Beauty Isn’t “One Size Fits All”
Anna Osada (AO) I used to write for the plastic surgery industry, mainly advice columns on relationships and work issues. In short, I promoted cosmetic alterations, and implied that people could change their lives by changing their faces. Oftentimes, I would meet these patients before their surgeries. They all had such different faces with many unique characteristics. But post-surgery, they all ended up looking similar. It was a certain standard that surgeons had deemed the “ideal face.” Initially, I thought it was fine, as long as people were happy with their results. But eventually, I started wondering if people were truly happy undergoing a procedure that promotes unattainable beauty standards. I questioned if this unalterable decision was the correct answer to their mental and spiritual issues of self-acceptance. While I battled with this dilemma, my patient interviews became dreadful and draining to me. I was so baffled, and I felt horrible.
Yasuo Yoshikawa (YY) Yes, many people possess insecurities about their faces.
AO It’s the dark side of the beauty industry. I wondered if these people were really happy with themselves after their surgeries. Did fixing certain facial imperfections really solve their problems? I doubted that they felt long-lasting fulfillment, because such drastic solutions can’t truly solve those underlying issues. Fixing the exterior does not always heal the interior.
I felt guilty working in an industry that only represented specific kinds of beauty in advertisements and editorials. Creating false notions that you can achieve an “ideal face” by simply putting on makeup or losing some weight makes normal women feel completely insecure. Of course, we can all recognize true beauty, and culturally, we idolize it. But promoting such messages in hopes of profiting off of people’s insecurities is wrong, and I decided that I didn’t want to participate in it anymore. Since then, I’ve set out on a mission to write about real beauty—that is, the authentic and unique kind that each of us are born with, one that emanates from within. I try to convey this message in both my writing and the supporting visuals that I use in my books. For example, I remember when thin eyebrows were very popular, and people used to pluck and shape them. Now, big and bold brows are in fashion. Even if you really believe something to be constant, beauty trends and standards change over time.
YY Larger sizes are now considered curvy and desirable…
AO Like Jennifer Lopez and Kim Kardashian. I think we should be body positive and celebrate all kinds of beauty. We must learn to stop criticizing each other.
What Does It Mean To Be “Attractive”?
YY I think plenty of men like curvy women, but when it comes to beauty articles on ‘how to attract men,’ people often ignore that [attraction], and answers are redirected to “losing five pounds.”
AO These days on the Internet, people tag things like ‘how to attract the opposite sex,’ and gain tons of followers that way. People tag things even if they’re not legitimate sources, and that begins these horrible loops of brainwashing.
YY People ask me beauty advice on attracting men, particularly for online dating, and I’m unsure how to answer because I’ve always met my partners through work. It seems as though many people create illusions of themselves on these sites. Why pretend to be something you’re not? Isn’t it better to look around you, get to know people beyond their exteriors, and see what happens? Isn’t that a better way of finding a true partner?
AO Maybe people feel that their inner circles are too limited. It’s hard to find people that you’re attracted to, and online dating sites, like match.com, help expand the options. People want love at first sight, a fulfillment of their animal instincts, I suppose. But all of that can be hard to come by. Whether it’s changing their makeup, hair, or personal style, many women try to alter their looks in order to attract men. There are a lot of cool and stylish women around me, but when they start thinking about getting married, they’ll tell me to tone down on my personal fashion, and look more classy, elegant, and demure. I disagree with these ideas and think women should express themselves however they wish.
YY Picking a partner can be confusing when you have many options. Especially when many people curate themselves in inauthentic ways every day, as you were suggesting with some women. What if your partner turns out to be very different from their profile, and not the ideal that you made them out to be?
AO I’m not sure, but shouldn’t we be more transparent in general? And strive to be the same person inside and out? When it comes to attracting partners, we should present ourselves authentically, and in ways that highlight our individual beauty
Inner Beauty Burns The Brightest
AO When you take a look at famous actresses, they’re probably not thinking they should look like someone else.
YY Right. They define their own beauty.
AO I do the same! Every day, I take care of my skin and then put on makeup. Sometimes, when I feel like I look really good, I’ll feel lucky, and begin admiring myself. Every now and again, I’ll use a fragrant cleansing wash, which always makes me feel good. Then, I’ll put on a gentle cream and massage my skin. It makes me feel grateful—I need to pamper myself at the end of the day. Recently, I’ve been using Cle De Peau Beaute Cream with added sunscreen. I love the feel and texture. For lips, when I’m going for a matte or more transparent look, I’ll use Chanel Rouge Allure Liquid Powder. When I’m feeling glossy, I’ll reach for Yves Saint Laurent or Chicca
I like the slightly purple tints.
