My Two Cents: “Yellow” Skin

SONY DSCI hate editing, and “hate” is a strong word.

I used to spend so many hours before, during, and after school editing pictures when I was first introduced to photography. Tedious, but I loved making layers and clicking on the little “eye” icon on PhotoShop to see how powerful the most recent layer is compared to the first. It was like magic. I still do that now when I hold onto a particular picture on Instagram and VSCO after some editing. I would tap on it multiple of times to see a mock “before” and “after” picture.

I used to take and edit pictures of inanimate objects and landscapes. I avoided portraits, especially self- portraits. Now, as a blogger who takes pictures of herself and sometimes edits them, I loathe editing.

I thought I hated the process because I am not good at it. While that is very much true, I realized my hatred stemmed from something much more personal. It was not the time that I minded nor my lack of skills – I am not afraid of researching, learning, and practicing.

I hate editing because I am in constant battle with the ideals of beauty while doing it.

It is not a new phenomena: white is beauty – within many cultures, including mine.

In this post, I dodged my face to the point where my skin there was lighter than my back, which makes no sense since my face is exposed to the sun way more often than my back. For my skin to be as white as my white walls, if not whiter, this was beyond unrealistic.

Growing up Vietnamese-American, I have always struggled with the clashes of Western and Eastern values and beliefs. One of those beliefs was beauty. I know damn well that beauty is a social construct, but sometimes, I fall into its trap. Ingrained in my subconscious, I was encouraged to use bleaching creams. I was told to wear foundation that was way too light for my skin tone. I was mistaken for other Asian ethnicities because my skin was considered too dark for a Vietnamese gal.

For that reason, I did not feel beautiful before. I did not feel Vietnamese before. I did not feel like a beautiful Vietnamese gal that I am. I used bleaching creams. I wore foundation that was probably 3 shades too light. I scrubbed my face until it looked “Vietnamese” – whatever that even means.

Sometimes, while editing, I catch myself brightening my skin too much. I use the curve feature far too generously. I dodge my skin a bit much. I would literally take the warmth color out of my skin tone until I could not recognize myself anymore.

It was a shameful practice. From not looking Vietnamese “enough” to not looking Vietnamese at all, I was so confused.

Although I am so proud to be Vietnamese and to identify with its rich culture, I am not proud of its beauty standards. I hate editing because I am reminded of them.

Today, I edited the picture above and although it is not the best in terms of editing, I am so proud of it because my skin looks “yellow” as it should. I am yellow – not white.

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