[Podcast] Whiteness as US/ Blackness as OTHERS. (In Japanese culture)



20121024Ito, Shinsui

Old Japanese Paintings

Credits : Google images

The story that I talked about was from an article about the birth of the Crown Prince. (Okuno, 2001)

The doctor who delivered the Prince in 1960 revealed that the first thing that the Emperor asked him about the newborn was “iro wa dou desuka?” (How is his color?), shiroihoudesuka, soretomo kuroihoudesuka? (Is he fair skinned or dark skinned?) The doctor was shocked to hear that but he replied that the newborn was rather fair and had inherited the skin of Empress. Then, the Emperor had a relieved look on his face when he heard the doctor’s answer.

Whiteness in Japan had became a representative of identity and that the women’s white faces appeared to be a sort of body decorations that is used as a communicating medium in a community. It had been so deeply embedded in its culture that many the preference of white skin is more of a historical influences rather than westernising their ideals about their race. According to Ashikari’s (2005) survey, many informants said that the preference for white skin had no relations to racial aspects (jinshu) but it is rather just a matter of beauty.

Source : Ashikari, M., 2005, “Cultivating Japanese Whiteness – The “Whitening” Cosmetic Boom and the Japanese Identity.” SAGE publications. 


Being Ideal?


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Credits: Google images

The other day when I was driving, my friend C asked me a very peculiar question, she asked, “If you were to create the ideal Asian woman, how would she look like?” Without hesitation, her skin would be pale, very tender and luminous. Her hair would be jet black, straight and long. It would be easy to make her as she will be a conformity of societal standards. It’s kind of interesting.. and sad to know that Chinese culture is one of the oldest longstanding culture but given so much centuries and being the second largest population on earth, the beauty standards of this culture is still this narrow. In a nutshell, she would be like those girls you see in gouache paintings. (refer below)


Credits: google images

Then again, it struck me. There are 4.1 billion Asians in this world which made up 60% of the human race. Sadly, with the different shape and sizes we come in, Asians still have this very monogynous (and ridiculous) beauty standard we seek after. I have never been the person who blamed the media for setting unachievable beauty standard and put girls into situations of eating disorders or even cosmetic surgeries to become what they want to. I would say that, I blamed this narrowness of vision upon our history. I guessed in Asia, we defined beauty with limiting parameters, you will rarely (almost never) hear an elderly person call a slightly chubby woman as “curvy”, instead, you will hear the word “fat.” The word fat never quite caught among our cultures.

Hence, the latest surgical trend in Asia. The V-Line surgery, it is said that the sharper the jawline of one’s face, the features would appeared to be more prominent.


To say that we Asians want to look “more caucasian”, I disagree with that fact. Yet, saying that it would be oversimplifying this crazy plastic surgery craze. Yes, bigger eyes, double eyelids, high set of nose and sharper jawline are common characteristics of caucasians but i supposed this type of beauty that we are looking for are more towards a fusion of both asian and caucasian beauty.  Personally, it is more of an enhancement of Asian features than wanting to become more Western.

Source : LINK

Au Naturel ?



MAKE UP FOR EVER_HD Ad_Spring 2011

So…. are you tempted to try out this product?

As a person who spent mostly all her time on analysing makeup products this particular ad caught my attention. My initial reaction was “wow. ” Then it followed, “I might try this.” After that, i started to picked all her imperfections in the photo. For instance, she does have a slight bit of eye bags, and her arm looked a tad bit funny. I guessed I am used to all those photoshop gimmick that the beauty industry had to offer.

To put it out there, the model does look very beautiful in the picture. She’s gorgeous even without retouching. But, do bear in mind that she’s a young model that probably, have very flawless skin already. Besides that, the set up, makeup techniques, professional photographers and lighting does make a difference.

I really do  appreciate it when the company gives out a truer representation of what benefits that the product would able to deliver. Personally, to really put a foundation to its test, I really would prefer seeing ads of different age group (and skin types) of women wearing that particular foundation, and a show of before and after of the photos. It’s no secret that most women wears makeup, at some point, we all thinks that photoshopped ads are deceiving our perception but sadly, we still believes that such perfection still is possible to achieve in reality. Isn’t it wearing makeup an attempt to photoshop our imperfections in real life?

