As I’m getting ready to go out I start thinking about how easy it must be for a man to get ready. They shower, get dress, put on some “axe” spray, comb some gel through their hair and out the door they go.

The act of going out for the night is a process and ritual that many women seem to have. Shower, apply moisturizer, blow dry hair, set hair in rollers or curl or straighten hair, spray on some hair spray, apply face cream, apply concealer, apply foundation, brush on powder, apply eye shadow, apply eye liner and mascara, put on some blush while sucking in your cheeks, apply lip liner, lipstick and/or lip gloss and that my friends, is just her face and hair. Why do women put so much time into looking beautiful?

The beauty industry is a multi-billion dollar business. By setting the trends of beauty it shapes and defines the culture of beauty itself. In looking at magazines, movies, TV shows and ads, beauty was identified as someone who was blond, big eyes, tall and Caucasian while I was growing up. So how does a dark haired, slanty eyed, short Asian even compare in the beauty market?!?

I have dealt with that question my whole childhood through to my high school years. Trying to go blond with a box of Nice n’ easy shade 104 Natural Medium Golden Blonde but always ending up with a shade of atomic tangerine and wearing colour contacts to get away from my dark “almost black” brown eyes. It’s no wonder why you see almost all Asians wear four inch heels because there are no short models out there and try having to explain to your friends and strangers what a double-eye lid is! (For those who don’t know, most people have a crease in their eye lid giving them a double-eye lid). Me, I have a mono-lid making my eyes small and squinty.

japanese-woman-vintage-Tom_Brandt_on_Flickr-ccThe double-eye lid surgery is one of the biggest if not the most popular surgery in Asia. Mama Nguyen has even suggested that I get my eyes done to have the sought after crease in the my eyes to make them bigger and beautiful. In South Korea, plastic surgery is a rapidly growing industry. Girls coming out of high school are getting surgery to make their eyes bigger, nose smaller and legs longer. Parents are giving plastic surgery to their daughters as gifts in order for them to succeed and compete with others in finding a husband and a job. When submitting a resume in South Korea most companies ask that you submit a picture with your application. Interesting.

When first looking into this topic, I was questioning if people in Asia are really trying to mould themselves into the “Americanized” ideal of beauty. After some self-reflection and talking to others about the topic, I came to realize maybe it’s not about looking more Caucasian but more about increasing your “value” in society. People all seem to agree that being attractive has an advantage in life and the US being a symbol of success to most Asian countries as portrayed in the “American dream” it could be a way for them to up their beauty currency in society.

Asian_young-woman-Osamu_UchidaIf more people continue to turn to plastic surgery to build the perfect person they want to look like, how would we measure beauty if we all look alike? If you look at the 2013 Miss South Korea contestants they all resemble each other and it’s quite hard to tell them apart. How do you judge a beauty contest if all the contestants had plastic surgery? Is it equal to an athlete taking steroid to enhance his/her performance in competitions? Which brings me to a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air episode when Will is stuck in the basement with a girl he sings a little song….

“I’m stuck in a basement,
sittin’ on a tricycle, girl gettin’ on my nerves
I’m goin’ outta my mind,
I thought she was fine,
don’t know if her body is hers.”

I can’t help but think, with the growing trend toward plastic surgery how will we know if her body is really hers.

On the flip side, it’s interesting to mention that when asked what beauty is, people answered in way that did not touch on physical traits and more about inner beauty. Beauty was defined as having confidence in yourself, the courage to be comfortable with themselves, being happy with who you are, beauty being everywhere and “ beauty as something that is unique to every person”. When asked if it was more important to be smart or pretty to a 5 year old little girl, her answer was smart. Maybe this gives us hope that the world is not only about vanity after all.

Photo credits: (top) Thomas Hawk; (middle) Tom Brandt; and (bottom) Osamu Uchida – all with CC licenses

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