As I hinted in my last post, there were some changes going on with my website which was why I’ve been a bit delinquent about my posts.
Well, I’m happy to announce that I’m officially a member X UNIPX INFLUENCE Program! In other words, I’m now acting as an influencer in the Chinese market leveraging UNIPX media platforms which focus on pop culture, lifestyle, media and entertainment. Here is a recent article my friends at UNIPX published that effectively introduces me to the market as a strategist and lover of all things beauty (It’s super easy to translate into English :)).
While I’m going to represent one of many different points of view from the U.S. market, I realize I need to wrap my head around views of beauty in Chinese culture too. As you can imagine this can be a life long pursuit, but even just peering in to this new world could be give some insight.
So the first thing I did was look into my past research. To explain to my colleagues and clients how views of beauty differ across cultures, I compared how Americans vs French, Russian and Chinese natives interpret beauty. Initially I jumped into social media and published research. While it’s a few years old (I’m looking forward in my new role to motivate me to do update this), and I’ve had to generalize a bit, I believe some of these themes stand the test of time. What intrigued me the most, and it surfaces in the article written about me linked above, is the true duality of inner and outer beauty in China. While concepts of inner beauty are in “vogue” in Western culture, when we talk about beauty, let’s face it, we are really referring to our outer appearances. From an outer beauty perspective, the Chinese tend to view a healthy body and skin, as well as white skin, and an sense of approachability as attractive.
As a woman wrote in social media (translated into English): “Actually health is beauty. It’s better to get up early, do some exercise everyday and focus on the balance of whole body.”
At the same time, Chinese culture deems traits like confidence, intelligence and honorability as beautiful. As another stated:
“Out long tradition emphasizes more the inner beauty of a woman. Beauty is not only your appearance but also your charm, characteristics and nobility…..”
Of course this is only scratching the surface. But imagine if we started thinking about or appreciating beauty this way. I’m not saying that all the Chinese notions of beauty will be right for us here. In fact, maybe by sharing some of our more enlightened notions of beauty with them we can all grow. I’m looking forward to learning more about these differences, experiencing and adopting some of them myself.
Speaking of experiencing them, I tried to do just that. While I couldn’t take the next flight to Beijing, I did the best I could and headed down to NYC’s famous Chinatown to explore the beauty world. I went shopping with my friend, Kristi, at the neighborhood beauty shops, and indulged in some beauty treatments a few weeks later. Not surprisingly, the shops offered way more beauty products from Korea and Japan than from China. But that didn’t stop us from partaking. 🙂
In terms of beauty treatments, I went on a lark to a place that had a website offering manicure and blow outs on Canal St. The manicure didn’t seem any different than one I would get at a typical salon uptown. But the hair experience certainly was. (Let me caveat by saying this is certainly not a comparison of all Chinatown salons since I only went to one. ) The first thing that happened was I was asked to sit on one the of the blow out chairs while a woman covered my collar in plastic. She then gave me a 5 minute shoulder massage — which was awesome. Here is where it gets really interesting: while I’m sitting there, she takes the shampoo, pours it on my head while another woman squeezes water out from a plastic bottle to be mixed with the shampoo. The first woman washes and massages my scalp for another 5 minutes as I’m sitting right next to a gentleman getting his hair cut. So I’m thinking, do they not have sinks? What’s the deal? They do! I know because after the 5 minute wet hair massage I’m led to the sinks where my hair is rinsed and rewashed and then conditioned. Clearly a healthy, clean scalp and head of hair is a MUST!
Another interesting difference between “western” blowouts and and the ones I experienced myself or saw on others in the salon, is emphasis on smooth and straight (vs full volume). I was not surprised at this look given the high preponderance of Japanese straightening products that have made their way around the globe, and especially in Asia. Given the humidity and my general lifestyle the look lasted a day or so but experience was a blast.
No doubt beauty is more than skin deep. But I’m not referring just to inner beauty. Rather I speaking about how much beauty is a product and reflection of culture. While there may universal truths about physical symmetry and health as markers of beauty, it’s so evident how our rituals around, beliefs of and issues with beauty tells us a world of information regarding our values, social politics, environment and the list goes. This is one of the key goals of Beautyskew: to shed light on culture through the lens of beauty. More than that, as evidence of my new relationship with UNIPX media, beauty can be a vehicle to connect with and learn from others, even those from a totally different world.
Needless to say, I’m looking forward to this great new relationship, sharing what I know and learning from others too, maybe just maybe, helping to build some amazing bridges.
To get a taste of some of the Chinese-American beauty influencers on U.S. soil, check out Soothingsista and Francis Lola.