About to get back into the swing of things - writing and recording, and also, doing cool photoshoots is also something I enjoy doing. 2018 is about to get pretty exciting for me!
I got the opportunity to be a part of Tonal Journal inaugural issue, newly launched this month, shot a couple of photos and did an interview with them too.
Zarna, the founder was an incredible woman, and is also very passionate about the magazine that she was there herself at the shoot to hang out with me. Tonal was meant to celebrate the strength, ambition and beauty of women of colour, telling their stories and empowering women in all skin tones. So when they wanted to feature me, I was super excited! Hell yes, let me represent my sawo matang peeps! The south east asian melanin!
Coincidentally, I'm now at the age where I have fully embraced my identity and also my skin tone, and this shoot and interview made me feel that way the most. I reminisce my childhood, growing up in South East Asia, young girls would think that you are only considered beautiful if you have fairer skin, the kind of of girl you only see on TV and magazine. A lot of girls wanting to look fairer, or 'putih' (white) to look more beautiful. But me, I played netball in the hot sun almost every day, and I spent a huge chunk of my childhood in my dark skin.
In the entertainment industry, the pressure to be fairer was there. This was very common- every person gracing the pages of the local fashion magazines was Malay, but looked Caucasian (with contact lenses and everything). It was the same for TV. The concept of beauty in South East Asia is still stuck in the 'white is beautiful' space. The words that most Malaysian girls fear - 'Gelap' means dark. 'Hitam' means black. I remember one of my first big photoshoot that I did for a fashion magazine, sharing the cover with other beautiful female celebrities who undeniably had fairer skin. When the photos came out, the kind of comments I got were along the lines of 'Semua cantik, Yuna je gelap.' means "All of them are beautiful, but Yuna's dark". It's true, I do have darker skin, I didn't try to change that fact. But it did hurt a little that this was my first big fashion photoshoot - and it made me feel like I didn't deserve it. 'Hitam' and 'gelap' had become so negative that when one of them is thrown to you, you feel like you gotta get that fairness cream A.S.A.P.!
Well, that was close to 10 years ago. I had gotten wiser, and grew to love the colour of my skin. I embraced it fully. I don't fear going out in the sun - going hiking, or going to the beach because 'I have a photoshoot next week' . Unlike 10 years ago, now I don't look for fairness creams anymore when I feel like I've been in the sun too much ('Is this gonna make me fairer?') What a dummy I was!
Once in a while I get messages from young Malaysian girls asking for advice, who have the same struggle I had before. I understand, with social media setting the beauty standards today, and the peer pressure trying to look the prettiest, the fairest, the skinniest.. it just became a lot tougher now in the post-Instagram era where everyone wants to look like the Instagram girl. But.. the Instagram girl is not real. You are. It's weird - while everyone back in South East Asia are trying to look white, everyone in the western part of the world are trying to look tan. I guess the world has successfully made us to feel unsatisfied with what we have.
But I am hopeful. The world is slowly changing, and women of colour are now getting more recognition and celebrated across the world. Black is beautiful - I'm waiting for that wave to come reach my girls back home. In the meantime, I remind those who reach out to me that they are beautiful in every shade. It might be hard to process, but beauty is not everything anyways. And what a time to be alive! I love how Rihanna just went out there and created a makeup line for women in every colour - the darkest tones you can find, and selling them out too. My heart bursts with joy seeing young girls excited about the Fenty foundation, testing them out and go 'What skin tone are you?' to each other and being proud of their unique, dark skin tone. Rihanna totally flipped the game, putting a lot of pressure on huge cosmetic companies to come up with more shades to cater to culturally diverse consumer market. And I also love that there are movements like Dark is Beautiful in India that fights against skin colour bias, and magazines like Tonal Journal - just says a lot about the world we live in today, where diversity is celebrated!
So before I sign off, remember to drink lots of water, get enough sleep, moisturize before going to bed and love yourself. That's whats gonna keep your skin beautiful! Also, slap some sunscreen on (for UV protection, you have to!), get out there and go live the best life you can. What skin tone are you? It doesn't matter, you're beautiful anyways.
You can purchase a copy of the journal here to check out the interview and the rest of the photos!