Beauté du Diable

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The “evil” nature of beauty to cunningly charm people has transcended many centuries. The French phrase “beauté du diable” originated in the early 19th century and was often used to describe the beauty of youth, specifically its superficial charm and mischief in such attraction. Even the direct English translation of the phrase means “devil’s beauty.” Since I was a little girl, my mother would point out to me which middle school girls she saw as “good” or “bad” based off of their appearance. What struck me the most was her disapproval towards the girls that wore makeup and dressed up. She would tell me that any adult would frown upon someone trying “so hard” and attracting unnecessary attention. My dad, being protective of his only daughter, would nod in agreement. Did I think some of the girls who she pointed out that were “bad” were pretty? To be candid, yes, I truly did. However, the idea of makeup slipped into a part of my brain that also associated it with something ugly: an inferior moral character. Thus, began the internal struggle of me wanting to express beauty, but not knowing how to go about it the “right” way. 

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I was 5 years old when I had my first “wardrobe malfunction.” My mother had gotten me a cute halter top, but she wouldn’t let me wear it without a t-shirt on the inside. I remember it being a sweltering summer day and explaining to her that I wouldn’t be able to stand two layers of clothing in the heat – not to mention that it was not a cute outfit at all. She kept telling me that she didn’t want so much of my back exposed and that it wasn’t appropriate. After changing in and out of that outfit about three times, I eventually gave up and chose another shirt to wear. Then, once I left the house, I felt unhappy about the outfit I ended up choosing. I immediately regretted it and tears started streaming down my face as I told my mom I wanted to change back into that top even if I had to wear a t-shirt with. Of course, she got mad with me and my indecisiveness with my clothes. 

This similar interaction extended into middle school, but now with makeup in the mix. Both of my parents did not want me to wear makeup and while I thought differently, I did understand why they had that attitude: I witnessed for myself the changes in personality that teachers would have towards certain students that dolled up. Some of the teachers seemed to not take those that dolled up as seriously. To others, it didn’t seem to matter.  Similarly, some of the students cared about their impression before adults and others could care less. I, for one, did not want adults to think poorly of me. But I also wanted to try makeup and it seemed like the girls who did wear it looked so pretty. I wanted to be beautiful. Plus, I loved drawing so how could makeup be any different, right ? I developed a recalcitrant attitude and pushed myself into a mindset where even if I didn’t know how to truly enhance my beauty the way I wanted to, I just wanted to do it. 

My impulse led me to the act of sneaking eyeliner and mascara to school and applying it on the bus and then rushing to take it off when I got home before my parents saw. Truthfully, I had no idea how to properly apply makeup or if it looked okay, but I just wanted to do it and feel beautiful. Eventually, I got caught and my parents realized that there wasn’t much they could do to prevent me from wanting to try makeup. They slowly came around and told me I could use a little bit. This new realm of freedom paved the way for me to finally be able to embrace taking the time to learn how to properly apply makeup. I watched tutorials and looked up articles to see how others girls would do their makeup and I would try it on my own face…but it would never turn out the same. I thought wearing makeup would automatically be enough, that it would suddenly make me feel beautiful. It didn’t. What I hadn’t realized at the time was that while I was trying to embrace beauty, it wasn’t my beauty. It was another person’s expression of beauty. I had no clue what I thought would be pretty or what my personal preferences were. I didn’t acknowledge the difference between blindly following others and being inspired by others because of the motivation of self expression. 

Many of the makeup tutorials that I did watch and try were ones that complimented a girl with a different eye shape, eyelashes, face shape. A different face. Of course, I would never look like her because my face had its own features and own points to be accentuated. Once I acknowledged this, I took note of the basics of makeup techniques and adapted them to suit my face based on preferences I discovered. For instance, I knew that the purpose of mascara was to curl your eyelashes. The girls in tutorials would do a few swipes and their lashes would immediately look so full. I would try the same thing and my lashes would be weighed down from the weight of the product. It would look like the mascara wasn’t even on my eyes. This trial and error led me to the epiphany that I also had to take into account racial differences in my traits versus other traits in females. Asian lashes have a stronger tendency to stick straight out, while caucasian lashes have a tendency to have a natural curl to them. In a lot of ways, growing up in western culture taught me how to adapt and develop my own style even more. 

As my ability to express myself through makeup and fashion grew, I became happier and felt more empowered. With so many unpredictable turns in life being able to control what to wear and how to style myself felt comforting. This idea of “dressing up your brain” as a result of dressing up is actually quite common. According to a study Dr. Abraham Rutchick of California State University, Northridge conducted, he exhibited how wearing formal clothing can make people feel more powerful and change the way in which the world is viewed. For me, I value mental comfort over physical comfort and I find dressing “nicer” to be just as comfortable as any other clothing. As a result, many of friends have told me that I’m the person to overdress to any event, no matter how small it may seem. My peace of mind when I am wearing clothes that I love goes above and beyond simply looking good, it’s a form of sanity for me. I recall one instance when I was headed to a final exam and the  outfit I wore was definitely more ornate than the go-to sweatpants and sweatshirt look. One of my friends told me that they found it so crazy I still tried so hard to dress up for the final, because in her eyes she valued comfort so much more in order to excel on the exam. While I knew the comment didn’t come from a place of malicious intent, I thought to myself, I also value comfort and I want to excel…we just have different definitions of comfort. Also, what does “trying too hard” even mean? Simply because my form of comfort contradicts your idea of comfort doesn’t default it into being a negative thing.  Was my response a bit too sensitive? Possibly. But this was probably a result of all the other assumptions about me that my friends have disclosed to me after the fact. All of my friends are supportive of me and how I dress now, but it’s always been intriguing to me when they choose to share their initial, similar impression of me. 

“Honestly, I thought you were going to kind of be a bitch or shallow… but once I talked to you, I realized that you’re actually super chill and super sweet.” 

What a vaguely similar impression to the one that my mother had voiced to me years ago. An impression I had hoped wouldn’t be true. Of course I realize that no matter how you choose to express yourself, there will always be some form of judgement directed your way. That is just how humans function. However, one form of expression is never any more valid than another form of expression. I’ve learned to embrace my “extraness” and be proud of a style I have created for myself. Plus, it’s another connection I choose to share with the world! 

I’ve learned that it is more than okay for not everyone to agree with your vision of beauty. If anything, I believe that you don’t want everyone to think you are beautiful or seek out your attention. Think of evolution. If all bees thought only one flower were the most beautiful, the flower would eventually die because all of its nectar and pollen would be depleted (not to mention the world would be extremely boring if only one form of beauty existed). Always stop and smell the flowers, but don’t get so caught up in one flower you miss the whole garden. 

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!

We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

We hope you’ll join us.

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