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Asian American Women Share Struggles With Beauty Standards

– I was eight years old, and
then a lady was just like,
“You can leave; we don’t have your size.”
(light piano music)
– And she was like,
“Your nose is too flat.”
– And so she was like,
“You know if you want to have surgery,
“you can do a nose job.”
(upbeat plucky music)
– There would be times when
I’m opening gifts on holidays,
and I’d be really excited to maybe receive
snacks or toys or just gadgets
as a little kid,
(subdued oboe riffs)
but instead receiving
skin-whitening products
or double-eyelid tape
or little gadgets
(light whimsical music)
that you can use to make
your double chin go away.
This is maybe not a good
action on camera (laughs).
As an eight-year-old
girl, that’s not something
you want to be receiving,
or let alone, play with.
– I remember my grandma would
come over around everyday
and she would pinch my nose,
literally pinch my nose.
I would be like, “What?
(whimsical guitar riffs)
“What are you doing?
“Why are you doing this?”
She was like, “Your nose is too flat.
“I’m trying to help
you get a nose bridge.”
– I would say for me
the main focus has been
from my family and friends growing up,
it was all around the shape of my eyes
and the lack of prominent,
thick, double eyelid.
(playful clarinet riffs)
I remember before going out
strategically doing my eye makeup
and placing my eyelashes
because I kind of wanted
to fit in with how everyone else looked.
– Skin was also a big thing.
My family is always trying to wear hats.
They bring a lot of umbrellas
when we go to the beach.
There’s no such thing as
being tan in my family.
– The visors, right?
– [Michelle] Yeah, the
visors, the Asian visor.
– We call it the Japanese
geisha look almost.
It’s pale white.
But the whiter and the paler you are
as an Asian-American,
it’s almost a plus-plus.
– As a south Indian,
(gentle acoustic guitar music)
so I’m Tamilian, and it’s
even bigger of a thing.
I noticed it when I lived in
India for the last three years.
There’s a phrase that
they would use in summer.
They would say, “Karuthu poirke,”
which means, it literally translates to
“Look how black you’ve become.”
I was like, “Really?”
I don’t know any different, right, right.
– We have a similar one.
– Oh, yeah?
– “Umitim ka,” which
means, “You got darker.”
– Yeah, and anybody who’d
visit me, especially from here,
if they weren’t seeing me for a long time,
my grandmother would say,
she’d be like, “Karuthu poirke.
“You’ve become so black.”
I was like, “(mumbles) feel.”
So, my mom never really laid it on me,
but a big one in India is Fair and Lovely.
– Is laser light.
(upbeat electronic music)
– [Narrator} Gives glowing fairness.
– So from now, only fairness
like laser light treatment.
(soft rhythmic drum beats)
– The beauty centers for Filipinos
are usually mestizo, which is a Filipino
that’s mixed with European features
or specifically Spain because,
you know, colonization.
– [Voices] Oh, no!
(techno music)
Then the next one is
“Chinita” or “Chinito”
which is basically
Filipinos that have more
East Asian features
so petite, lighter skin, smaller face.
My mom once asked me if I
wanted a nose job (laughs).
– [Lavanya] No! Really?
Oh, my God.
(light playful music)
– Yeah, it was just I didn’t
feel attractive growing up.
– What was your response to that?
I would love to know.
When she asked you, were you horrified?
– Well, to be fair to my mom,
there’s nothing wrong
with plastic surgery.
That was around the time
that she was going to have a boob job.
So, she was like, “If
you want to have surgery,
“you can do a nose job.
“That can be my gift or whatever.”
(chuckling)
I was like, “No, it’s okay, Mom.”
– Oh, my god.
(sitar music)
– [Lavanya] In India, there’s a big,
at least from what I’ve felt
over the last couple
of years living there,
skinny shaming is a big thing.
(light guitar riffs)
The whole idea is if you’re too skinny,
you won’t be looked at
as fertile is one thing.
That’s a big thing.
Then also it’s economic status
I think because poverty
is so in your face in a lot of areas,
it’s almost like, “Oh, well,
if you’re super skinny,
“you obviously can’t afford
to live a decent life.”
You know what I mean?
– [Jasmine] One time when
I was really, really young,
I went to Taiwan and I
walked into a clothing store.
(gentle acoustic guitar music)
I’m going to cry.
I was eight years old,
and then a lady was just like,
“You can leave; we don’t have your size.”
I’m an eight-year-old girl.
It’s weird because at that
time as a little girl,
you’re just happy and carefree.
For someone to say something
so hurtful like that, it sucks.
I’m still considered
large for an Asian person,
but in Asian America,
I’m totally acceptable
in an Asian American community.
I still feel confident in myself.
– I can laugh about it
now, but it was really hard
because I can’t change my appearance.
– I know that a lot of people go through
what I’m going through.
– A lot of these things
sort of stay with you
as you grow up, and I think now as adults,
we sort of own it and we embrace it
and we’re more confident.
– [Julie] I think it’s unrealistic for me
to try to be somebody that I’m not.
I’m brown and I’m happy about my heritage.
I’m happy about the way I look.
(light acoustic guitar music)

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