‘A boy tapped me. ‘Why do you have a mustache? What’s that mark between your eyebrows?’ I was shocked. My face flushed with embarrassment.’

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“My name is Bella and I am 15 years old. I am a proud Asian American who grew up in a predominantly white society, both in real life and the media. I was always surrounded by white role models on television and in magazines. From an early age, I was fascinated with all things beauty and fashion, my inspirations being Cinderella and Hannah Montana.

I began wearing dress-up clothes to sleep, and I always had a flavored lip gloss in my purse. I had this unbreakable confidence and nobody questioned me when I wore a tutu or stacks and stacks of bracelets. When I was nine, however, something changed.

I was standing outside of my third-grade classroom with my girlfriends when a group of boys from our class approached me. One of them tapped me on my shoulder, looked me in the eyes, and said, ‘Why do you have a mustache? And what’s that mark in between your eyebrows?’

I was shocked, and my face flushed with embarrassment. I started to cry, which only made me feel worse.

Little girl smiles in store as she wears glasses for sale and rests chin on hand
Courtesy of Bella Eng

When I went home, I told my mom what happened. She assured me that I did not have a mustache, and that the birthmark in between my eyebrows made me special. Still, I was determined to change my appearance.

I convinced my mom to schedule my first wax appointment for my brows and mustache. It hurt a lot, especially for a nine-year-old. I cried the whole first year of doing it. At that time, my mom started letting me wear concealer. It became an everyday ritual to layer it on between my brows. I continued to do this for five or so years.

Young girl who was bullied in school smiles in home
Courtesy of Bella Eng

As a woman, I felt pressure to look a certain way at all times. I wanted to look beautiful, but naturally so. Skinny, but healthy and strong. Perfect, but attainable.

It wasn’t until years later when I realized that media celebrities and my so-called ‘role models’ were not perfect. That those societal standards were ridiculous standards. I think the world’s idea of a ‘perfect body’ was something that influenced me the most, especially during middle school when my body was going through a lot of changes. I was a chubby kid growing up and experienced a huge growth spurt around this time. This led me down a dark road of food fears and insecurity that lasted for years. I had to maintain the idea of being skinny.

When I entered the seventh grade, I was finally allowed to wear more than just concealer. I loved all things beauty and I was insecure about my skin. While makeup felt fun, it also felt necessary. I was forever attempting to achieve a flawless complexion.

Young asian girl who struggled growing up with predominately white people stands outside smiling
Courtesy of Bella Eng
Teen who struggled growing up in a predominately white community sits on floor resting head on her hand
Courtesy of Bella Eng

Last year, at the age of 14, I developed really bad eczema on my face. I had experienced small pimples on my chin and forehead, but now I had dry patches. I tried all sorts of creams and ointments in an attempt to calm it, but it never crossed my mind to give up wearing my makeup.

Everyday, I wore multiple products on my face. I wouldn’t allow myself to go out in public without my ‘mask’ on, even when it made my eczema feel and look much worse. I was terrified of what people would think if they saw me in my raw state.

In early 2018, I complained to my best friend about how bad my skin felt. When I asked her what I should do she replied, ‘What if you stop wearing so much makeup for a while?’ I was shocked. How could I do such a thing?

But in my battle against eczema, it was the only solution I hadn’t yet tried. I gathered up my confidence and braved my blank face at school the next day. I was so nervous that my friends would gossip about how I had a birthmark in between my eyebrows, or that I looked tired without mascara. Yet, to my complete surprise, no one said anything to me.

My best friend who had given me the advice told me that I looked practically the same. I couldn’t believe it. From that day on, I committed to wearing less or no makeup at all. A year later, I can proudly say that I love how I look with and without makeup on.

Teen who struggled growing up in predominately white community smiles in selfie
Courtesy of Bella Eng
Teen who grew up in predominately white community stands smiling outside wearing winter coat with hood up
Courtesy of Bella Eng
Teen who struggled growing up in predominately white community stands in front of garage door in Hawaiian shirt
Courtesy of Bella Eng

Nowadays, I only wear mascara and blush, and maybe a little concealer under my eyes if I’m feeling fancy. I don’t think about the birthmark in between my eyebrows anymore and I honestly don’t care if anyone else sees it either.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to recognize that makeup does not define me. Makeup is just another fun hobby that I enjoy. When I do wear it, I do it to express myself. It no longer feels necessary.

In May of 2018, I was signed to an amazing modeling agency called O Models in Los Angeles. With my modeling career, I hope that I can be a role model for other young girls of color and inspire them to pursue their dreams. I want to show them that false beauty isn’t everything. It is the unique light they shine that makes them truly beautiful.”

Teen who struggled growing up in predominately white community stands outside holding peace sings in the air
Courtesy of Bella Eng

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Bella Eng of Los Angeles, California. You can follow her journey on Instagram here and YouTube here. Do you have a similar experience? Submit your own story here and subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more about overcoming beauty standards:

‘I was the ‘fat kid’ and my father was disgusted with me. Fat people were never the heroes or love interests. My mind became a very dark place.’

‘We need to talk about her weight.’ The doctor then looks at her and says, ‘I think you are old enough to start using exercise equipment too.’ ARE YOU KIDDING ME?’

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