The other day I was walking with a fresh bouquet of flowers, and an elderly woman commented on their beauty. “I used to think ‘outer beauty rules,’ but now, I think what matters most is on the inside,” she said. I kept wondering what she meant by it. Get this: shortly after, a guy told me that he cares more about a woman’s personality than her looks, and I think he was complimenting me. I was thinking, “Hey, but what about my face?” I couldn’t believe it!
Age Is Just A Number
AO I really love this film series by Takeshi Kitano called Outrage. The cast members have such defined faces, and despite their age and wrinkles, they have many fascinating features. I wonder why aging is considered less attractive for women, and why wrinkles are not considered sexy or beautiful. Having some wrinkles helps distinguish you from others. It’s a person’s overall aura and nuance that makes them cool and sexy. We need more photographers that can capture people’s auras, and not miss or erase natural beauty in their images. I seek to accomplish this in my own writing, but I need proper visuals to support the message. Otherwise, convincing audiences [that they are beautiful] can be challenging.
YY Models I used to work with are now all in their 40’s and 50’s. Even for them, it’s hard sustaining the beauty that they once had. People will often say things like, “she was really beautiful back then.” Many women face this challenge: they run into a wall as they age and aren’t sure how to get across it. I think you can do so by simply accepting these changes and embracing your own beauty as you evolve throughout life.
AO I read Nordic novels sometimes, and what I find interesting about them is that these women aren’t afraid to show their sexuality and their aging bodies. They aren’t as ashamed of it as in Japan.
YY Japanese men need to stop shaming women by saying things like, “you’re too old for this.” They have no respect [for women]. However, I believe that Japanese women also need to change their own attitudes towards aging in order for men to accept it as well.
AO I agree with you. Changing men’s attitudes can be hard. That’s why I wrote this book on real beauty. I’m sending messages to men and women about embracing their natural beauty and changing their own negative attitudes. By doing this, I can help shift cultural outlooks rooted in sexism and ageism for upcoming generations of men and women alike. As a society, we need to change our perspectives. I’ve been watching Queer Eye, a TV show surrounding five gay men who do life make-overs involving fashion, beauty, interior design, and food. The show’s message is “LOVE YOURSELF.” They discuss how you must love yourself first before you can ever truly love others.
YY We don’t hear that in Japan.
AO But we need to hear this. A cultural shift of this magnitude calls for self-awareness and discipline, and it takes time and hard work. Loving yourself and taking care of yourself is not egocentric; it’s about self-acceptance. It’s about finding your strength and using that to get over any negativity towards yourself. Even if your loved ones say that you’re great and beautiful, it doesn’t ring true if you don’t believe it yourself. True change can only come from within. I once met a rather famous foreign actress on a film set. Although she looked very beautiful in the film, she disliked her looks and refused to watch the final product. I was utterly shocked to hear that.
YY I understand. Models also fall victim to their insecurities by comparing themselves to other models. In order to be OK, they have to be tough, and must learn to embrace their own beauty as one of their strengths. Otherwise, they have a hard time working in the fashion industry, for it can crush you.
AO When someone has a sense of style that’s considered unique or trendy, the world of fashion readily accepts them. But the beauty industry isn’t like that—I personally think it will take more time to challenge and shift its standards.
YY I do think that beauty standards are changing. It’s the realization that beauty is culture, and that the definition of beauty varies in specific places. The world is rapidly becoming more connected, and with that comes the realization that there are all different types of beauty, not just one.
AO Last year during New York Fashion Week, Rihanna introduced her new line SAVAGE X FENTY. She used all sorts of models with varying ethnicities, body types, and complexions, and didn’t just pick different models of color as a marketing ploy: like one Asian model, one black model. Tokenization is what you’re “supposed to do” these days. I, for one, must keep sending a message that the world is full of all different kinds of beauty. I want people to know that they’re truly beautiful in their own way, and that they should embrace the unique qualities in all of life around us. I want that idea to become a beauty standard all on its own.
Photo : Yasuo Yoshikawa Make up : Yasuo Yoshikawa
Interview / Text: Yasuo Yoshikawa