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White Face (2021)

















“白是美, 黑是丑, 一白遮百丑” (“Fair skin is beautiful. Dark skin is ugly. Fairness covers a hundred blemishes”) is a popularised saying in my heritage culture.


Not merely mine. 


It is almost everywhere. It is in the whitening facial cream at the skincare section, the whitening filter of photo editing applications, the skin whitening pills sold in Japan, the K-pop stars that homogeneously possess fair skin, the concerns of the sun darkening their skin my female schoolmates of Indian heritage hold, the complaints about their own natural skin tone from my Filipino friends, …


How did we get here?


Where is this collective obsession with fair skin among Asians derived from? 

Has rapid urbanisation in Asia played a part because fair skin is traditionally associated with non-working-class and therefore represents a certain status? Or is it also a form of internalised racism, the byproduct of white supremacy in this post-colonial era?


How does such obsession shape Asian beauty standards that affect individuals' self-esteem? Why can't we be content with our natural skin tone, dark, neutral or fair? Who are perpetuating these obsession and prejudice?


Have you experienced a sense of superiority when you encounter someone with darker skin than you? Have you ever heard your parents or grandparents or even yourselves said "Don't get tanned in the sun" "If only you were less tanned"? 

Have you ever secretly wished that you as Asians could look more like Caucasians? Have you ever felt insecure about your skin tone?

What defines beauty really? Does fairness of skin really cover a hundred or even one blemish? 

How far would we go attempting to reach the internalised beauty standards dictated by others? Are we subconsciously discriminating ourselves? 

(13 August 2021)

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