Being a woman today has never been more empowering. Thanks to different social media platforms, more and more women are becoming vocal about celebrating their uniqueness and embracing what they were born with – despite traditional media often portraying that these are the opposite of what is considered “pretty.” It’s incredibly refreshing to see this shift – and to further emphasize it, we interviewed several women who wish to redefine society’s beauty standards by sharing certain features about themselves that they eventually learned to show off.

Sandra on Her Monolids

“I’ve always struggled with my monolids,” shares Sandra, a mother to a two-year-old daughter and a lady boss who heads an entire marketing division for a well-known corporation. “I used to dance ballet and during my recitals, my makeup was never seen so I grew up thinking there was something wrong with my eyes.”

Having monolids is common especially among Filipino-Chinese. It’s often characterized by the lack of a prominent crease that separates eyelids into two parts. "I also have oily lids, so even the most long-wearing product doesn’t work on me. Back when I entered the beauty industry, I used to be volunteered to the regional makeup artist of the product development team because it was challenging to work with my eyelids.”

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“During my first trip to Korea, I wanted to buy those stickers that give you double eyelids,” Sandra continues. “But it looked uncomfortable, so I didn’t bother. I guess when you reach a certain age – my guess was I was 25 – you just naturally become more comfortable with yourself. I also realized that there were a lot of ‘right’ things about myself.”

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Ming on Her Broad Shoulders

Broad shoulders are often deemed as masculine, and Ming admits that it still bothers her to this day. “I have unnaturally massive traps. I don’t even work out! It’s why I don’t wear off-shoulder tops. [My shoulders] are a result of my allergic medication, which has steroids. That’s why they became bigger,” she tells us over a phone interview. Like Sandra, Ming is a career woman working for one of the biggest telco networks in the country as an Art Director, which explains her love for certain fashion trends and aesthetics.

“It [still] super bothers me [at times] because as much as I want to wear more tops that expose my shoulders, I get conscious. But I just learned to work with it! I accentuate different body parts that I like to flaunt!”

And flaunt, she does, as Ming recently had fun with her friend by conducting a mini photoshoot while wearing a top that shows off her skin. Makeup artists share that if you plan on wearing tops that expose your clavicle and shoulders, define them further by !

Nikki on the Birthmark on Her Leg

Dermatologists share that birthmarks are congenital and present at birth, or appear shortly after birth. They can occur anywhere on the skin, and are caused by an overgrowth of blood vessels, smooth muscle, or fat. Nikki, owner of a small plant business, used to be very insecure about the birthmark on her leg. “People mistake it as dirt,” she says. “Usually when I go to the beach, some people would point to my leg and tell me that there’s dirt or something, and I get conscious about it.”

“I’ve always looked up to models who have flawless, skinny legs. Because of this, I sometimes get conscious whenever I hang out with new people. I would wear pants every time I go out and don’t feel confident. I would even put a skin tone band-aid just to hide it."

"But what helped me overcome my insecurity was when my mom told me that my grandfather (who I never met because he passed away before I was born) had the same birthmark. And I’m the only one who got it out of all his grandchildren! It serves as a reminder that he’s with me.”

Arian on Her Weight

Former editor and now beauty blogger, Arian, opens up about her struggles with her weight growing up. “In grade school, I would be bullied for being chubby and was constantly compared to my thin classmates. Of course, this damaged my self-esteem a lot growing up. Even in high school, I'd try to 'fit in' and be like my slender friends which led to crash diets and unhealthy eating. And by that, I mean, forcing myself to skip meals. I was constantly plagued with the thought that if I wasn't thin, I would never be considered "attractive" or "beautiful."

In a study conducted by a local medical journal for the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, 6 out of 10 Filipino women are not satisfied with their body image. This is a concern because having a negative body image may be a contributing factor to poor self-esteem and unhealthy eating habits – both of which have been identified by the study as predisposing factors to eating disorders. It helps to have a solid support group or person to help remind you that you’re beautiful no matter what your shape or size is.

