#beautyhasnoage: more than just age
By Daphne Poon
Ah, Christmas - the sweet weeks of peaceful nights, mulled wine and long-awaited family time. I was back home in Hong Kong for the first time in a year from university in London, going to a family gathering. Would be nice to catch up with some relatives, right? Arriving at the restaurant, I bumped into an aunt right outside the entrance. "Hi!" I said enthusiastically. My aunt paused for a moment. Her eyes scanned me from head to toe - then came the dreaded words. "Wow. You've gotten fatter." Thanks Auntie, it's nice to see you too. It wasn't the first time. Sadly, in Chinese and many other Asian cultures, comments like these aren't seen as rude - they're seen as necessary. After all, the portrait of the perfect Chinese woman isn't exactly a secret: stick-thin doll, porcelain skin, huge eyes and dark hair. Like an Asian Snow White, basically. We're talking about the narrow standard of beauty that prompted viral trends of wrapping arms around waists and balancing rows of coins in the hollows of collarbones. It's a standard that many girls meet, no doubt.
But growing up, what was attainable or even natural for others was always out of reach for me, like some kind of finish line that kept getting pushed back. Pressure to conform to an idealised image? Tick. Failed efforts to do so? Tick. Lower self-esteem as a result? Tick tick tick. We're all affected by the usual glossy magazines and showy TV commercials - for me, the lack of Asian women in popular international media in particular didn't help either.
The issue of racial diversity is a long conversation for another time; for now, let's just say that as a kid, until I saw Lucy Liu in Charlie's Angels, I drew pictures of myself with blonde hair. Unfortunately, that's just what most of us do as women, whatever age we're at: unfavourably compare ourselves to others. The bottom line is that there are just so many expectations that our minds automatically aim to fulfil - not just those relating to our cultures, but to our ages and environments as well. And this is exactly where #beautyhasnoage gets involved.
See, #beautyhasnoage isn't just about beauty being ageless. It's about ditching the self-criticism and taking back control to feel beautiful and confident at every age and in every environment, no matter what we've been taught to believe, whether from our cultural backgrounds or social trends. It's about my mother wearing liquid eyeliner like a sassy boss at age 59, even if others don't think that it's "age-appropriate". It's about my flatmate feeling great when she works out at the gym, even if the woman on the neighbouring treadmill looks like Karlie Kloss on steroids. And it's about all of us learning to look in the mirror each morning, nod at our reflections and think hell yeah. You know that little voice in your head that tells you you're not good enough? Sucks, doesn't it? #beautyhasnoage is a mission to dim down its volume, to eventually shut it off altogether. There are no "requirements" for beauty - the only thing that matters is how we feel about ourselves. More than that, #beautyhasnoage is also about us women supporting each other, and helping each other to feel confident.
A couple of weeks ago, a woman I'd never met told me in a pub washroom while I was touching up my makeup that I had a lovely face. I complimented her in turn on her rose-gold pixie cut, and the same smile on my face instantly spread across hers. I felt amazing for the rest of the day. If you see beauty in someone, why not acknowledge it? When I first met Maleka, I was immediately inspired by her passionate vision to spread #beautyhasnoage as a movement – one that could be ignited by MERUMAYA, but lit into a fire by any woman who has ever felt insecure about herself. So much so, in fact, that I offered to work for free to be a part of it (she didn't accept, bless her). Because damn it, it’s 2016 and too many of us are taking 50 near-identical selfies and still not posting a single one of them. Will you help spread the message? You can:
- Use the #beautyhasnoage hashtag on your social media
- Send us a photo holding a #beautyhasnoage placard
- Make a 30-60 second video (your phone is fine) telling us what #beautyhasnoage means to you - example
Send photos and videos to email@example.com, and we will include them in the #beautyhasnoage gallery on our website www.merumaya.com. Of course, changing attitudes takes time and patience. Personally, it's going to be a while before I watch the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show without resorting to my friends Ben & Jerry. But I've come a long way since the Chinese kid who drew herself with blonde hair, and with a positive outlook, we can all help to perpetuate that beauty has no limits - that #beautyhasnoage.