Racism Against the AAPI Community Is A Beauty Industry Problem

Ariana Yaptangco
·40-min read
Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

From ELLE

The Asian American community is under attack. In the last few weeks, Asian Americans have been robbed and beaten. Asian restaurants have been boycotted and vandalised, with owners closing shop early and employees scared to walk home. Videos on social media have gone viral, showing elders being pushed to the ground. On Tuesday, six Asian women were shot dead in a mass shooting in Atlanta when a gunman opened fire on three massage parlours and killed eight people.

Photo credit: Dia Dipasupil - Getty Images
Photo credit: Dia Dipasupil - Getty Images

What’s behind the rise in anti-Asian racism is no secret. The fuel was always there, in the patchwork of anti-Asian policies that recur throughout American history. But the xenophobic rhetoric of our former president—who publicly and repeatedly blamed Asians for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic—was the match. According to new data from the activist organisation Stop AAPI Hate, nearly 3,800 anti-Asian hate incidents occurred between March 2020 and March 2021, the vast majority of those (68 percent) against Asian women. The brutal reality is that many more go unreported.

Simply put, Asian Americans are living in fear. As an American of Filipino descent, I fear for my safety, for the safety of my parents—particularly my father, who works in New York City, where in just one week, three Asian men were beaten and stabbed. But mostly, I fear that our pain will remain invisible, like it always has, for as long as Asian Americans have dared to exist in the U.S. I fear that there will be no justice for my community, which is so desperately seeking help, visibility, and acknowledgement.

Growing up Asian American, many of us are taught to stay quiet, or not take up space, even when faced with hate crimes or discrimination. Celebrity hair stylist Anh Co Tran says that when he was a child, his family was forced out of their home in Texas due to anti-Asian racism. Born in Vietnam, Co Tran was brought to the U.S. by his parents, who were sponsored by a Christian church. Despite his family’s efforts to 'assimilate to being white,' Co Tran’s family endured racist attacks. 'One day when my brother was in high school, he ran home with his head split open,' Co Tran recalls. 'There were two white guys chasing him with a pipe. It was a hate crime.' The church helped his family go to court, but there was no justice served. 'Our cousin lived in Southern California and they're like, "Come over here. There’s more of an Asian community and the weather's better,"' Co Tran explains. 'So we fled because the court didn't do anything. We just left.'

Photo credit: JASON REDMOND - Getty Images
Photo credit: JASON REDMOND - Getty Images

Despite the real racism Asian Americans face, the 'model minority' myth continues to invalidate our experiences. 'Asian people are always kind of disregarded as close in proximity to white privilege,' explains Soko Glam co-founder Charlotte Cho. 'So everyone is kind of gaslighting that experience. I also watched my own parents deal with racism growing up as immigrants, not speaking English fluently, so they can't defend themselves. I've seen them laugh off really blatant forms of racism. That's trickled down to me. I found myself in my childhood dealing with racism and laughing it off too.'

These so-called 'jokes' and assumptions about identity are harmful, and in some cases, contribute to internalised racism. U Beauty founder Tina Craig recalls hating her own Asian identity as an 8-year-old immigrant. 'The microaggressions from my own friends... I would laugh along with them,' Craig says. She tried using make-up to 'camouflage' her Asianness and distance herself from the Long Duk Dong characters she saw on TV. 'Why was I carrying that shame?' Craig wonders. 'Shame on those people for making me feel bad. I had no one to look up to because there were no movie stars, actresses in magazines speaking out for us. There was no representation. We were invisible, but at the same time misrepresented.'

Photo credit: Xinhua News Agency - Getty Images
Photo credit: Xinhua News Agency - Getty Images

Across the board, there has been a lack of coverage or public support for the Asian American community. But perhaps one of the most deafening silences has come from the beauty industry, which counts Asia as one of its leading markets worldwide. According to consumer database company Statista, Asia made up the largest share of the cosmetics market globally in 2019 at 41 percent, with countries like China, Japan, and South Korea leading the market within the region.

