Racism Against the AAPI Community Is a Beauty Industry Problem

As hate crimes against Asian Americans spike, ELLE talks with key makeup artists and brand founders for a roundtable on what the beauty industry can do to support the very communities off of which they profit.

5/3/2021 10:09:00 PM

What happens when the community you directly profit off of needs your help? arianayap spoke to 24 powerful AAPI figures from the beauty world in a roundtable discussion to identify problems in the beauty industry and steps we can take to right the wrong.

As hate crimes against Asian Americans spike, ELLE talks with key makeup artists and brand founders for a roundtable on what the beauty industry can do to support the very communities off of which they profit.

patrick ta"I definitely feel that the Asian Americans that I surround myself with, I feel such an instant bond. Whether it's my clients or some of the first people who helped start my career like Shay Mitchell, Olivia Munn, Chrissy Teigen. These girls have been in my career since the beginning and I think the bond that we have, it's not like any of my other clients, because I feel like we come from similar backgrounds and just understand the industry norms for Asian Americans. There are so few of us, so I think that when we do meet each other when we do get the chance to hang out, it's just nice. And I think to even remember where we came from and what it took to get here.

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I think my aunts and my mom are such strong women in my life. And honestly, I feel I couldn’t be where I am today without them especially without my mother because even though my career hasn’t been the career that they wanted me to have, she supported me."

Shay Mitchell attends the launch of Patrick Ta Beauty.Presley AnnNam Vo, Real Techniques “Glow-bal” Makeup ArtistNam Vo"The first person that comes to mind is Kien Hong. He is a hairstylist. I saved all my allowance money when I was a kid and he gave me my first designer haircut. I have worked with Kien on various shoots for many years. It's rare to meet someone who has the work ethic, talent, and humility, and yet Kien has them all. He has taught me there is no job too big and no job too small. He has no ego and is incredibly gifted. His presence can shift the energy in the room and I'm so lucky to know him." headtopics.com

ACTIONABLE CHANGE(L to R) Model Sung Hee Kim, demonstrators during the We Are Not Silent rally in Seattle, and model Varsha Thapa.CourteHow can you support the Asian American community? The answer isn’t simple. But awareness and donations is a good place to start. Actively acknowledge anti-Asian racism and condemn it. Then put your money where your mouth is and contribute to an

AAPI charity.Ahead, you’ll find these suggestions, along with what the beauty industry can do better. From more Southeast Asian representation in imagery and products to making the important distinction between Asian Americans and Asians, there are many ways to help create a more inclusive, equitable, and safe environment for our community.

Patrick Starrr, YouTube Personality & ONE/SIZE Beauty FounderPatrick Starrr"It’s about speaking up. When I had my first collection with MAC Cosmetics, I made a very strong request to go to the Philippines as my first destination when I had my round of tours. And little did I know that a little birdie had told Kris Aquino that I was in town.

Kris Aquino is an Filipino businesswoman, actress, and TV personality, dubbed by the Philippines as theQueen of all Media. She is also the daughter ofsenator Benigno Aquino Jr. and Corazon Aquino, who was the first woman to be President of the Philippines headtopics.com

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.It was not in the schedule at all, but to have had the opportunity to meet her and have lunch with her and to talk about my type of beauty was so disruptive. And I remember at one point she looked at me, she goes, 'You're very tan.' And I said, 'Yes,' and I told her that makeup is one-size-fits-all. And I think the whole team was just very taken aback and really proud of what I had done to represent the different types of Filipino beauty within the community, to the one and only Kris Aquino.”

Model Geena Rocero at the GLAAD Media Awards in 2017.Bryan BedderNick Barose, Celebrity Makeup ArtistNick Barose"The words 'inclusive' and 'diverse' are such buzzwords. We work in a very visual industry, but the danger of that is that people always do things for the optics. We're doing a casting, here's a Chinese girl so she's Asian, here's a Black girl so we have a Black girl, it's always like they're going through the list like a shopping list. [The industry] should be more aware that people really, really look different, especially Asians.

The image that beauty and fashion people have of Asia is so limited because it's always China, Japan, Korea, that's it. If you're dark and your features are different, you'd be from Southeast Asia. For example, I'm from Thailand, but also my grandpa is Indonesian. People always assume that I'm not Asian, which is so wild."

, Celebrity Hair Stylist & Milbon USA Global Creative Directoranh co tran“Say something. Make a post about stopping Asian hate and bring awareness so people will know. Definitely post resources. I look at the posts and I get so angry. I get so sad. But my call to action is, how can I help? So I really want [brands] to speak up more about it and see them help and perhaps donate to the community. And really make a point that [anti-Asian racism] is an actual thing. It's not just one incident. This has happened daily. And it's not only us, but it's also all over the world too.” headtopics.com

Hung Vanngo, Celebrity Makeup ArtistHung Vanngo“People sent me material to post about what's going on right now. I said, ‘I appreciate you sent me this, but I think you should post too.’ And they replied to me, ‘I don't have a lot of followers.’ I said that's not the point. Whether you're going to reach one follower or millions of followers.

