Finally, a foundation to perfectly match my skin tone. And no more searching: the key to my ideal eye shadow shades are only a page-turn away. I have spent hundreds of dollars hoping these empty claims would fulfill the gap in my aesthetic personality. But little did I know that this gap went further than a hole in my wallet.
A child’s innocence saved me from early years of disaffection. Back then, familial differences were not recognized as such, and home life was simply familiar. But the elementary and middle school years broke this reverie and, against my sturdiest opposition, these differences became emphasized. The fact that I ate snails, that my parents spoke another language and had accents and that our dishwasher was used to store dishes and not clean them became points of embarrassment and no longer normal; I was lucky that every meal included a healthy helping of rice, or else having friends over for an evening meal would have been an exceedingly embarrassing event.
Then high school came along, and subscriptions to Seventeen, Sassy and YM did nothing to prevent my feelings of isolation from growing – I was a social novelty with eyes neither blue nor wide, dark hair and skin lacking freckles and a fair glow. Teen media’s ideas of diversity only stretched so far as to include a beautifully sculpted black model or one with red hair, and the profile of high school popularity followed suit. If these girls pushed the limits of convention, my black hair and medium skin exiled me from any semblance to the status quo, a group I so desperately wanted to be lost in. The Prom Queen, the Homecoming Queen, the Winterfest queen – all of these girls were pale beauties who lived carelessly and without the burden of carrying on certain ethnic traditions or feeling as if they were secondary representatives of a distant nation that could not come forward on its own behalf. In those years of trying to discover myself, the only place I could be found was trying to curl my hair, paint my nails, and lengthen my legs to fit into the aesthetic shoes everyone else seemed to slip into so well.
College was an improvement on these times of development, lending me fodder to advance my mind over my image. I did things to feel better about myself internally and paid just enough attention to makeup to amass a box full of blushes, shadows, and powders with a swipe of color taken out of each one before they were exiled into the junk drawer. Foods like Adobo and Pancit were lusted after homemade luxuries, and I found myself aching for a large wooden spoon and fork to hang in my apartment. But while certain aspects of my heritage slowly made their way back into favor, there was always a discontinuity with my aesthetic desires. They may say that when you are truly happy on the inside, this glow is reflected on the outside. However, thick layers of skin can do their part to diffuse this show of lights.
My early twenties found me still prey to the desires of popular culture for a uniform standard of beauty in shape and color. So I went for the internal makeover above the superficial one; I started running, going to events I never thought myself cool enough to attend and I moved geographically out of my comfort zone to the isolation of the mountains. In this new environment I started embracing my position as one of the five individuals adding a dash of color to a small mountain community. My ethnicity made me recognizable and unique, and I found myself happily filling those adjectives through my personality as much as through my looks.
Now I’m in my mid-twenties and though age has brought me enough wisdom to feel confident in my heritage and nationality, I still occasionally fall for magazine claims of the best makeup buys for any type of beauty. I still spring for hot eye shadow colors, though I now make sure I buy them from places where I can return them once I’ve opened them. Experimentation has become the name of the game, and though I may sound like the same lost girl searching the pages of magazines for validation of my skin color, the roles have switched. My eye is now the critical one, waiting for the day that I can peruse the magazine rack at the grocery store or flip through the pages of Allure and see a pair of dark eyes, framed by dark hair and equally hued skin looking back at me, proclaiming that Filipina beauty hasn’t been newly discovered or declared the hot look of the season, but finally recognized.