The beauty industry has taken every opportunity to capitalise on Asian beauty practices. One browse through today’s market and you’ll find sheet masks and essences (innovations from South Korea) or gua sha stones and jade rollers (ancient beauty tool exports from China) or rice water (which dates all the way back to Japan’s Heian period.) Not only are the practices and ingredients pilfered, but the American beauty service economy is built on the backs of Asian labor, with many—primarily women, the majority of Vietnamese descent—working long hours for little pay in salons and spas. Now they can’t even do those jobs without fearing for their lives.

So what happens when the community you directly profit off of needs your help? To answer this question, ELLE turned to 24 powerful AAPI figures from the beauty world for a roundtable discussion about anti-Asian racism in the beauty industry and what steps we can take to right the wrong.

SHARING OUR STORIES

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

While some from the AAPI community have been making noise, others are still trying to find their voice. As we embark on this journey, conversations about these painful topics will help shed light on the injustices we experience.

Daniel Martin, Celebrity Make-Up Artist & Global Director of Artistry & Education at Tatcha

Photo credit: Daniel Martin
Photo credit: Daniel Martin

'I have a unique perspective because my father's French-English, and my mother's Vietnamese, but I look full Asian [and have a white-sounding name].

'I remember I was on an editorial shoot, we were in London and the team was from Italy. So I'm setting up and then my assistant comes and the hairdresser comes. I want to say me and my assistant were the only Americans on set, but everyone was waiting around and then they were huddling together.

'And I'm just like, "What's going on?" Because at this point, everyone is there. So they're 40 minutes in and I go up to the producer, I'm like, "Hi, what's happening?" And they're like, "We're trying to get a hold of the make-up artist’s agent, he's not here." And I was like, "Daniel Martin?" And he was like, "Yes." I'm like, "I'm Daniel." And he's like, "Oh, but you're Asian." We were just like, "Did that really just fucking happen?" And there was no apology. It was just like, "Oh, okay."'

Josh Liu, Celebrity Hair Stylist and Founder of Utiles Beauty

Photo credit: Josh Liu
Photo credit: Josh Liu

'I do know that in our industry, there are big make-up and hair artists who specifically request for Asian assistants because they're "detail oriented and meticulous, fast-paced, and have workaholic mindsets." Which just goes to show how people are quick to take advantage of character traits that are stereotypical of the Asian community. I have heard it around, where people are like, "Oh no, he only, or she only likes Japanese assistants or Asian assistants because they stay quiet to themselves. They work hard and they don't complain." When you hear something like that on set, you're like, "Oh." It's taking advantage of stereotyping and racial profiling when employing people, when you should just employ people for their work and their own abilities because everyone is individual regardless of their race.'

Photo credit: Rosdiana Ciaravolo - Getty Images
Photo credit: Rosdiana Ciaravolo - Getty Images

Jenny Cho, Celebrity Hair Stylist

Photo credit: Jenny Cho
Photo credit: Jenny Cho

'[Having an Asian assistant] is favoured because there's a lot of confidentiality. You're with clients that are in a vulnerable situation. They're about to go out into the world. No matter what they do, they're going to get picked apart. What we do stays within our very safe state. So my personal experience is that you don't say anything. Everything is kept very respectfully disclosed. That's part of the deal. I'm like, is this the whole cultural thing, or is it also part of my job to be that way?

'I've been so culturally programmed to be apologetic. I always feel like I'm taking space somewhere. Don't be so obvious or don't be so outstanding. You keep quiet. So I put myself in that position a lot. And I think that's how I have always presented myself in society. Maybe it’s cultural programming or the model minority. You have to be a certain way to represent your race.'

Hung Vanngo, Celebrity Make-Up Artist

Photo credit: Hung Vanngo
Photo credit: Hung Vanngo


'I see people making fun of the manicurists on set, saying "Oh, Asian people are great at these things. That’s what they do well." Which is a really bad thing to say. That to me is discrimination. That's what Asian girls are great at? The manicure pedicure?'

Dr. Gabriel Chiu, Founder/Plastic Surgeon, Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery Inc.

