Achievement Unlocked: I Got Published in the BBC! :D

Hey guys! I have some very exciting news!

I got an article published on BBC! 

Yep, that BBC. It’s a writeup on the stigma against dark skin in Malaysia. You can view it here:

IS THAT AWESOME OR WHAT? 

Sorry I’m shouting; I’m just so excited 😀 Granted, that was published like a week ago and I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to blog about it, but… still excited. 😀

I guess it’s every writer’s dream to be recognised for their work, and having been told before that I don’t write as well as my colleagues (I used to work in a newspaper), this is a huge achievement for me.

Anyway, the story of how this came about – last year in September, I wrote an article on fat shaming, which I put up on my rant blog and shared on my personal Facebook. It was picked up by a friend who works at a viral news portal. He asked permission to feature it. I said okay and it went ‘viral’, so to speak. The site has since closed down (I guess they weren’t making enough money to sustain?), so I can’t link it to you guys, but you can read my original version here: badwithchopsticks.wordpress.com/2016/09/13/thin/ I felt encouraged reading the comments: readers sharing their own experiences and how they know it shouldn’t get them down, that they related to my quest for a healthier life that not necessarily involved taking insults from people who knew nothing about the struggles I go through everyday.

The writeup was viral enough that I received an email from a BBC correspondent in Singapore, who said she loved my style and tone, and wanted me to write a separate piece on a similar issue (since they can’t reuse the one I already wrote). I was beyond excited, and decided to write about another topic besides fat shaming that has bugged me a lot growing up – stigma against dark skin. Those who know me in real life will know that I’ve never had the prized ‘fair’ complexion, which is prized as a beauty ideal in my community.

Fan Bing Bing, China’s highest paid actress – considered the ‘ideal’ beauty in many East Asian communities. Almond shaped eyes, sharp nose, delicate bone structure, pale skin.
And then there’s me. A happy tanned potato. On most days I like me, except on the few that haters get me down.

 

I admit, it was harder for me to write an article when I knew such a reputable organisation was asking me to – what if they didn’t like it? I held back a lot, as opposed to how I would normally sound (blunt, lol). There were a couple of rewrites with exchanges that lasted several weeks; and then I didn’t hear back from them after Chinese New Year in January.

Assuming that they had scrapped the idea, I put it out of my mind. After all, having gotten an email from them was already a very happy occasion for me – it meant that they valued my writing, whether or not my article gets published. I know my parents never liked me picking journalism as my major, and throughout my course and career they have (perhaps subconsciously) indicated their disappointment. Deep down inside, I struggled: I wanted to be a filial daughter who can make my parents happy, but if it meant sacrificing my own happiness to pick something they thought was a ‘good’ career (like accounting, or engineering)… I couldn’t live with myself. So I followed my heart.

Getting published wasn’t really the issue. It was the recognition that I am actually, you know, pretty good at what I’m doing.

Fast forward a couple of months and I got an email from the same correspondent, with a link. It was finally out! I proudly shared it with my parents. While they did not lavish praise, I could feel their quiet approval. Which means the world to me. I believe in my own writing abilities, but sometimes you just need a booster now and then, you know? xD

Let me know what you guys think of the writeup! I’d love to hear from you 🙂

 

 

100 Years of Americana Tattoos: An Evolution of Art and the Body

Digressing a little from my usual travel and food entries… I thought this video on 100 Years of Americana Tattoo is too beautiful not to share. 🙂 All the designs are amazing, and you can see how the styles have evolved over the last century. My favourites are the black rose design inspired by Charlie Wagner (1910s),  Guy Aitchinson’s Lotus (1990s) and Nikko Hurtado’s realistic and colourful cat portrait (2010s).

This lady is really brave. One tattoo for me was painful enough, but 11 in a week? 

People with body art often have to face social stigma, especially in Asian societies. My parents are both quite traditional and tend to have set ‘perceptions’ about people and things. ‘If you’re tatted, you’re bad – I don’t need to interact with you to know that.’ To them, getting a tattoo was what gangsters did, otherwise, why would you mutilate a perfectly good body with ‘art’?

So imagine how much of a fit they flew into when I got tatted for my 25th birthday.
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Wasn’t even a big one. lol. 

I don’t blame them. They grew up in a society where tattoos were not the norm. I don’t expect them to understand stuff about ‘expressing one’s self through art’. To me, I wanted to get a tattoo as a way to take control of my own body and my life. It was symbolism: of breaking free from the ‘good daughter mold’. I was always too afraid of what my family thought of me that it held me back from doing the things that I wanted to.

They’re cool now though.

Coz they see that it’s still me.

 

“I think it’s great that we can use our body as a canvas. If your body is a temple, then you should be able to decorate it the way you want, right?” – Casey Lubin 

The Asian Obsession with Fair Skin: Why I Gave Up Caring

“Don’t get too black in Phuket, okay?” my mum cautioned before I left home this morning.

She meant getting tanned; but in Cantonese, there’s no such term when it comes to describing skin tones. You’re either ‘white’ (bak) or ‘black’ (hak), never in between.

 

Like many East Asians, I come from a culture that is obsessed with fair skin. Most Asian societies were (and some still are) agro-based communities. Having to work in the fields meant that peasants often had dark skin, while the rich and affluent who stayed indoors were usually fair-skinned.

Even in modern society, when we’ve (supposedly) done away with these stereotypes, we’re still bombarded with images that tell us fair = good, dark = bad. When I visited Hanoi in Vietnam, the girls there wore sunglasses, face masks, long-sleeved hoodies and long trousers to protect themselves from the sun. Some of my own friends here in KL won’t leave the house without an umbrella… not coz it’s going to rain, but because they don’t want to get tanned. Which is all fine, but it gets way over (like they’d whip out an umbrella for a 30second walk across the street). Skin whitening products are one of the best selling beauty items in Asia.

But why are we so obsessed with white skin? Social classes based on occupation and connotations of dark skin with hard labour should not exist in the modern world. I guess centuries of perceptions and culture are hard to change. **Meanwhile in Western countries, people are getting into tanning beds and baking themselves in the sun to achieve that dark orange look lol.

I’m darker-skinned than my Malaysian-Chinese friends. My mum’s pretty fair, but my dad and bro are both tanned. I played basketball in high school, and some people around me would go on and on about how I was going to ruin my complexion, that it’s going to make me permanently ‘black’, that guys wouldn’t like me, etc. And my young impressionable mind was, well, impressionable. I became ashamed of my dark skin. I tried whitening facial washes in an effort to lighten my skin tone. (Needless to say, they don’t do shit.)

And then I grew up, joined the working world, experienced stuff, and found that hey – it’s too tiring to follow what other’s think I should look like. Life is too short to please anyone other than yourself.

These days, I love my tanned skin. I like to describe it as honey orange, because that’s what it looks like to me. I learnt to embrace what was given to me by my parents and nature. It’s not just my skin, but everything about myself.

So yeah. I’m not your typical fair-skinned, skinny Asian beauty. I’m busty, I have a broad face, I have a button nose, I have small chinky eyes and I wear glasses and It doesn’t matter. Life is not about looking pretty for societal standards. 

***(Although, I have to admit that life can sometimes be easier for conventionally ‘pretty’ people. Well, good for them – but I don’t want to change myself to fit into that…just because.)