white executives — too.
I grew up calling myself a minority, but soon America will be a majority minority country. Beauty brands need diverse teams and perspectives to build products for a diverse audience from the start. This is an imperative, and should honestly be table stakes at this point. This is the primary reason why my cofounder and I started EADEM — we were tired of seeing brands treating diversity as a marketing play while ignoring the real needs and unique perspectives of women of color. After this week’s shootings, the industry must see and treat women of color not as monoliths or stereotypes or beauty trends, but as people with specific needs, stories and cultures that deserve to be honored in their specificity.