Photo credit: Dr. Gabriel Chiu
Photo credit: Dr. Gabriel Chiu

'When I was a resident in general surgery, before I went into plastic surgery, there was another resident who would regularly show up late, and there was a point where I kind of got fed up with doing most of the work. And one day, this resident came in late again, and when he got there, I said, "Okay, I saw just over half of the patients and stuff. Here's the other half for you to do. Let me go ahead and tell you about these patients." He looked at me like I was crazy and said, "Wait. Aren't you going to round with me on them?" And I said, "You came in late. I've already rounded on most of these patients." And basically told him that he needs to pull his own weight.

'So he pulls me behind closed doors and he said, "Look, you slant-eyed ass." I said, "Excuse me?" And he was taken aback a bit. And he probably saw my face starting to really get upset. And it's not something that happens to me usually, but I have to admit I started to cry. And I told him, "Don't you ever fucking call me that again." And I started to walk. And he got in my way and said, "Where are you going? Where are you going?" I said, "I'm leaving here. Don't you touch me." Because he was going to stop me. My hands were balled up in a fist. And he got in front of me again, I said, "Step aside or else try to stop me." And so he stepped aside and I walked on out.

After that we were both called into the chief's office and each of us gave our story of what happened. The other resident denied it all happened, and the chief believed him over me.

The problem with my experience is that this is the fear that our Asian elders have. That when they are put in that same situation, the same thing will happen. So why fight it? What's the sense in doing this? And I have to admit, it took me a while. I had been mentally and emotionally beat down.'

David Yi, Co-founder of Good Light Beauty

Photo credit: David Yi
Photo credit: David Yi

'I think that model minority myth has not only been divisive, but it's also been something that makes people not want to pay attention to us. They're like, "Those Asians are good. They don't have any problems." And then it also creates friction because people are like, "Those people are so successful, and it's because of their proximity to whiteness. It's because they're white adjacent."

'As young progressive folks, we have a lot of unlearning to do, because I almost feel like we've adopted these things. "My oppression is not that bad. I'm not going to talk about it." Or, "The racism that I've received, it's fine."

'It's not fine. Racism isn't binary. Racism and white supremacy is a part of every part of our lives. It seeps into the smallest cracks and pores. I think that for us, we are awakening and a lot of Asians are uncomfortable with this. But I've always felt uncomfortable. It's just another day."

Photo credit: Francois Durand - Getty Images
Photo credit: Francois Durand - Getty Images

Dr. Joyce Park, Board-Certified Dermatologist

Photo credit: Dr. Joyce Park
Photo credit: Dr. Joyce Park

'Being an Asian American woman in dermatology, there have been so many racial microaggressions over the years. In this profession you're taught to just put your head down, just brush things off and don't take offence. You don't want to ruffle any feathers.

'I've had patients tell me, I love Asian women and then show me pictures. They're like, "Do you want to see pictures of my girlfriend in Asia?" Then show me pictures or they'll be like, "You look like Lucy Liu or like Sandra Oh." It's not even from patients, even from my teachers, from my attending. I've had an attending talk to me in front of patients and say, "Well, you're Asian, you should be good at math right?" When these things happen, honestly, it would take me aback, but I would just think, they're just making a joke or I shouldn't take things so seriously.'

Charlotte Cho, Co-Founder of Soko Glam

Photo credit: Charlotte Cho
Photo credit: Charlotte Cho

'I played a large role in bringing Korean beauty to the U.S. This was before Korean beauty was a thing, no one knew what it was. People assumed that K-beauty stood for Kardashian beauty, which is why I started Soko Glam. That was 2012.

'Korean beauty was always underestimated by big players within the beauty industry. They believed that no one was aspiring to be an Asian woman. But now that has actually changed. And I think Korean beauty has a lot to do with that. I think people now aspire to have the glowing skin of Asians, which is great. But after the proof of concept of Korean beauty was there, of course they felt like it was important enough then to capitalise on it.'

Bee Shapiro, Founder of Ellis Brooklyn

Photo credit: Bee Shapiro
Photo credit: Bee Shapiro

'Skincare has always been very tied with Asia and Asian beauty. In perfume, there are very few Asians. So when I first started, I was not taken very seriously. Again, I didn't really experience overt racism, but it was extremely hard to get any traction when I talked about scent. I just didn't have the French accent, I didn't come from some storied French family. I was just coming from a totally different place.'

