More often than not, I lie awake in bed at 3 in the morning wondering how easier life would be if only I were just conventionally beautiful. As much as I try loving myself, the opportunities with looking average are basically not as much as when you are by society’s standard – beautiful.
Attractive people though they share the burden of many misconceptions are undoubtedly given more gracious opportunities for growth. And some are just given the unblinking bias in any social setup. I have experienced once getting inside a bus in a full capacity that I had to stand the whole 4-hour long trip because someone had gotten the seat because beauty standards were at play. You can imagine the picture.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate these people. I hate the society that perpetuates this kind of thinking.
Because of these toxic beauty standards deeply-rooted in society, I find myself struggling to outgrow my insecurities even when the world’s idea of beauty is shifting and getting more inclusive. I hate my teeth, I hate my smile. I am embarrassed at my not-so-flat tummy even when that’s just biology and my fat sticking out to protect my organs.
It’s so hard to get out of that bubble of misery not unless you hear someone with the same struggles defeat their monster. That, for me, was Hwasa of MAMAMOO.
MAMAMOO is a South Korean girl group that debuted in 2014 under RBW Entertainment. They are a four-member group led by Solar with rapper Moonbyul, and vocalists Wheein and Hwasa. Their undeniable vocal talent, humor, and fearlessness to try new things are only a few of a long list of things that propelled them into the league of top groups despite debuting under a small entertainment agency.
Though all of them have their quirks, Hwasa generally appealed to me as the strong, independent woman who would give no f*cks and I’ve liked her ever since their debut. One story that particularly impacted my life is the one story she told during one of their concerts and became a viral story on Twitter.
It was a heart-wrenching story on how she was rejected once on an audition even though she completely wow-ed her audience with her vocal talent and performance. In a cold comment of rejection, they told her, “You’re fat and not pretty.”
South Korea has evidently “high standards on beauty” and most idols fit that image like Red Velvet’s Irene and Twice’s Nayeon – the epitome of the perfect Korean beauty. Hwasa, on the other hand, with her dark skin and thick physique had been the object of rejection and ridicule. It did not matter how talented she was because, at the end of the day, she was going to be judged by her appearance.
That day, she ran home in tears but it also became a major turning point for her. She knew her dream was to sing and she promised one thing to herself: “If I don’t fit into this generation’s standard of beauty, then I will have to become a different standard.”
Hearing those words, it was not just an acceptance of herself beyond the beauty standards but a celebration of who she is and knowing that she is beautiful and she is going to be the unapologetically beautiful woman that she is! To hell with the standards!
She repeated this time after time and encouraged everyone to not to try to fit in the existing beauty standards because being yourself is way more impressive. On another note, she said, “It’s cooler if you decide those standards on your own. Something that’s really like you. I believe that’s what true beauty is.”
We hear these words a lot but somehow it takes knowing that it came from someone who shared that same struggle and not just popping words off of loving yourself and being confident with yourself for it to actually speak volumes.
She really stood firm with her words. Before debut, their CEO had explicitly expressed that they don’t cut their hair. Just like many entertainment agencies, idols are restricted to the rules and even hair length and hair color should be approved, weight is managed because you can’t look too fat on screen. They have to fit the image of their concept and how the company is marketing them. There was no room for a personal opinion because what is beautiful is dictated by others. But Hwasa being Hwasa, she cut her hair without permission and boldly revealed it to their CEO the next day. And she even asked him if he liked it!
And one of her many controversial issues that I found most empowering as a female was when she wore THE revealing red bodysuit during her performance in the 2018 Mnet Asian Music Awards (2018 MAMA) which apparently like her hair was not consulted and given a nod of approval by their CEO.