For Arian, maturing and graduating from high school signaled her growth and an end to endless pressures to lose weight just to fit in or impress others. “I shifted my focus to losing weight for my personal health and well-being. I wanted to lose weight for me, and no one else. With this new mindset, I learned to accept myself as I was and realized that my weight didn't define me as a person. Weight was just a number on the scale and nothing more.”

“Of course, a major factor was also my boyfriend who I got together with when I was in college. He always made me feel beautiful and attractive, no matter what weight I was, and constantly proved that he loved me for me. Not what I looked like. That's why 9 years later, we're still going strong.”

Belle on Her Brown Skin

Belle is a former beauty editor of a fashion magazine and currently a beauty writer and producer. She specializes in styling still-life cosmetics for photos and videos—something she genuinely enjoys. When asked on her thoughts on beauty standards, especially after being in the beauty industry for years, she feels that what is seen as “conventionally beautiful” should be expanded. “In fact, I think having an actual convention should be thrown out of the window completely.”

“For a long time, we've been (and to be honest, we still are) brainwashed to think this means: smooth and fair skin, a tiny nose, white knees, perfect armpits, and long straight hair. But we all know by now that only like--3% of actual people look like this (a lot of them, paid to look good, too). While this standard IS beautiful, so are hundreds of other looks. It would be amazing to see "Filipina Beauty" be represented more accurately and inclusively.”

As a morena, Belle admits to growing up thinking there was something “not pretty” about herself. "Brown skin was always portrayed as ugly, funny, undesirable, and always the ‘Before’ shot in a before-and-after ad. The experience was very confusing and annoying – especially because as Filipino women, we've internalized it so much, too. And you get teased by your peers for something that you love about yourself! It was so grating, and to this day, brown skin jokes are a micro-aggression for me. It's really got to go. Ang corny na!”

When asked how she overcame the insecurity, Belle shares, “Luckily, I was not raised to think badly about my skin color or Filipino looks. My mom, also a morena, would always tell me to take care of my skin and my wellness – but she never told me to use whitening products ever, or told me "Ang itim mo," in an insulting or scolding manner. I really thank her for raising me that way.”

“I’ve definitely have overcome it. In fact, when I began working as a beauty editor, I made it a point to be inclusive in my stories with the models I shot and the products I wrote about. I definitely removed focus on talking about whitening as a ‘solution’ to darker skin and directed it to a conversation about personal choice in however an individual prefers their beauty regimen. I also was mindful of crafting beauty stories so that it really takes consideration of the audience – Filipinos who love beauty.”

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Dame on Her Pango or Flat Nose

Dame, a fresh graduate who majored in Mining Engineering, is very vocal about society’s perception that having a flat or pango nose is not cute. “When I was younger, my uncles and cousins would tease me that my nose looks like a ribbon, and I was confused. Why would they tease me about having a nose that looks like a ribbon? Don't you put ribbons on nice things like presents?

“At that time, I just thought, ‘I must be a gift, because I have a ribbon on my face!’ Growing up and to this day, I never really had insecurities about my cute nose. And I hope more people would appreciate their noses as much as I do with mine!”

In a column by medical anthropologist and writer, Gideon Lasco, he mentioned that colonialism changed the way Filipinos looked at their faces – especially their noses. The desire for a mestizo appearance was already there during the Spanish period. It was during the American period when the preference for a “foreign” appearance reached its peak – including a matangos nose. It’s this preference that gave birth to certain practices such as pulling one’s nose during Easter Sunday or regularly pinching a baby’s nose to help give it a more lifted look.

But for Dame, she is proud of her flat nose! “To be honest, working on my confidence is a work in progress. But I realize that beauty standards are pretty much like fashion trends that come and go. And it made me appreciate myself more. I learned to value my uniqueness, my strengths, and my essence as a person. Some days, I give myself a pat on the back for doing a good job in making myself feel healthy and happy. For me, I feel best when I appreciate myself!”

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