Photo credit: Rosdiana Ciaravolo - Getty Images
Photo credit: Rosdiana Ciaravolo - Getty Images

Nick Barose, Celebrity Make-Up Artist

Photo credit: Nick Barose
Photo credit: Nick Barose

'I remember when doing makeup became a job where you can't just be behind the scenes anymore. Kevyn Aucoin, who I assisted when I first started, was sort of opening this floodgate of, "Oh, we're not behind the scenes anymore, we're also on camera." I came to America when I was 17 so I still have an accent, but I've been media trained. But I remember when I first started, people would say things like, "Oh, can you shade her nose so she looks less ethnic?" That was the 1990s.

'And then people would tell me "Oh, you shouldn't try to be on camera because you have this Asian accent and it's just not going to work." And it was kind of discouraging, but then I was like wait, you have somebody like Heidi Klum who has a really strong German accent, and she's on her show and that's okay? My accent is Asian, but it's as understandable as Heidi Klum. It's just that it’s a European accent, so why is that more accepted?

'But then I got to do some of the biggest covers, I got to work with actresses for the Oscars, I got to have beauty contracts, and brands like Armani ask me to speak to people all over the world, even with my accent.'

Tina Craig, Founder of U Beauty

Photo credit: Tina Craig
Photo credit: Tina Craig

'There was one time where I walked in a meeting, and a white male looks around and says, "I had a meeting with someone who was going to buy my license to my company." I'm like, "That would be me." He was like, "Oh, you look like the secretary." And I looked at him, and said, "I'm actually the one who is going to write the check."'

Chriselle Lim, Co-Founder Of BumoBrain & BumoWork, Fashion & Beauty Influencer/Content Creator

Photo credit: Chriselle Lim
Photo credit: Chriselle Lim

'There's been a number of times where I've been mistaken for my peers that are my own friends. And we all laughed about it before, but now you really think about what it is. Tina Craig—she and I look completely different. Have we gotten mistaken for each other? Yeah.

'When we go to fashion shows, they seat you by region. But more often than not, what the Asians have experienced going to these shows is that they would actually seat all of us—like myself, Bryanboy, Tina, Vanessa Hong—into one row. Not with a certain region, but it's just the Asians. And of course, we're all friends, so we're happy to be next to each other, but if you really think about it, you're like, "Wait, why am I not with the US group? I am an American. How come Bryan is not with the European group? Why is he here?" So then it begs the question, "Oh, are we all just the same? Do they just view us all the same?"'

Photo credit: Bertrand Rindoff Petroff - Getty Images
Photo credit: Bertrand Rindoff Petroff - Getty Images

Dr. Jenny Liu, Board-Certified Dermatologist

Photo credit: Dr. Jenny Liu
Photo credit: Dr. Jenny Liu

'In residency I literally would get asked every single day by these white vets, "Where are you from? Are you Chinese? Are you Japanese? Are you Korean?" because they’ve all served in some sort of Vietnam or Korean war and made comments about the way I looked and what they think my ethnicity is. And that’s not new to most people of colour, particularly women. I don’t recall a lot of my male colleagues who are of people of colour being asked as many questions.'

Sasha Cruz, Make-Up Artist and Beauty Influencer

Photo credit: Sasha Cruz
Photo credit: Sasha Cruz

'A lot of my Asian clients prefer their make-up done by Asian make-up artists just because we know how to work with their features. As an Asian American make-up artist, I feel like we know how to do everyone's features. But when it comes to other people doing us, it's always a challenge for them.

'And it's something that I've actually experienced as a beauty influencer as well. I worked on a campaign one time with a really well known brand and they had a global artist there that did my make-up and he did this smokey cat eye on me and it just looked so horrible. And I was really disappointed because this was going to be all over their social media and they wanted me to promote it. I couldn't believe that a make-up artist that was so well known didn't even know how to work with my own eye shape.'

Photo credit: MIGUEL MEDINA - Getty Images
Photo credit: MIGUEL MEDINA - Getty Images

Nam Vo, Real Techniques 'Glow-bal' Make-Up Artist

Photo credit: Nam Vo
Photo credit: Nam Vo

'The model minority argument is mostly regarded as false and intended to drive a wedge between different disadvantaged groups but I would be lying if I said I haven't benefited from these Asian stereotypes. People always assume that I'm hard working and smart. I like to think I actually am both of those things but it's interesting to think about the preconceived notions people have of you because of your race.'

