Equating skin color to power, success and beauty has been a continuous issue for many cultures. However, while most other cultures have been able to move with the times and find other traits to value, some Asian countries, especially in the Southeast , still have challenges accepting the new norms that come with complexion. To many people in Asian cultures, lighter skin is symbolic of a better life including wealth, higher social statuses and more media attention. At the other end of the spectrum, people with a darker complexion in these societies are associated with poverty and the working class. In countries such as the Philippines, the social divide between people with tan skin and fair skin is very clear, as most celebrities in the media have fair skin. To further explain the stigma behind a darker skin tone, the University of California, Irvine Law Review wrote about a Vietnamese woman, explaining that the reason why she hid her face from the sun was because a dark skin tone meant the mark of the laborer or someone who worked in the fields. Although it seems as though Asians are receiving more representation in the media than ever, one minority is still left out. Due to Western media exposure, Asians are mostly portrayed with having porcelain-like skin. In most Netflix dramas presented in the U. Modern entertainment has caused the mass amount of brown-skinned Asians to be dismissed and underrepresented.
The danger of cosmetics
‘Deformation not transformation’
As a child who was born and raised in a tropical U. At 7 years old, I started using papaya soap — a famous Filipino skin-lightening product that is vastly advertised in the Philippines, which I visited frequently. And while it never did work, I also often scrubbed my body with calamansi, a tiny limelike fruit in the Philippines, because rumor has it that it makes the skin lighter. I tried almost every skin-lightening product out there. Nothing worked. As a child, I had mixed feelings every time I visited the Philippines. I hated being brown or dark-skinned, especially when everyone around me had a lighter complexion than mine. When most people think of Asians or Asian-Americans, the looks that come to mind are those with a lighter complexion, often from East Asian countries such as Japan, Korea and China.
My caramel skin — sometimes mocha in the summer — is generally considered dark for a Filipino. The only thing I understood from all this was that I was different. In an effort to make myself feel comfortable with my otherness, around the age of 12 I started to deviate from my own culture and avoided the other three or four Asians in my school. Meanwhile, I became exposed to more white kids—surfers, skaters and volleyball players who made puberty look so easy and not awkward at all—and just admired them from afar until I could find some common ground with them.
I recall a recent instance where my friend noticed and asked me why my foundation shade was lighter than my natural skin tone. I wasn't sure how to answer. I knew that this friend, a non-Asian male who was completely unfamiliar with the cultural and beauty standards that Asian-American women subconsciously feel compelled to live up to, meant no harm when asking this question, but it incidentally provoked a lot thought and feelings from me nonetheless.