It's pretty rare to see Asian women in Hollywood, especially in leading roles. Sandra Oh in Grey's Anatomy, Constance Wu in Fresh Off the Boat, and Maggie Q in Nikita are the only ones that quickly come to mind.
One area I have noticed more Asian women (in relation to other areas of media) is in beauty blogs and vlogs. Michelle Phan is one of the most famous beauty bloggers -- she's been blogging since 2007 and now has over eight million subscribers and her own makeup line. She is reveled among women of numerous ethnicities as one of the first and most prominent bloggers to make beauty videos. Among Asian women, she's certainly conventionally beautiful with her large eyes, full lips, angled brows, and oval shaped face -- all of which are only enhanced in her makeup tutorials. Besides Phan, there's dope2111, who goes by the name Promise Tamang. She is famous for her makeup transformations into famous Disney characters like Mulan and other pop culture figures.
I watch some of the tutorials and appreciate them for their helpfulness and creativity that I would never conjure up on my own. I also think it's great that these women are role models for young girls and are able to show Asians, who are generally underrepresented and unaddressed in the cosmetics world, how to do makeup. However, I do think the flipside is that the popularity of these blogs (and the popularity of beauty products) in general, reinforces the idea that young girls, and especially young Asian girls, should use makeup to look more beautiful (as defined by cultural norms).
As an Asian female, I've always felt like I've been a little less feminine in comparison to all my white friends. My eyelashes, which are usually long and curly, are straighter and shorter. They don't really highlight my eyes. My lips are thinner. And my face is rounder. I still feel beautiful, but I feel different. None of these things are particularly bad, but with the prevalence of makeup products and the emergence of readily available beauty blogs, it's so easy to try and "fix" these things with products. This sends the message to young girls that they don't have to accept who they are, but rather they can change how they look. Beauty bloggers are skilled in their knowledge of makeup, and their transformations are amazing...on the other hand, they show us the post-modern self-reflexivity of how manipulative makeup can be and the self-construction of women. It's fascinating and scary to think about how one can completely change how his or her face looks just by using makeup. These beauty bloggers have all the best intentions and do great work, but if young Asian girls grow up watching these videos, they may believe that makeup is necessary to be considered beautiful in our society.
Today in class we briefly touched upon unattainable body standards for women. These expectations affect ALL women, but particularly for Asian women, you fit into one of two types: "ugly" and "plain," or very very pretty. Asian women are among some of the most fetishized..for their "submissiveness," exotic beauty, and their thin and lanky bodies.
I hate it when people say, "oh, she's pretty for an Asian" or "he's hot for a Black guy." What does that mean? Why can't we all just be pretty/hot/beautiful/positively described in general? Why does it have to be attributed/in relation to race? I have a lot of hope for our generation, but it takes a lot of critical analysis and dissection of ALL types of media to understand the messages that our youth are synthesizing and embodying.
*I apologize if this post seems all over the place. I haven't really decided how I feel about makeup and beauty standards...but I think they're interesting and worth a post!