"Asian Beauty Is Fluid, Vulnerable, & All Around Us."
Blair Cannon is a 23 year-old writer and editorial producer in NYC, and has contributed to publications including The New York Times, i-D, Paper, NYLON, Performa Mag, and ArtForum. She has recently begun creative directing as a way to merge her personal art practice and fashion experience. This beauty story is the first of several upcoming projects engaging with Asian American and multi-racial feminine identity. Blair hopes to continue the practice of making “visual interviews,” in which subjects show rather than tell the world who they are.
We invent our own beauty and fashion culture out of the mixed bag of elements from our upbringings. We adorn ourselves with looks that are an Asian take on American beauty and an American/international take on Asian beauty. We engage in a process of creative, often inventive, culture-building in order to hold onto our parents’ stories and accept our generation’s differences from our families. There are times when we’ve felt that we can’t own certain looks we want to try because we aren’t Asian enough or ____ enough, or because we haven’t seen anyone do it before.
Those questions make mixed-race Asian American beauty special. My way of showcasing this is to take visual interviews of my friends, where they illustrate their individual culture through the beauty looks they choose to wear. We don’t owe you an explanation of our backgrounds, but we’re happy to show you who we want to be.
We are mixed Black Filipinas. Our mother immigrated to New York City with her mother when she was 8 years old from The Philippines. When we think about beauty in our Filipino culture, we remember pictures of our mother being surrounded by flowers, smiling with her hair so delicate and long. As artists, we wanted to capture that memory somewhere on our face. Asian beauty is fluid, vulnerable, and all around us.
Anna Theroux Ling (left)
Growing up in Japan, freckles were considered a flaw, as it went against the perfect porcelain skin aesthetic. When I moved to New York, I would get the most compliments on my freckles, and now I am more comfortable and appreciative of something that I always had that I didn’t really consider unique or special. I always wear black winged eyeliner because I think it accentuates my eye shape, and I think it’s a classic look for both Asian and American beauty.
Havana Liu (right)
A layer of sunscreen to keep my sensitive Chinese skin safe, a thank you to my NaiNai. A pigmented pout for warm NY afternoons when lipstick runs, and for evenings when people ask “What are you?” What am I? A creative? A sister? A human? A friend? Chinese? White? Mixed race? I respond, “What do you mean?”
Emily May Jampel (left)
As a moody hapa teen in Honolulu, Hawaii, I idolized the aesthetics of white indie actresses and movie characters like Margot Tennenbaum, Kaitlyn Cooper and Summer Roberts on The OC, who all had these really “edgy” looks with thick eyeliner and long pin-straight hair. I wanted to be just like them so I wore black Urban Decay eyeliner and got a straight perm because my natural texture was really frizzy, unlike most of my full-Asian friends. Since coming to New York, I’ve learned to embrace my natural features and incorporate my cultural influences into my own unique personal style, rather than trying to imitate them. I now have short hair and almost never wear eyeliner or straighten my hair, but I wanted to showcase this beauty look as an homage to my old middle-school self.
Sabrina Santiago (right)
I’m Puerto Rican and Pakistani. While I haven’t met man “Pak-aricans” as my family used to say growing up, my bi-racialness is one of my favorite parts of me. I love my naturally dark circles and I wanted to play them up with smudged eyeliner. My curly hair and my hoop earrings are extensions of me.
Blair Cannon (left)
When people ask me where I’m from, I always answer with Southern California. I’m first and foremost an American coastal girl who happens to have Korean heritage. Being mixed, I didn’t think I fit in very well back home but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that my wavy hair texture and Korean skincare routine make me even more San Diegan. I wanted to be photographed with beach hair and my favorite Peripera lip tint to show how I bring K-beauty into a different context.
Olivia Sulkowicz (right)
People often cling to one aspect of my identity. They’ll joke that my Asian genes cancel out my Jewish genes, or on the other end of the spectrum, that I, “could totally pass for white.” Both of these sentiments fail to recognize the uniqueness and diversity of my lived experience, as if they’d prefer I were more easily categorizable. On a style and beauty basis, I find myself drawing from my NYC upbringing as well as my Asian American upbringing. I like to play with the contrast between bolder accessories like my very Harajuku earrings and more subdued elements like nude (my nude anyway) lips and my natural curls.
For my look, I decided to go for a bright red lip and long eyelashes. I grew up with my Filipino mother donning a red lip for special occasions, informing me that red is a symbol for good fortune and joy in Asian culture. I constantly felt unsure of myself and if it was okay for me to also take part in this cultural practice as a mixed race Black American. Through the years I recognized that taking inspiration from both cultures in my own visual representation makes me more comfortable in my own skin.
Jaye Sosa (right)
In many ways, I owe this one to my younger much more insecure self who once felt embarrassed about being mixed between Taiwanese, Mexican, and Japanese ancestry. I wanted to incorporate my natural tomboy look with grey contact lenses and gold hoops to show that my own style is still slowly blossoming.
This beauty editorial originally appeared in Global Art Daily Magazine Issue 02, All Girls Are Spicy (Fall 2018, printed in Japan).
Creative Director and Producer: Blair Cannon
Photography: Heather Hazzan
Photo assistant: Michael Beckert
Hair: Hide Suzuki
Make-up: Sena Murahashi
Editor: Sophie Arni
Translator: T. Sasano
Stay tuned to Milk for more conceptions of beauty.