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.
‘Deformation not transformation’
The danger of cosmetics
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. Other countries and cultures often have similar misguided views as well. Brown and dark-skinned Asians have been left out and constantly overlooked by the media and society for many decades.
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. Forget about hanging out with the Asians. They all flocked together at lockers and lunch tables.
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. There was no simple way to explain.