SHIFTING THE CONVERSATION TOGETHER

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

It’s time to give credit where it’s due. From popular K-beauty products to the inception of the YouTube beauty community, many Asian Americans have pioneered the industry into the influential force it is today, yet our contributions are often swept under the rug.

There are also beauty trends that hurt our community, and when those crop up, we must speak out against them. 'The Fox Eye' trend, which mimics the typical Asian eye shape through procedures like plastic surgery, filler, and facial threading, exploits our features despite the fact that—for many Asian Americans—our slanted eyes have made us targets for racist bullying. Eye shape is a genetic trait, not a trend.

Daniel Martin, Celebrity Make-Up Artist & Global Director of Artistry & Education at TATCHA

Photo credit: Daniel Martin
Photo credit: Daniel Martin

'Right now, we need to share stories. If brands are using certain beauty rituals as a selling point for a product, they should really share why that ritual was created with that culture. If you have an ingredient story, what region of the country are those ingredients derived from.

'And it's not just ingredients. Let's really get at the heart of Asian American stories. That is what was lost with how Asians came to the United States, going all the way back to the 1800s with the railroads. And then later the Japanese internment camps. Let's share those stories of struggle because we never learned about those in school.'

Bretman Rock, Social Media Superstar

Photo credit: Bretman Rock
Photo credit: Bretman Rock

'Some of these bloggers don't really realise the history of the beauty community on YouTube. It was literally pioneered by Asian women. Michelle Phan, ItsJudyTime. These women pioneered the beauty community to be what it is today.

'And I miss when the beauty community was all about empowering each other and really teaching and sharing our love for the make-up. And it turned into something so selfish, and it turned into something that it never should have been. It makes me frustrated that the history of the beauty community is forgotten just because of people's drama and fame and money. Asian girls helped start this world for us and it's being put to the side.'

Photo credit: Dimitrios Kambouris - Getty Images
Photo credit: Dimitrios Kambouris - Getty Images

Michelle Phan, Founder/CEO of EM Cosmetics, Digital pioneer, Entrepreneur, and Award-Winning Content Creator

Photo credit: Michelle Phan
Photo credit: Michelle Phan

'[The YouTube beauty community] is a mess right now, to be honest with you. There's the drama that I feel like now, that's what everyone talks about, which is so unfortunate because it wasn't drama before. When I was part of this community in the early days, it was really about teaching and sharing and co-creating. It was more like a big sister, big brother relationship.

'Now it just became very celebrity feud, but that’s what the market wants. Whether you like it or not, the market likes drama, the market likes entertainment. Every year you have to be more shocking and more shocking. How far are you going to push the envelope? Then it resets itself again, which is actually very exhausting. Some people thrive in that environment, but good for them. You got to make bread. Make that bag, but I'm okay. I'd rather buy more Bitcoin and invest in businesses and build for the future. Everyone's different.'

Josh Liu, Celebrity Hair Stylist and Utiles Beauty Founder

Photo credit: Josh Liu
Photo credit: Josh Liu

'In beauty, I feel like the Westernised features on an Asian face is kind of glorified. So I never really felt like I fit in. A lot of biracial white [faces], a lot of them very angular, very unique Asian models. Asian models are often cast as the token diversity girl, along with a bi-racial Black girl. I feel like now, we're finally getting into making a lot of progress where we're getting dark-skinned Black girls but, I still think that we struggle in the Asian department. I still am seeing a lot of Westernised Asian girls.'

Photo credit: Peter White - Getty Images
Photo credit: Peter White - Getty Images

Dr. Gabriel Chiu, Founder/Plastic Surgeon, Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery Inc.

Photo credit: Dr. Gabriel Chiu
Photo credit: Dr. Gabriel Chiu

'I have actually had requests for the Fox Eye surgery. When clients would show me what they wanted to look like, it kind of hits home and reminds you of the last time you saw someone go ahead and pull back [their eyes] like that, they made funny noises and laughed at you, it doesn't feel good. And I've actually refused to do the surgery.

