Eurocentric standards have dictated beauty ideals well beyond their borders for centuries. It’s not only evident in Manila – just take a look at the billboards along EDSA, for starters – but also, in other parts of the region for many reasons.
But Asian faces are increasingly making waves with countless women showcasing their talents, grit and beauty on a global stage. Take a look at these inspiring Asian women who are reshaping the world’s perception of beauty.
Zhang ‘Zemotion’ Jingna (Singapore)
Popularly known as zemotion, Zhang Jingna is a self-taught photographer, widely considered a “fine art photographer” for her highly sophisticated and meticulously styled photos. When she was a tender twenty years of age, the Singaporean-Chinese photographer managed to bag shoots with a slew of prestigious clients (Mercedes Benz, Canon, etc) and magazines such as Vogue Italia, Elle, and Harper’s Bazaar.
Even though fashion magazines have been around for a while, it was only at the turn of the new millennium when leading high-fashion magazines like Vogue Italia placed an Oriental face on its covers. While that may be in part due to China’s dominance as an economic and consumption superpower, with the help of talented professionals and artists like Zhang Jingna, Asia’s influence in the fashion and beauty industry is steadily growing.
With numerous international awards under her belt, Jingna’s pictures showcase a cross-breeding of cultures, which often create a wonderful and intriguing new persona. Many of her popular portraits feature Asian women in floral backdrops, giving them that ethereal feel.
Danah & Stacey Gutierrez (Philippines)
Twin sisters, Danah and Stacey Gutierrez, are spearheading the body positive and acceptance movement in the Philippines since launching their popular blog in 2009. The blog’s popularity has allowed the Gutierrez sisters to launch a web magazine called PLUMP which challenges society’s body image stereotypes by promoting the idea that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.
With a goal of empowering other women, the twins also highlight a range of women topics from light discussions like plus-sized fashion and ‘adulting’ to hard-hitting conversations about rape and eating disorders. In fact, Stacey bravely came out as a date-rape survivor and shared her harrowing experience to her online followers in October 2014.
The sisters release a monthly issue of PLUMP, which contains helpful fashion, beauty, and healthy living tips for the curvy Pinay. Check out their latest issue here.
Saina Nehwal (India)
Photo Source: Zeenews India
Not all gorgeous women are models; some of them are badminton players like Saina Nehwal. If you haven’t heard of Saina, she’s the first Indian to ever receive a medal in the Olympics. This Ana Ortiz look-alike has won more than 30 titles during her nine-year career, making her the number one badminton player for Women’s Singles in 2015 according to Badminton World Federation.
Due to her dedication and skill, Saina has inspired many young sports enthusiasts in India to take badminton lessons, bringing a much-needed change in people’s attitude towards the sport. Aside from that, Saina has appeared on popular television shows and has signed multiple endorsement deals with big brands such as Vaseline, Herbalife, among others.
Yuriko Kajiya (Japan)
Apart from the fashion industry (and Hollywood), the ballet world has also received a fair share of criticism for its lack of diversity. Thankfully, there have been some improvements in terms of racial diversity in recent years. One welcome addition is Yuriko Kajiya, a Japanese ballet dancer who is now Principal at Houston Ballet.
When Yuriko was training as a young dancer in China, her instructors considered her as the worst in the class. But it didn’t faze her. Instead, it motivated her to work hard and practice her routines. After years of rigorous training, she competed in the international Prix de Lausanne in Switzerland. She won and was awarded a one-year scholarship to Canada’s National School. From then on, she travelled to New York and became part of the prestigious American Ballet Theatre for 10 years. To date, she is the only Japanese soloist in ABT.
Despite her busy schedule, Yuriko makes it a point to respond to every fan mail she receives. “It’s very important to me,” she says in media interviews, recounting the days she idolized Japanese dancers as a child. “It gave me so much hope and joy. I want to do the same thing, and that’s what I can offer.”
Michelle Phan (Vietnam)
In this internet generation, the name Michelle Phan is a familiar one to many millennial women. Born to Vietnamese parents, the YouTube beauty sensation has graced the covers of many magazines and was the highest paid Youtube beauty blogger last year.
Michelle has definitely come a long way. In the summer of 2007, she launched her first makeup tutorial after applying for a job (and getting rejected) at Dillard’s Department Store in Tampa, Florida. Her tutorials launched her career in social media. She has sparked a beauty revolution in both the fashion and beauty industry, and inspired a new wave of young women creating fresh, DIY content online.
From growing up on food stamps, she’s now building an empire: a media company (FAWN or For All Women Network), a makeup line (em cosmetics), a book deal, and a subscription beauty box (Ipsy) estimated to be worth $500 million. Who knows what else is in store for Michelle? Truly, she’s a shining example of how far perseverance, creativity, and some kakikayan can take you.