It is soon to be ten years ago that I embarked on a cultural adventure that would forever re-define and re-ignite my love of beauty. Packing up my comfortable and established London life, my new-born baby daughter and I commenced our travels; which would eventually span Europe, America, Africa and South East Asia. It was this incredible three year adventure, in which I came across the most extraordinary women, beauty trends and fashions that re-inspired my passion for beauty. British beauty brands had always fascinated me, ultimately influencing me to pursue such as a profession. Having worked in beauty PR for 12 years, I was at the height of my career with an impressive and established client list; yet I couldn’t help feel somewhat limited by my very British and seemingly westernised take on the industry.
I was immediately enlightened by local style magazines and advertisements in South East Asia, which emphasised a completely different take on beauty to what is appreciated back here in the UK. I spoke to many Asian women during my visit who quickly shared with me the need to be a size 0 or smaller to be considered beautiful. The women admitted that it was even common place for girls to starve themselves in order to achieve an emaciated and skeletal silhouette. I was further intrigued when I noticed the local women shading themselves on the beach during the day. Where British women continuously strive to find the perfect bronzed glow, Asian women shelter themselves from the sun and often use bleaching products to lighten their skin. I was extremely fascinated and somewhat overwhelmed by the influence of Anime Cartoons on the girls in Asia. So powerful was this cartoon inspired beauty trend, many girls were undergoing serious cosmetic eye surgery to achieve their iconic open round eyes. The underlying western influence on Asian beauty was particularly thought provoking; I was extremely shocked to witness a society more consumed with cosmetic surgery, make-up and changing one’s natural looks than back home in the UK. Visiting South East Asia left me overwhelmed at the role beauty played in society, which re-affirmed to me the industries upmost importance to women.
When I returned to Europe, my time in Paris marked a distinct contrast to the beauty trends I’d experienced in Asia. French women focus less on features they would like to change; instead preferring to enhance their natural assets. They accept and embrace both their bodies and features, appearing highly comfortable with their sexuality. They tend not to over exercise or diet and embrace their femininity into old age. Beauty in Paris was emitted through body confidence, sexuality and a natural face with a luscious red lip. Witnessing the contrast between Parisian beauty and that in South East Asia marked a defining moment in my beauty career, where I began to see it as an important way of life, which defined women across the world.
I became fascinated by the way culture, and the idea of ‘normal’ within this, dictated different trends. In all of the countries I visited, I became further aware that beauty was a universal pursuit, crossing cultural borders; a pursuit to feel confident, a pursuit to find a better product, and a pursuit to arrive at their defined idea of perfection. It softened my westernised views, whilst reinforcing my love of beauty due to the diversity of the very word; it’s very personal meaning to individual women within different cultures, reminded me of why I fell in love with beauty to start with. My time spent travelling around such beautiful and diverse countries was undoubtedly the most inspirational and thought provoking experience of my life. Changing my rather grounded perspective on beauty and the female pursuit for perfection, I returned to London inspired to bring a different and more cultured approach to working with my beauty clients.