One day, I was I Sephora with my friend buying make up. I wanted to try out this new Smashbox CC cream that claims it color corrects acne scars. Upon arrival, there are only 5 colors: fair, light, light medium, medium, and dark. As I stood there with my friend, who I should mention is extremely dark skin, she knew right off the bat, she was a dark color. If you looked at us, there’s a huge difference in our color tone. But the color cream that matched me was the darkest foundation—the same as hers!
At first, I was offended that Smashbox geared its tone for people with fair skin, quantities were plentiful while the dark ones were flying off the shelves. After I was offended, I was angry, feeling like i was being ignored as a customer. And then I thought, do I even really care?
Growing up in a community of Asians was very hard for me. I was always told I looked different from other Khmer people, from my facial features, my eyes, my nose, and especially my skin. My mother is very light skin, my siblings fair or light brown toned. I was the dark one. Relatives used to call me “blackie”, “you were found in a garbage and that’s why you’re not like your family”, “why aren’t you as pretty as your mother?”, “Your hair is so curly. Not like the rest of us.” When I was learning traditional Khmer dance, the instructor said, “she’s not pretty enough. Put her in the back of the line.” They were so hurtful that I could never erase them.
But what was more hurtful was when I used to ask my mom if I were really her daughter and she would hurtfully exclaimed, “I carried you for 9 months and went through so much pain to deliver you!”
I knew it pained my mother to think I wasn’t a part of her but I couldn’t help asking when everyone made me feel left out. I was so different. Khmer people never thought I was one of them, gossiping in front of me thinking I didn’t speak the language. I always felt that I was befriended because I did well in school, helping others to study and cheat on tests. All the guys wanted light skin girlfriends, pretty and outgoing whereas I was awkward and shy and too smart, too much of a geek. High school was a torture for me. I hated it. The only reprieve I had was going to dance class, painting and drawing. I was alone or surrounded by people who were open minded, they saw beyond my skin to the person I was, nurturing and challenging me.
Ultimately, it was my dance teacher who convinced me to move out of state. Se told me, you’ll only have one chance to live away from home before life begins, the experience of living in a dorm, the chance to let your wings spread, and most importantly, you’ll make friends for a lifetime.
It was in college, I was immersed into a group of different types of races and ethnicity. I still was very scared to make friends, scared they would only make fun of me, use me, tease me. It took awhile before I let go of those old fears, those high school thoughts.
All the make up and designer clothes didn’t make me any different from that awkward, shy teenager. It was a gradual change, with mistakes and life lessons, I grew to accept my skin, my face, my hair, my body type, and who I am as a person. The hardest thing about growing up was getting used to the fact that you have only one body in this lifetime. But once you accept it, you learn to live with it, praise it. I am fortunate to have all my body parts, I can walk, talk, hear, taste, and touch. I am not perfect and no one is. Anyone trying to tell me I’m less of who I am because I don’t do what they do, I have no reason to care because they didn’t experience the life I did.
In the end, though I bought the CC Cream, I ended up giving the cream away as it made me break out. I rarely ever wear make up these days and my boyfriend says I don’t need it anyways. It’s nice to have someone who loves you with all your flaws and can see pass the exterior.
What is even more important is that I love my skin. The only thing I need is to keep it clean. Make up is just another way to hide my true self. And no one can make me feel less bad about my skin ever again.