As an assistant editor for a women’s lifestyle magazine, I’m exposed to images, faces, bodies and shapes all day, every day. I surf blogs, I flip through magazines and I interview some of the most “beautiful” people on the planet.
As my life has gotten more infused with the media’s standards of beauty, I have to admit, I’ve become a little disturbed by the narrow scope of what is deemed beautiful in our society. Long limbs, blonde mane, enormous eyes, lush lips, big boobs, etc. As an Asian American woman, we have a slightly different set of requirements to be beautiful (straight black hair, big eyes, clear, pale skin, waif-y body shape, etc.), but it’s still there.
But then, I realized I was actually in a position to do something about it! Audrey Magazine decided to put out a casting call seeking REAL women to participate in a photo shoot for our Summer issue. We wanted to feature girls who had great stories to share about their quirks, their bodies, their faces.
We ended up with so many amazing submissions! Women of all ages from all over America chimed in about what they love about their body. Some talked about learning to love what they were born with:
I was born with a birth defect called cystic hygroma. I underwent many surgeries to try to “fix” it, but as soon as I turned 18, I asked my surgeons to stop. I had finally come to accept who I was inside and out and I liked who I saw in the mirror, despite the looks on peoples faces when they saw me. Life is good — asymmetrical — but very good. — Geraly Unite-O’Day, 39, Filipino
What I love most about my face is that I have one eye that’s double eyelid and one that’s not. Putting on makeup is definitely a tricky task, but this way, I can help both my double-eyelid and mono-eyelid friends get ready! — Nicole Lu, Chinese
Growing up I was always embarrassed about my flat chest, I used to try padded bras and stuff until I decided I didn’t care and experienced how liberating it was to not wear one at all. Now I am happy with my body and fell lucky that I don’t need the extra equipment that bigger boobs demand. —Nova Reiko, 32, Japanese-Caucasian
Some were tired of being told they needed to look a certain way in order to be beautiful.
My parents used to chastise me for freckles and having an androgynous boy haircut [but] I love this idea of featuring real Asian women because I think, as with most women’s magazine, there can be a disconnect between what I see in the magazine and what I see in the mirror. — Annie Wang, 27, Taiwanese
In our teenage years, we’re constantly seeking ways of expressing ourselves–of showcasing our individuality. While my friends were cutting their hair and dying it all sorts of interesting colors, I asked my Mom to cut my hair. She said to me, “No, Ranny. Your hair is what makes you pretty.” Since then, I kept my hair long for 25 years. Why? Because it was what made me pretty. For twenty-five years, I lived my life based on who I was suppose to be, what I was suppose to do and what I was suppose to look like.
After going down the rabbit hole, exploring it for a bit and climbing back up, I went through a personal transformation. The person that I saw in the mirror was no longer the person I knew myself to be. In the beginning of 2010, I sat in a chair as a stranger cut off practically all of my hair–leaving only a few inches–revealing the true me. It felt like I saw myself for the first time. In that moment, I didn’t care about being pretty–because I was beautiful. My Mom didn’t speak to me for the next three months, but it was totally worth seeing my beauty manifest itself externally. I was able to see the person that was hiding behind the dark long hair. — Ranny Kang, 26, Cambodian-Laotion
Some liked looking different from others:
The thing I love about my face are freckles cause it adds a lil extra something. It sometimes throws people off and they just wonder what race I am. — Sarah Choo, 28, Korean-Scottish-Irish
And some were okay with looking like others:
Every woman should love themselves for what they have. It doesn’t matter if someone else has the same hair color as you, or same facial structure, eye color, whatever it is! Work what your momma gave YOU and nobody else — Julia Suh, Korean
We’re so sad we weren’t able to include everyone in our photo shoot and online, but we just wanted to thank you all for sharing your stories with us.
I was able to take away from this experience a reshaped perspective on beauty. More and more, I am certain that looking a certain way does not define what is beautiful — it’s feeling and acting beautiful.
Despite newfangled methods — plastic surgery, weight-loss plans, creams, pills — multiplying everywhere that encourage women to look more and more alike, I am more adamant than ever to fight the good fight with the belief that working with whatever God gave you is more than enough and that beauty is more than skin-deep.
Won’t you join me?
By Janice Jann