So what do you think about unretouched ads?

Credits: Google

Source: LINK

Beauty images


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“Image is powerful ; Image is superficial” – Cameron Russell

I particular fancied how she answer the first question in the video. “How did you became a model?” and her answer was:

“The real way of me being a model is that I won the genetic lottery  and I am a recipient of a legacy and if you are wondering what is a legacy, well, for the past few centuries we defined beauty not just as health and youth and symmetry and that we are biological programmed to admire but also as tall, slender figures and femininity and white skin. This was a legacy that was built for me and its a legacy that I have been cashing out on.” – Cameron Russell

Cameron Russell is a Victoria Secret runway model that had taken the TED stage on telling girls not to follow her paths in becoming a model. She talked about the “power of images” not only in the modelling/beauty industry but in our daily lives. She worked along with various famous luxury brands such as LV, Chanel, Prada, Calvin Klein and etc and she had been the top of her industry for the past decade. In her speech, she focused on the fact that “these pictures are pictures of me, they are constructions of me” while illustrating a series of personal pictures of her that was taken on the same day as compared to more famous pictures of her that portrayed her on her role in posh setups, styling, lighting, post-retouching, the hair and makeup in creating what we see on billboards and fashion ads.

Here are some of the pictures she showed:






Photo credit to : (LINK)


Credits : Google images

Now, on a much serious note – “the construction of images” by the beauty industries. Yes, personally, I do agree on the fact that people, even though some claimed that they wouldn’t judge one on its appearances. To be honest, we all judges even if it’s a slight amount. Often times I heard my mom nagging about the importance of first impressions and you only will have one chance to  nail it before its gone. So, what does your image and social media presences saying about you?


Credits: Google images

It’s funny that what we wear, tweet, post on Facebook is actually impacting people’s judgements and thoughts about us. It’s pretty amazing that we are able to construct images we want people to believe, to envy, to hate, to feel all kinds of feelings we want to. So, imagine what is the media doing to our perceptions of beauty?

[Infographic] The cost of getting “whiter” skin.




Credits: Google

A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a friend about the difference of skin whitening and skin brightening. Apparently, instead of skin brightening, skin whitening had became a trend in Asia. “Everyone just wants to look white” my friend blurted out of the blue. Personally, I do agree that the majority of Asians are still striving for “fairer” skin instead of getting a sun-kissed type of look (nicknames that were actually given to my slightly tanner friends : Sexy chocolate, “hitam manis” (hitam : sweet ; manis : sweet)) Anyway, there was this study I read about a few weeks ago stating that, “the more Americanised you are as an asian, you are likely to be tanner.” Now, that is something to think about, right? How “Westernised” are you? or How “Asian” are you? On a scale of 1-10, i might be giving myself an 8 for conforming into that statement of being “Asian.”

Asians are said to be the decedents of Mongoloids and their skin colour are described as “yellow” in the West. But ironically, there are many Chinese and Japanese people used the term “white” to describe one’s skin colour. For instance, 美白,(mei bai) 白皙 (bai xi) are common words used in Chinese language while “白い” (shiroi) is used to described the “whiteness” of the skin in Japanese terms. You don’t see Asians describing their skin colours as “yellow-ish”, rather, they used terms like “white” and “black” to describe one’s skin colour. Fascinating culture isn’t it?

But at what cost are we lusting over white skin?

I understand the desire of wanting white skin. Growing up in Malaysia, it’s common to hear my mom going berserk when I am going out without sunscreen or an umbrella. But instead of having concerns of health issues such as pre-ageing of the skin, my mom would actually be more concerned if i will get “darker” for being under the sun. The dangers of getting skin cancer isn’t as scary as “getting darker skin.” For instance, there was this friend of mine who used a whitening cream for quite a while and it lightened her hyperpigmentations. She couldn’t be much happier but because the product contained mercury, it was a banned product in Malaysia. Yet, the salon is still selling that particular whitening cream up until today.

