Elle Spotlights Challenges Faced By AAPI Beauty Leaders—And How The Industry Can Move Forward

by Aaron Royce

As anti-Asian hate crimes have spread across the country, the beauty industry has been notably silent, according to a new Elle article penned by social media and beauty editor Ariana Yaptangco. Yaptangco writes that beauty industry products like sheet masks and jade rollers have capitalized on Asian beauty practices without properly crediting them. She also states how many women in spas and salons—most of Vietnamese descent—are “fearing for their lives” in the wake of this week’s shootings in Atlanta. This appears to be the tip of the iceberg, as Asian Americans make up 41% of the global cosmetics market, according to consumer database company Statista. Given these developments, Yaptangco spoke with 24 influential makeup artists, brand founders, and beauty insiders on how the beauty industry can support the AAPI community right now.

Makeup artists and hair stylists are one of the most-interviewed professionals in the article. Many speak out about how Asians are stereotyped because of their names or accents, like Nick Barose or Tatcha’s global director of artistry Daniel Martin. Others recall how Asian people would be mocked for job-related cultural stereotypes. “I see people making fun of the manicurists on set, saying ‘Oh, Asian people are great at these things. That’s what they do well,'” says celebrity makeup artist Hung Vanngo, “Which is a really bad thing to say. That to me is discrimination. That’s what Asian girls are great at? The manicure pedicure?”


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A post shared by Ariana Yaptangco (@arianayap)

Beauty brand founders also share their experiences with anti-Asian rhetoric and stereotypes, like Utiles Beauty’s Josh Liu, Good Light’s David Yi, and U Beauty’s Tina Craig. “There was one time where I walked in a meeting, and a white male looks around and says, ‘I had a meeting with someone who was going to buy my license to my company.’ I’m like, ‘That would be me,'” says Craig. “He was like, ‘Oh, you look like the secretary.’ And I looked at him, and said, ‘I’m actually the one who is going to write the check.'”

This racism also extends to the medical field as well. Within the beauty industry, there are surgeons and dermatologists like Dr. Joyce Park, Dr. Jenny Liu, and Dr. Gabriel Chiu who have faced hurtful comments and microaggressions while on the job. Chiu recalls an instance where he faced verbal harassment as a resident in general surgery. “The problem with my experience is that this is the fear that our Asian elders have. That when they are put in that same situation, the same thing will happen. So why fight it? What’s the sense in doing this?,” Chiu says in the article. “And I have to admit, it took me a while. I had been mentally and emotionally beat down.”


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A post shared by 😷Dr. Gabriel Chiu (@drchiubhps)

Influencers—one of the most recent additions to the beauty market—additionally share their stories in the piece. Social media stars like Bretman Rock, Sasha Cruz, Michelle Phan, and Chriselle Lim speak up about how influential Asians in the beauty industry aren’t given more credit, and moments where they were treated differently because of their race. “When we go to fashion shows, they seat you by region. But more often than not, what the Asians have experienced going to these shows is that they would actually seat all of us—like myself, Bryanboy, Tina, Vanessa Hong—into one row. Not with a certain region, but it’s just the Asians,” says Lim. “And of course, we’re all friends, so we’re happy to be next to each other, but if you really think about it, you’re like, ‘Wait, why am I not with the US group? I am an American. How come Bryan is not with the European group? Why is he here?’ So then it begs the question, ‘Oh, are we all just the same? Do they just view us all the same?'”

These instances of racial cruelty towards AAPI communities have made the beauty industry less inclusive than one might think. However, the article proposes multiple steps that can be taken to show alliance: giving proper credit for trends and products, celebrating Asian American accomplishments, and showing support through awareness and AAPI charity donations are all ways to “help create a more inclusive, equitable, and safe environment for our community.” Hopefully, these will be utilized by the beauty community at-large for a more equal and fair future.

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