From Makeup To Concealers (Part 2)

Part 2 of my Asian American Studies paper. A critical analysis on how “image manipulations” influence ideals and behavior.

Concealing One’s Identity

In Darryl Roberts’ documentary, America the Beautiful, Roberts shed light on imperative issues on how modern society perceive beauty. Like “Make Up,” the film exposes us to concepts of beauty that is considered desirable, and perfect in today’s society (slender, soft smooth skin, fragrant, etc). Through advertisements, magazines, billboards and other forms of media we become vulnerable to ideals of beauty that western media tries to implement thus influencing our attitudes and beliefs.

Of the many tactics that media uses to portray beauty, most of them, if not all, involves retouching of photos. In an interview with Darryl Roberts onto why even retouch photos, Atoosa Rubenstein, Editor in Chief of Seventeen, claims that she is “somebody who wants to figure out how to get that audience…[because] at the end of the day [she] don’t run a nonprofit” (America the Beautiful). Like all executive media personnel of magazines, such as Vogue, Teen Magazine, Seventeen, use image manipulations to make their female models appealing to their audience for their profit. These executives see the positive impact on their businesses but are concealed to the negative impressions that they portray to the public. The near to perfect images of people manipulate us into believing that what we see is reality, when the actual truth is that it is fantasy.  In “Make Up,” the speaker contemplated that “He was victimized to the commodified image that was institutionalized in our society, because [he] can no longer love a woman who [did] not fit that standard.” The speaker’s contemplation reveals our society’s fixation on the physical attractiveness of what they see in media that it leaves them incapacitated to love what is ordinarily beautiful. Thus, allowing them to become shallow, just like the man in the film who only viewed women to be “bangable” objects (America the Beautiful).

However, it’s this shallow attitude that lowers the self-esteem of women who may not fit the standard of beauty depicted by media.  Thus, it creates certain pressures for average people to seek out and enhance themselves so they themselves become beautiful. The business-class exploits this insecurity and pushes consumers into believing that beauty is a product that can be bought. Of the many methods, cosmetics are one of the most used products, at least nine out of ten women used cosmetics (America the Beautiful) to enhance a person’s physical features. Like image manipulation in the media, cosmetics distort our image of what is ordinary. However, the significance of cosmetics is that you are no longer looking at billboards, television, or magazines, but at actual people. These “enhancements” further distort the perception of what is natural and what isn’t. Thus, making it much that difficult to value natural beauty. It reinforces the belief that one can’t be beautiful without such products. 

 Yet, when women claim that they don’t need such products or enhancements they are casted as an outsider. During one of his appointment, Dr. Stephen Marquardtz, advocate for the use of cosmetics, rudely berates those that don’t assimilate to the social norms as a loser (America the Beautiful). It’s this very attitude that influences and perpetuates our society’s beliefs and actions. It dictates how society should treat certain groups or communities. In this case, how women should look like.

One such community, whose experience heavily revolves around stereotypes and “image manipulation” are the Ethnic Americans. Just like women, this community has been constantly stereotyped by media and colonizers. For example, how blacks are viewed gangsters, how Asians are viewed as oriental, or how Native Americans are viewed as savages. These misconceptions only influence the larger society on how they should judge and treat them. It’s through these stereotypes and distorted images that Ethnic Americans have been marginalized in society. Even with assimilation, it has become a social norm to typecast the Ethnic American community that the larger society does not think twice to discriminate against this community. 

From Makeup To Concealers (Part 1)

Part 1 of my Asian American Studies Paper. A descriptive narrative of how makeup changes our perceptions. 

Make Up

Five foot four, silky hair, large smoky eyes, glowing skin; this girl was absolutely perfect. The gray satin dress she wore followed her every movement, hugging and accentuating every curve of her body.  As I gazed upon her, our eyes interlocked and her glossed lips gave me a sweet sultry smile. Just like a siren’s song I was possessed to be with her. I took her soft hands and she pressed herself to the contours of my body as her lavender fragrance eliminated every odor in the room. Following the music, our gyrations sent a euphoric feeling down my spine and all the way to my “bone.” The night lingered while our beating hearts played louder than the deep bass of Club 515. I asked for her name. She quietly whispers it softly in my ear.

I meet her again, but this time in a different setting.  As I quietly observe her face in the corner of Sweethearts Cafe, I could not believe that everything about her was different – no smoky eyes, silky hair, luscious lips, or glowing skin. Every “imperfection” I saw struck me with grief, in disbelief that the beautiful goddess that I once knew has devolved to this average normal girl. She recognizes me. “Oh no,” I mutter. I try to hide my face in the shadows. Doesn’t work. Steady footsteps grew louder. “Shit. I need to leave,”  I thought as I tried to hurry out. Before I knew, my eyes were once again staring at hers causing me turn my head swiftly as if a bullet was coming right at me. She asks, “Are you okay?” “Yeah, something just in my eye,” I answer.

Though in my mind I wanted to say, “No, I am not okay, because you fooled me to think that you were a natural beauty. With the addition of your make up, I was conditioned to your made up beauty. I was victimized to the commodified image that was institutionalized in our society, because I can no longer love a woman who does not fit that standard. It was my mistake to think of you as anything other than fake.” But I didn’t, in fact, I did not do any of that shit because I’m not and will not be the asshole that perpetuates that attitude.

I can’t blame her, because this society played her into thinking she wasn’t pretty enough to be love or to survive in man’s eyes because she wasn’t made up. I don’t see imperfections, but the symbols of the essence of her beauty. Every time I stare into her two small brown eyes, I see glimpses of her history, her own life. I value her unglossed lips, because every time they opened, it glossed me with words of intelligence and value. I loved her skin, not for its glow, but because it felt the pressure that weighed a ton that constantly tries to break her self-esteem.  Now her hair, it wasn’t sleek and long, but intertwined and curled in every direction, intricate in its placement just as she is. She’s beautiful – brilliant and resilient.

A (not so) Simple Hello

Hello my friends,

I guess that this will serve as my introduction (haha). As I type away on the black and bolded letter covered keyboard of my Macbook, I think to myself why the hell am I still up writing. If my fingers could talk they would say something like, “Give it a rest! You’ve been writing for three days, we want to rest.”

Yes, I have been writing for three days straight. Why? It was for an assignment for my Asian American Studies R2B class. First week of class and we already had a critical paper to write. Brutal, I know. I did have fun writing it though. It was a four to five page paper, which was split into two parts. Part one was a descriptive narrative in which I had to describe an encounter, fact or fiction, where I made assumptions on someone based on how they look. In part 2, I had to connect this encounter with the film, America the Beautiful. I had to analyze how it related to the encounter, what it said about society’s ideal on beauty, and how it related to the Ethnic American experience. Let’s hope that I get a decent grade. Maybe I will share with all of you in the next few days.

I don’t know what brought this sudden urge to start this project or to write. I don’t even remember a time in high school or the past year, where I would take the time to sit down and just write. I always thought of myself who thought writing was just okay. It was something I detested when I had an assignment. I only did it when I had the urge and inspiration to write a song (though I did it sporadically). 

I guess I was just inspired to just write and get my thoughts on paper, or well “digital paper” in this case. I think the only difference now is that I actually have the patience to do it now (I hope). Let’s see where this takes me. 

- Lorenz