'[And it’s ironic that now people get eyelid surgery to have a more Asian look when it started with people trying to look less Asian.] Asian eyelid surgery actually began in the 1950s after the Korean War. And there was a surgeon, his name was Ralph Millard, and he had war brides, Korean women who married American GIs. And in order to try to help them to assimilate better when they came back with their husband to the US, did the double eyelid surgery to help open up their eyes. And that's where it began.

'And you find this happening no matter what country you're talking about. Especially here in the US, [Asians] want to become more, as the term is, Westernised. Yet, I feel like we aren't getting the recognition and it's almost a slap in the face to go ahead and attribute [the Fox Eye trend] to an animal instead of a culture.'

Nick Barose, Celebrity Make-Up Artist

Photo credit: Nick Barose
Photo credit: Nick Barose

'People’s eye shapes are not trends. We're not handbags of the season. You don't have to have eyes like us because it's a trend now. It's such a dated concept to be doing make-up to make your eye shape look a certain way or your lip shape to look a certain way. And that's the thing with make-up is that there's two sides to it. I love the side that I can use make-up to celebrate different people, but then there's the other side of make-up that I don't like which is it can be used to suppress who you are.'

Ju Rhyu, Founder of Hero Cosmetics

Photo credit: Ju Rhyu
Photo credit: Ju Rhyu

'I do think there's an appropriation of what Asian beauty offers without the recognition of where it comes from. A few years ago, K-beauty was really hot, and then Western brands sort of jump on the bandwagon and do their own version of K-beauty without really acknowledging that they looked to Korea or K-beauty for their inspiration.

'That is very frustrating in terms of the lack of acknowledgment. Then, on the representation side, I think sometimes I get frustrated because the Lunar New year just happened and a lot of brands did the token red packaging, red envelope post, or product. From what I understand, a lot of them commercially, do really well, but again they don't really talk about why it's important or what it means, or the traditions behind it. So, there's a lot of marketing to the Asian-American community as just sort of marketing to them without really educating the larger audience about the importance of our cultural background.'

Photo credit: Rosdiana Ciaravolo - Getty Images
Photo credit: Rosdiana Ciaravolo - Getty Images

David Yi, Co-founder of Good Light Beauty

Photo credit: David Yi
Photo credit: David Yi

'Silence is violence. This is violent to not speak when you do have a platform. I do want to mention that Asians have a lot of buying power in this country, and so we are watching and we are making a list. We're going to check it twice. Are you going to stand up for us? Are you going to see us? Or are you going to further make us invisible like we've always been in this country?

'You love our K beauty, our J beauty. You love our ancient healing practices, but you don't love us. You can't have it both ways. You can't love our eyes and the Fox Eye trend. You can't love our ancient yoga practices or breathing practices or healing practices. You can't love the innovation that comes out of Asia without loving us.'

Photo credit: Iuliia Bondar - Getty Images
Photo credit: Iuliia Bondar - Getty Images

Patrick Starrr, YouTube Personality & Founder of ONE/SIZE Beauty

'The beauty industry needs to do better. It's frustrating. I think people are afraid to ask the right questions to the right people. And I plan on keeping brands accountable. I think they're not equipped to ask [the right questions] because these traditional brands have been in a place of being content and complacent with where they're at. Representation matters, but also accountability matters as much to me too.'

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

Charlotte Cho, Co-Founder of Soko Glam

Photo credit: Charlotte Cho
Photo credit: Charlotte Cho

'You're profiting from Asian inspired beauty techniques, categories, and tools and you should be speaking out against anti-Asian racism period, full stop.'

Sarah Lee, Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Glow Recipe

Photo credit: Sarah Lee
Photo credit: Sarah Lee

'When it comes to brands co-opting Asian beauty traditions, it’s really important to ensure that proper education is provided and that it’s clear where their inspiration comes from. The consumer has the power to hold the brand accountable and it would be their right to do so. Brands should always be willing to listen to the customer and grow from it.'

Alicia Yoon, Founder and CEO of Peach & Lily

Photo credit: Alicia Yoon
Photo credit: Alicia Yoon

'I do not think [brands] do a good job at crediting Korean beauty at all. For example, Korean beauty and K-beauty are trendy words on Google. I see more brands wanting to use that in search engine optimisation. But then, it's very opportunistic. It's not authentic, it's not giving credit where it's due.

