How do we define beauty in Asia? Many may sadly find it easier to define what is not beautiful, drawn from years of societal expectations, criticism on social media, off-handed remarks from those around us and the unrealistic standards of beauty and body image in media.
Yet amidst this barrage of unwelcome opinions and ideals come the voices of women who are brave enough not only to challenge the pressures that confront them but to pave the way for meaningful, lasting change. Be it through grassroot body positivity movements or normalising diversity in the media, these are the women who have taken ownership of their long, and sometimes painful, journey to self-acceptance.
From a Filipino former beauty queen to a PhD student with her own non-profit organisation in Hong Kong, read on for their stories of struggle, strength and triumph.
Rozella Mahjhrin, founder of True Complexion, Malaysia
"When I was younger, I was constantly bullied and teased because of my birthmark, and not just by other kids at school. Strangers also stared at me, sometimes even asking questions like, 'What's wrong with your face?' or 'Are you contagious?'. People have told me that I shouldn’t be on stage or in front of the camera because no one wants to see someone with a birthmark on their face.
This took a toll on my body image, self-esteem and mental health. Since I was 11 years old, I struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts. When I was a teenager, I developed anxiety and an eating disorder. I also had a drinking problem in my early 20s. I was lost and broken for so long. I didn’t know who I was anymore, and I had to hit rock bottom before I finally got the help I needed to get better and heal my relationship with my skin and body.