You might have come here looking for tips to lighten your skin or lose weight. Well, I suggest you leave now, because that’s not what this beauty tutorial is about. Still here? Grab a drink and a snack– it’s going to be a long one.
Well, I’m going to answer the following question:
Is “black” beautiful in Korea?
Riding on the plane to Korea, I– a size two, felt like a giant as I sat next to the very tiny Korean girl who had been lucky enough to get the window seat. Her legs were the size of my arms, and when I finally landed in Korea, I– at 5 feet 5 inches, was taller and bigger than almost everyone else.
At that time, I had long, black hair and dark(er) skin. I speak Korean, so I knew when people were staring at me AND talking about me, which was ALL THE TIME.
What did I do?
I stared right back, and sometimes, I smiled and struck up a conversation. Once, I was even in a staring match with an ahjusshi for at least two minutes as he walked past me, turned around, and then stopped to stare at me. Neither of us cracked a smile, but was I bothered?
I am confident and comfortable in my skin, but more than that, I know that I might be the FIRST black girl that many people in Korea had ever seen– at least in person. Furthermore, staring and even talking about someone right in front of them is something that is not considered rude in Korea. Korean people are very close to one another while also being distant with one another, so they are also very straightforward, like family. They will tell strangers, including you, what’s on their mind be it with a look, a gesture, or a word.
So, how did I feel in Korea with the hard, long stares, the loud “whispers,” and the noticeable differences between me and everyone else?
I felt beautiful, because I was accepted.
People were kind, helpful, and genuinely interested in me– they wanted to know why I was in Korea, what I liked about Korea, whether or not I would ever marry a Korean man. Because, what began with a stare would often turn into a smile and a conversation once I realized that people were staring at me because they were curious, interested. While in Korea, I had so many conversations with Koreans that broke down the barriers between us and made me open up to the people that I met on streets, in stores, in taxis, at clubs, and at school.
Life Lesson 1: When we are confident and comfortable in our own skin that is when people truly see us as beautiful– not a shallow, superficial beauty, but one that radiates from the inside and makes someone’s day brighter and better with eye-contact and a genuine smile.
Life Lesson 2: As women, we should focus more on our inner beauty– our passions, our dreams, our sisterhood and motherhood, being at the same time more supportive of one another and less judgmental of our own “flaws,” flaws that oftentimes, only we are aware of.
However, outer beauty matters, and it matters a lot more than any of us want it to, both to ourselves and to others. I have spent as much time as anyone else struggling to feel beautiful, and it took a lot of time and a little change before I could look in the mirror and be happy with what I saw– because, I wanted people to see me, not my flaws.
Give yourself the time and the change you need, too, but be honest with yourself.
Who is the time and change for?
It better be for yourself, not someone else.
In Korea, less is more: Less make-up, less skin, but more style, more superficiality.
Image is everything, so make your image more glamorous, more stylish.
Wear your natural hair, keep your curves, and cherish your own, individual beauty– which I know can be hard to do when you are surrounded by people who, for the most part, look and dress the same and a media that definitely idealizes pale, white skin and S-lines.
But, just be fashionable.
Asians, especially Koreans, are obsessed with fashion and style. If you are dressed to perfection– no matter what size, then the way people respond to you will change. I know, because I experienced it. So, leave the low cut shirts and sweats at home– don’t even think about bringing them to Korea.
And, if it’s boys over flowers, then it’s also heels over flip-flops.
So, style, fashion, clothes, and of course…
size, Size, and SIZE.
In Korea, the average size that women wear is a two, which is the size that the “one size fits all” clothing comes in. I saw the occasional Korean who was probably a six or eight, but that was rare.
What does this mean for you?
Not much, except that if you are an L or XL you might have a hard time finding clothing in your size. Just go to Dongdaemun, Myungdong, or Itaewon in Korea, OR shop at ASOS online. They have the BEST clothes that flatter every body type from petite to average to plus.
However, if you do want to lose weight, then here’s how you can lose weight while still having a balanced, healthy diet: Special K and milk for breakfast and dinner and bananas, hard boiled eggs, and V8 fruit and veggie drinks in between as snacks throughout the day. Nevertheless, I don’t suggest making any drastic changes to your body before going to Korea, but if you just want to reach your own ideal– not Korea’s, then give it a try!