There are difference in skin whitening (bleaching) and skin brightening (to lighten the skin until its original state). The main difference of skin whitening products vs skin brightening products is that brightening products claimed to consist brightening ingredients such as Vitamin C extracts to give the skin a boost, making it look fresher and healthier. It doesn’t bleach the skin but people who uses these products tend to have brighter skin (almost like they have a constant halo on around their faces). Because of brighter skin, the skin tend to look a slight lighter and healthier.

Now, skin whitening products. Usually they would consist of health hazardous ingredients, namely, Mercury and Hydroquinone which is able to bring about different kinds of skin issues.


These two elements will react with the UV rays and oxidised, leading the skin to pigmentations and premature ageing. Hence, more products are actually used to “correct” those dark blotchy appearances. It is sorta of a vicious cycle. These chemicals alters the natural structure of the skin, while inhibiting the production of melanin (the skin’s natural protection), the skin is more susceptible and prone to skin cancer formation. The prolong use of Hydroquinone will damage connective tissues of the skin by thickening the collagen fibres while making the skin appeared to be blotchy and spotty. Mercury on the other hand, accumulates in the skin causing blue/green pigments and prolong usage of it will cause damages to certain organs such as the liver, kidney failure and mercury poisoning.

Now, it’s not the end of the world if you somehow, used a product that contained Mercury and Hydroquinone. Just stuff them into the trash and continue reading. Of course there are safer methods and ingredients to promote fairer skin, do check out ingredients such as Arbutin, Vitamin C, Licorice, Kojic Acid and Vitamin A. (Uses of each and one of them are listed below) These are safer to use and does not promote any kind of harm towards the skin. Hence, not damaging them.

Arbutin : Safer alternative to use in comparison to Hydroquinone as it doesn’t promote any skin damaging particles or any stimulations, toxins in the skin.

Vitamin C : Very effective ingredient in preventing pre-ageing. It synchronised with the collagens in your body, making the skin seemed healthier, bouncier and fresher!

Kojic Acid : Important in inhibiting the production of Melanin in our body. It can be included in our diet.

Licorice : Inhibit UV-B induced skin pigmentations and put other skin complications at ease.

Vitamin A : Not only it is good for your eyesight, do eat your carrots. It repairs damaged pelt complications in the skin.

A kind reminder, do check your labels and the ingredients before purchasing any product that claims to lightens the skin!

Personally, white skin or not, causing health damages in my terms, it’s just a big no-no.

Reference: LINK

Asian VS Western beauty standards.




The constant change of the standard of beauty in the West.

Credits: Google images

*These are some very controversial opinions regarding both Asian vs Western beauty standards.

In my stand, I do agree that Asians lives in a  more homogenous culture so when we see something that catches our tiny asian eyes (no pun intended), we will imitate the style of that person (especially celebrities) and hence, it becomes a trend that many would follow.  Yet, in Western cultures, people tend to embrace women in different shapes and color, they would prefer girls to be “fit” rather than “skinny”.

So, I was having this conversation with a male friend of mine and I asked, “what do most Asian guys find attractive in a girl?” He asked me to google “Loli” (LINK) and apparently it’s an anime character! Generally, he told me that, to be taken as “Ideal” among Asian guys, the criteria you must have is:

1) Big round eyes, double eyelids

2) Petite 

3) V-shape jawline

4) Fair skin

5) Heavier bust

6) Small waist

7) Long legs

8) Thin

9) Tall

That’s a handful of conditions needed to be fulfilled!

(refer pictures below) Credits : Google images.


or, this. Her name is Angela Yeung and she is commonly known as “Angelababy.” She is nominated as one of the hottest woman in Asia.


How about Western standards? So I googled the 2013 most beautiful woman in the world and it seemed to be, Gwyneth Paltrow! (by People’s magazine) Pretty interesting to know isn’t it?


Then, I asked my friend to give me an example of what he thinks is “hot” in Western cultures. Without further ado, he said, “Victoria Secret’s models.” (picture of Heidi Klum)


It’s pretty interesting to put these pictures side to side and have a good comparison of the differences both cultures may take. But to summed up in a nutshell, in my own stand, Asians guys prefer girls that appeared to be more “dollish” and youthful. While in the West, girls are embraced based on their charisma and strength. Gwyneth is crowned the most beautiful is due to her “timeless, effortless look” despite her being in her 40!

Now, what’s your take on this issue?


Source: (LINK)