The Concept of Beauty in Asia

Vichy2053007Beauty is universal, is what they say.

I beg to differ.

The concept of beauty varies in different parts of the world, and this was made very obvious when I returned to my hometown, Malaysia.  For here in Asia, beauty is to remain fair-skinned and pale. Not tanned and brown as is the revered image in Europe and other Western countries.

So do I adhere to this Asian concept of remaining “fair and lovely”? Noooo. I love sunbathing, swimming and looking healthy and tanned. My winter skin, a pale yellow, is as scary as Elvira, so unattractive. But here, I recall when after 10 days of sun-worshipping in Langkawi, several Datins and Puan Sris (high society ladies) enquired about my health, wondering if I was suffering from some horrible skin disease. No, I replied, this is my tan.  This was followed by silence and incomprehensible stares.

L'Oreal White Perfect

I suppose the amusing moment for me is when I decided to ask at a Clarins counter in KL for autobronzant (self-tan lotion). The poor sales assistant had no clue what I was talking about and just shook her head with a giggle. No she replied, why make skin darker? Indeed everywhere I see an amazing range of various whitening (also known as skin-lightening) products from L’Oreal, Clarins, Dior…


L'Oreal Paris bronzer L-2k9WPRosy-Pack-NEW-Ess-1

At first, I was quick to judge. Why are we marketing that Asian women should be pale and light skinned to be beautiful? But in fact, it’s not the fault of cosmetics companies at all, since they are simply responding to consumer demand. And the demand in Asia is for paler, lighter skin. It’s just logical business sense to offer what customers are asking for. It’s a cultural tradition. Yet Western journalists create controversy about race and colour against these whitening products as we so often see in magazines.


It’s clear that beauty is really in the eye of the beholder. Whether darker or lighter, I say it really doesn’t matter, and as long as you are comfortable in your own skin and feel good about yourself.


Michelle Yeoh, Laetitia Casta, Michelle Reis, Aishwarya Rai

Michelle Yeoh, Laetitia Casta, Michelle Reis, Aishwarya Rai

Journalists may try to instigate the issue that companies like L’Oreal are just further antagonizing the colour/racial issue, but to be honest, L’Oreal supports diversity. You look at L’Oreal Paris’ beautiful ambassadors and they range from the Latino (Eva Longoria), to the Chinese Asian (Gong Li), South East Asian, (Michelle Yeoh); Indian Asian (Aishwarya Rai) European blonde (Doutzen Kroez), European brunette (Penelope Cruz) to the African American (Beyonce). They range in colour and diversity as much as the product ranges available.

Eva Longoria

Eva Longoria


Beyonce

Beyonce

Doutzen Kroes

Doutzen Kroes

Penelope Cruz

Penelope Cruz

Gong Li

Gong Li

So am I on losing ground to fight for my belief to be tanned in Asia? Yes.

It’s true it’s preferable to be pale and fair-skinned in Asia but this PZ has chosen to defy all critics and remain as dark and tanned as she likes (of course with sensible sun protection!) – at least Frog likes me this way!

PZ.