More than being an outward manifestation, beauty is a mentality; and, if you are tall, dark, and curvy, then you will need to have a strong mind and a strong sense of true beauty and your own in order to survive and thrive in Korea.
(After all, I don’t want anyone to have the experiences THIS girl had; and, if you haven’t yet, read the comments. They are AMAZING.)
Beauty: The Tips and The Tricks
Along with being confident and comfortable in your skin, here’s how you should take care of it and everything else while in Korea to look and feel your best.
First, I strongly suggest buying your beauty products in America and bringing enough of them with you. I can’t tell you where to go to find our beauty products in Korea, but if you are close to it, then Itaewon is a good start.
I LOVE circle lenses, and I suggest you try them, too! Check out GEO circle lenses, and get them in your prescription if needed.
I swear by these nails and couldn’t live without them, because I am too OCD for chips and too low maintenance for nail salons.
(But, my sister just curses them, because they always fall off. She’s doing something wrong.)
These are stick-on nails, and they are amazing. Place them close to the cuticle for a natural look. It’s not about pressing down hard, but about having a clean nail, so wipe your nails with alcohol or nail polish remover before starting to stick ‘em on.
If you’re not already using BB Cream because you either don’t know about it or can’t find it in your skin color, then try Kiss New York Aqua BB Cream. It was made for our skin.
It’s a rich cream with lots of color and coverage, but none of that oily residue that most make-ups leave behind. It’s also made in Korea, which matters, and it’s inexpensive. You also get a lot, so try it out along with a cream to powder from the same brand for a flawless finish.
(I have terrible skin with lots of blemishes, and these two together cover everything up!)
I prefer to wear lace front wigs, but feel free to do your hair however you like. Koreans actually expect you to have your natural hair, and they were always surprised and curious about my “straight and silky” hair. I think they would love the long, rope braids that a lot of black girls wear now, too.
As for me, I wear a 22″ “yaki straight” lace front wig with a silk top in color #4. I love the texture, it looks much more natural. I wear wigs because I like to be as low maintenance as possible. I also like having long hair, which I could never really have in this lifetime. It suits my face more than short hair.
So, if you are interested in lace front wigs and other hair tricks, then check out the hair stuff here.
We talked about diets, but there is also shape-wear if you just want to have a smoother line underneath the tight clothing that we all love to wear.
But, my favorite body trick is this one: Going two cups up– without surgery.
Girls always hesitate to try this, because, well, what will a guy think when he finds out?
Who cares. He shouldn’t be with you for your boob size, anyway. I know I’ve always wanted bigger boobs to get the S-line that I want.
So, check out these ultra cheap, durable, comfortable, and natural looking bras that do more than “push-up.” I found them at Target years ago for $16.00, so be sure to check out your local Target before you buy them online. Trying them on in the store first is also a good idea, because they WILL make your boobs BIGGER.
Putting Your Beauty to Good Use
Well, what’s all the fuss about beauty for?
No, not really: Boys– or men, if you believe that men aren’t just bigger, older boys with better, more expensive toys.
I think if you want to go on dates in Korea, then you don’t have to do anything except dress up, look good, and notice when men are looking at you in a good way. I think most girls are terrible at doing this: Its about your walk and posture, his prolonged glance, then you smile, and he smiles back. Conversation (hopefully in English) ensues.
So, look around and pay attention to people. Don’t just speed walk through streets or stand on the subway feeling different and awkward. Go out by yourself. Slow down, look around, and remember to smile at strangers– even if they’re giving you that hard, long stare.
(For more on beauty in Korea, be sure to check out Shocking Life – Beauty, a gritty, stunning, and shocking documentary series on DramaFever.)
If you really want to feel beautiful in Korea, don’t pay attention to what Koreans think. You are not Korean. Don’t hold yourself to their standards. Stick to your own, and stay true to who you are.
Because, beauty is relative, beauty is subjective, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, which means someone, somewhere– even in Korea, thinks you’re beautiful just the way you are.