'When [a product] is an innovation that is straight from a Korean lab and originated in Korea, I would love to see brands not decontextualised that. I think that's not honest to your consumer base. I think that is completely disrespectful of another culture, and their entire beauty industry. It makes me feel very taken advantage of. These things are good enough for you to profit off of, but when the Asian American community is being attacked, murdered, hurt, you just turn the other way.'

CREATING A COMMUNITY

Photo credit: Getty
Photo credit: Getty

Now more than ever, Asian Americans must uplift each other and spotlight the amazing work we’ve accomplished. Here, we celebrate our fellow AAPIs—friends, family, colleagues, role models—and the special bonds we share.

Bretman Rock, Social Media Superstar

Photo credit: Bretman Rock
Photo credit: Bretman Rock

'I want to say thank you so much to Ms. Manila Luzon, who is a drag queen that I first saw when I was probably in third grade. I always wanted to be an actor and in front of the camera, but I felt like I couldn't. And it wasn't until I saw Manila Luzon on Drag Race where I felt like, oh my gosh, Manila Luzon is the Philippines' capital town, and that's her name. I was freaking out because she looked like me and I wanted her hair so bad.

'Michelle Phan, BubzBeauty, ItsJudyTime. Those three girls are literally my angels and I've watched them since forever. These women really made me realise that I could also be a beauty boy. And it wasn't even because they told me, it was because they looked like me and I felt like I could do it just because of them.'

Nick Barose, Celebrity Make-Up Artist

Photo credit: Nick Barose
Photo credit: Nick Barose

'I grew up in Thailand and I started taking interest in make-up in the 80's when I was a kid. I would look through my mom's fashion magazines and I would read about Tyen, who is to me, the biggest make-up artist of all time. He's Vietnamese but he was in Paris, he had a big contract with a luxury brand. His story was what I dreamed about.

'Tyen was creative director before Peter Phillips with Dior He got to do photos, he got to do make-up, he got to design the collection. And it was so colourful, he always used flowers and tropical orchids, and eye make-up that looked like birds. And he's from southeast Asia, too, so for me to see his work in magazine pages, it just jumped out at me to see that Asian-ness in European fashion.

'I feel like when I came to America, people told me, "Oh, just be good at one thing because then if you're doing too many things people won't take you seriously," and then I was like, "Really? But there's so many other things I want to do." But then when you have somebody like Tyen. He definitely inspired me to keep going.'

Tina Craig, Founder of U Beauty

Photo credit: Tina Craig
Photo credit: Tina Craig

'I love Michelle Phan because she's such a force. But she's the image of Asian resilience. Not only does she overcome all the things that she went through. She got well-known really early and really young and didn't really know how to handle it all, so she stepped away, which is a major feat. That decision to just step back and stop creating YouTube videos, and really took the time for herself, I think it was two years. She took a huge sabbatical, and then came back stronger and better.

'And David Yi, same thing. I've known him for probably a decade. He calls me Auntie. He was one of the editors, writers, who really supported me throughout my career. He would write about me wherever he worked, first in the Daily Mail, then Womenswear, then Mashable. And I'm so proud of him, what he's doing in the beauty industry, really fucking things up and making a name for himself. Really admire him.'

Michelle Phan, Founder/CEO of EM Cosmetics, Digital pioneer, Entrepreneur, and Award-Winning Content Creator

Photo credit: Michelle Phan
Photo credit: Michelle Phan

'The decision for me to start my [YouTube] channel was personal. It was my form of finding an outlet to express myself through content and connecting with others. Growing up, the only place where I saw people who looked like me, where I felt empowered, was in Japan.

'At this time, before K-pop, it was J-pop and there was one female star named Ayumi Hamasaki. This is during the Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera era, these blonde girls. I didn't see myself in them. Then I find a blonde Asian girl in Japan who is in a way, the same style. But her face looks more like mine. If I didn't have Ayumi Hamasaki and J-pop growing up, I wouldn't be who I am for sure.'

Patrick Ta, Co-Founder of Patrick Ta Beauty and Celebrity Make-Up Artist

Photo credit: patrick ta
Photo credit: 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.