I know I have millions of followers, it doesn't mean that because you don't have that many, you don't talk about that. So if everyone comes together, to raise our voice, that creates awareness.”Models Jing Wen and Sunghee Kim during Paris Fashion Week.

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Melodie JengJu Rhyu, Founder of Hero CosmeticsJu Rhyu“A lot of people just sort of have blinders on. So, they probably don't realize that this kind of silence is actually quite deafening. We are looking for people to say something and make a stance, and be active participants against the racism that we're seeing. It's frustrating because I don't know if brands aren't reacting because I guess the calls to action are not loud enough. Maybe they think, 'Oh, it's just going to go away.' But it's very intertwined, and I would expect [the beauty industry] to be more vocal about a customer segment and a culture really that they leverage a lot."

Dr. Joyce Park, Board-Certified DermatologistDr. Joyce Park"Speaking up would go a long way. It's as simple as putting up an Instagram post or something on social media. Condemning the violence, calling out hatred and racism for what it is, and then standing with and supporting the Asian-American community, the AAPI community. That's like the bare minimum.

I think they should also consider putting money where their mouths are and donate to organizations like Stop AAPI Hate because they're working on helping grassroots campaigns, volunteer organizations that are helping to protect our elders, working with organizations that are helping with logging, things like that. I think those are just like two very basic things that brands can do."

Protestors march during the We Are Not Silent rally on March 13 in Seattle, Washington.David RyderCharlotte Cho, Co-Founder of Soko GlamCharlotte Cho"Company wide, there should be a focus on microaggressions. It could be as simple as little jokes here and there that a lot of Asians laugh off. People assuming things about someone, like stereotyping. There needs to be an opportunity to talk about it now in a corporate setting. Just yesterday, Soko Glam had a forum that our people ops team put together and the topic was,"Can we talk about it? Anti-Asian racism." So it was a Zoom chat. We all were talking about our experiences and people learned a lot. I think that's just one example of what they can do, outside of just posting."

Bee Shapiro, Founder of Ellis BrooklynBee Shapiro“I think a lot of people look at representation today, they're like, 'Why are Asian-Americans complaining? There are tons of Asian models in the ads and stuff.' How many of them are actually Asian-American? Very, very, very few. There is a distinct difference between Asian and Asian-Americans. And the reason why I think it's so important to point this out is that if we don't, then we're constantly going to be lumped with Asia and we won't be considered part of the US.

I really want [beauty brands] to address imagery. And I say that because the Asian-American aesthetic is quite different. We only have the representation of Asian people looking very from Asia and not so much from Asian-Americans. We look different. Typically our ideals of beauty are different. Our bodies are even different after living here for a while.

You need to think about that from an imagery perspective and how you put makeup on somebody. I have seen some makeup brands cast more Asian models, but I would say overwhelmingly, I'm still seeing that red lipstick on a pale girl thing. And that's okay if you include a couple of looks like that, but I just don't see enough of the Asian-American aesthetic."

(L to R) Models Yoon Young Bae, Sora Choi, Sohyun Jung during New York Fashion Week.Melodie JengTina Craig, Founder of U BeautyTina Craig"The time for brands to stay quiet on social issues is over. Because consumers are smart, intelligent, and they're going to fight back with their wallets. And they're only going to invest in brands that align with the same values as them. And look how easy it would be for these brands with platforms just to make this change, just to say, 'Hey, we hear you.' No one's asking for a donation. A social post, just to say, 'We hear your stories. We're here.' That's enough even. Obviously, I would love for them to open their purse strings for the victims and all these different GoFundMe pages that are set up."

Chriselle Lim, Co-Founder Of BumoBrain & BumoWork, Fashion & Beauty Influencer/Content CreatorChriselle LimThere's a good amount of people within our industry, influencers included, that haven't really spoken out about it. And I can't speak for them, but I could think of a number of reasons why, and maybe one is, they just don't feel confident at this point. I have been there before, where I want to speak about something political or something that is a little bit outside of the fashion beauty realm, and I was just unsure. But my thoughts there is that anyone who has a platform, whether it's a small following or large following, they have to speak up about what's going on. It's not about being an activist. This is something that affects myself, my family, my industry, my people.

Patrick Ta, Co-Founder of Patrick Ta Beauty and Celebrity Makeup Artistpatrick taGive Asian brands shelf space. Put more Asian-American models in campaigns. There are so many different ethnicities of Asians and we are all so different. I think people categorize Asian as just Asian. But there’s Korean, Chinese, Cambodian and Thai. It would be cool to have a campaign with different types of Asians. What the normal beauty brand does is just get one Asian and that’s their token Asian girl, a light-skinned model with like almond shaped eyes.

Model Varsha Thapa walks at the Prabal Gurung fashion show during New York Fashion Week.Ron AdarSasha Cruz, Makeup Artist and Beauty InfluencerSasha Cruz Read more: ELLE Magazine (US) »

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