Asian Girl Problem #74: Making It Up

I can’t complain–my eyes have been pretty good to me over the years. Since childhood, I learned that I had the desirable double eyelid, courtesy of my dad’s “Western feature” genes. Both he and I also have these weird dark ridges under our eyes, which my classmates used to ask me about. But I was cool with those too, after my dad convinced me they were awesome. (I wish a persuasive and positive male figure in every young girl’s life.)


But in the rare instance I’m applying eye makeup, I’ll notice that my upper eyelid hella droops over my lower one (thanks, Mom). And I’ll end up on Google, trying to find the right word to describe my problem and looking for makeup advice to minimize the effect. A smoky eyeshadow angled up? Concealer under the lid? I never find the answer, but ten out of ten times, I’ll get sucked into watching some YouTube video for “Asian eye makeup.” The other day, it was this:

Just another “fashion guru” sharing her two cents to help other girls learn how to have fuller lips, thinner noses, bigger eyes, Whiter features. And, though I’m not sure the contour effect can be pulled off in real life, I’d concede that her results are hot. Then I find myself rewinding, desperate to see what she looks like naturally, but she doesn’t provide a before shot. “Good for her,” most of my mind says. Makeup is a powerful tool. If you have two hours a day to change your face, instead of painful and expensive surgery, you could go through life convincing almost everyone of your made up reality. Putting the best version of you out there–I’m into it, I think.

A few years ago, my Taiwanese friend shared a game show with me, wherein the host presents adorable photos of girls, and then they come on stage, sans makeup. When they do, it’s like the Springer show. The audience gasps in delight and surprise at the below-average-looking girls. Then they sit down at a makeup table and go through their entire makeup routine. Special contacts, fake lashes and contouring are always a big part of the transformation.

To cap off this circus, the audience votes on which girl has the most dramatic transformation–essentially, which girl is the least attractive and can cover her undesirable features the best.

I don’t want to hate this, but I do. What gets me is that internet usage and online social media is so pervasive in Chinese life. It’s a generation of only children–kids aren’t that social but lonely, the economy’s tough so they get their kicks online, and lots of girls have fantasies of meeting a wealthy prince through online dating. They know the tricks and their photos all look great, but identical–puckered lips and babydoll stares up at the camera. The moment a guy sees her naturally, whether that’s the first date or hookup, is something I would both pay and cringe to witness. If online dating in America is a jungle, in China it’s a bloodsport.

Beauty is a bitch that you always want to own. More on this later.


Asian Girl Problem #38: The Pursuit of Four Eyelids

Julie Chen recently spoke about being pressured to get plastic surgery on her eyes (and probably a few other places) in order to advance her journalism career. They didn’t go into the issues deeply on the show, but it heartened me to see these racial issues brought to light on national TV.

I remember watching her host the first season of Big Brother as a child. I would watch it just for her sometimes. My mother never watched American TV, but when Julie Chen was on, I’d call her over, knowing it’d pique her interest for a couple minutes to see an Asian in the media. As she would say, “American people like her beauty. Chinese like a different look.” I guess I fell into the former category. (Anyway, Asian cultures have increasingly adopted American standards of beauty over the past 20 years. People want longer faces, bigger mouths and pointier noses–all of which were unappealing back in my mother’s youth.)

Now I’m kind of relieved that her face isn’t “real” because back then, I was amazed at how a seemingly Asian person was so…not at the same time. I knew I would never look like her, and grudgingly chalked it up to genetics. “The people on TV are one in a million. You’ve gotta start by being blessed with beauty and work to get the brains,” I thought.

But having her admit it and talk about how hard it was to achieve it makes more sense. It makes life seem more fair. And in some ways, it’s comforting to know that there’s a slim (we’re talkin’ razor-thin) chance in hell that a Chinese person would look like that naturally. It’s like we can all relax now and be reassured, again, that media is all smoke and mirrors and the only thing standing in our way of looking like that is a few thousands dollars and a year’s(!) worth of recovery time.

I’m not against getting plastic surgery or any physical change to fit into a career that’s largely based on looks. I like to watch pretty people, and am not immune to the enthralling antics in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. I just like knowing. When I’m watching all the tiny-nosed, doe-eyed Chinese celebrities perform, it’d just be nice to know which ones are “fake” instead of schizophrenically staring at their noses and comparing them to the audience sitting offstage. Because there’s no point comparing oneself to players in a whole other ball game.