'I think my aunts and my mum 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.'

Photo credit: Presley Ann - Getty Images
Photo credit: Presley Ann - Getty Images

Nam Vo, Real Techniques 'Glow-bal' Make-Up Artist

Photo credit: Nam Vo
Photo credit: Nam 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.'

ACTIONABLE CHANGE

Photo credit: Courte
Photo credit: Courte

How 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 Founder

'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 the Queen of all Media. She is also the daughter of senator Benigno Aquino Jr. and Corazon Aquino, who was the first woman to be President of the Philippines.

'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 make-up 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.'

Photo credit: Bryan Bedder - Getty Images
Photo credit: Bryan Bedder - Getty Images

Nick Barose, Celebrity Make-Up Artist

Photo credit: Nick Barose
Photo credit: Nick 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.'

Anh Co Tran, Celebrity Hair Stylist & Milbon USA Global Creative Director

Photo credit: anh co tran
Photo credit: anh 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.'

Hung Vanngo, Celebrity Make-Up Artist

Photo credit: Hung Vanngo
Photo credit: Hung 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.'

Photo credit: Melodie Jeng - Getty Images
Photo credit: Melodie Jeng - Getty Images

Ju Rhyu, Founder of Hero Cosmetics

Photo credit: Ju Rhyu
Photo credit: Ju Rhyu


'A lot of people just sort of have blinders on. So, they probably don't realise 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 Dermatologist

Photo credit: Dr. Joyce Park
Photo credit: Dr. 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 organisations like Stop AAPI Hate because they're working on helping grassroots campaigns, volunteer organisations that are helping to protect our elders, working with organisations that are helping with logging, things like that. I think those are just like two very basic things that brands can do.'

Photo credit: David Ryder - Getty Images
Photo credit: David Ryder - Getty Images

Charlotte Cho, Co-Founder of Soko Glam

Photo credit: Charlotte Cho
Photo credit: Charlotte 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 Brooklyn

Photo credit: Bee Shapiro
Photo credit: Bee 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 make-up 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.'

Photo credit: Melodie Jeng - Getty Images
Photo credit: Melodie Jeng - Getty Images

Tina Craig, Founder of U Beauty

Photo credit: Tina Craig
Photo credit: Tina 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 Creator

Photo credit: Chriselle Lim
Photo credit: Chriselle Lim

'There'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 Make-Up Artist

Photo credit: patrick ta
Photo credit: patrick ta

'Give 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 categorise 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.'

Photo credit: Ron Adar - Getty Images
Photo credit: Ron Adar - Getty Images

Sasha Cruz, Make-Up Artist and Beauty Influencer

Photo credit: Sasha Cruz
Photo credit: Sasha Cruz


'I'd like to see more Southeast Asian representation and dark-skin representation. A lot of makeup brands tend to leave out foundation shades that have olive undertones. They'll make yellow foundations but a lot of Southeast Asians have olive undertones. So, it's hard for me to find a foundation sometimes because they'll do yellow or pink. They think that those are the choices.'

Christine Chang, Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Glow Recipe

Photo credit: Christine Chang
Photo credit: Christine Chang


'We hope to see more brands using their platforms to bring awareness, share resources, and encourage open conversations so that their consumers are educated on ways to help Asian Americans during this difficult time. It is an extremely vulnerable time for so many and these issues have unfortunately not been widely covered - this is why support from an industry as large and influential as beauty is much needed.'

Photo credit: Rosdiana Ciaravolo - Getty Images
Photo credit: Rosdiana Ciaravolo - Getty Images

Josh Liu, Celebrity Hair Stylist and Utiles Beauty Founder

Photo credit: Josh Liu
Photo credit: Josh Liu

'How do I think the beauty industry could show up for us now? I think actively speak out about what's going on and name the statistics because the numbers don't lie. Racism is up this percent and acknowledge that it is a problem in America. And that you guys stand with the community and are making efforts towards creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace and in representation across the board, from marketing to e-comm. I want to see action outlined. I love when brands donate towards the ACLU or charities that fight for Asian rights or against hate crimes. So I think that's something that the beauty industry can do.'

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