Ironically, the two launch SKUs have nothing to do with actual cosmetics, rather, makeup removal. The makeup-removing collection—called Go Off—includes a makeup removing wipe and a dissolving mist. The brand has since launched an eyeshadow palette, two eyeliners (one in liquid and one in gel), as well as a liquid eyeshadow called “Eye Popper.”
For Starrr, launching with makeup removing wipes was true to his own story. Before he became a makeup guru with millions of superfans, Starrr worked at a MAC Cosmetics counter. But being true to himself wasn’t always easy.
“My manager told me to wipe off my makeup,” he remembers, of a specific day when he came in with a full face beat. “It was embarrassing to have someone tell you you can’t look a certain way.”
But the pain didn’t end there. Instead, he channeled it to push through to create an empowering narrative around a beauty brand that directly defeats his past trauma.
Indeed, ONE/SIZEis for all of the boys out there as well – those who felt as if they didn’t belong, an emotional Patrick says on a recent Zoom call. “I know how that is, and want people to know that they all fit – they’re ONE/SIZE.”
We tested both of these makeup removing products and here’s our take!
We’ve heard of makeup wipes, oil cleansers and balms, but this is the first time we’ve tried a dissolving mist. “I have long nails and so using a balm wasn’t working,” Patrick explains. “A mist melts all of your makeup off.”
At first spray, the mist feels like nothing but air on your face. But that’s the pure magic of the product. Seconds later, you realize your makeup is, indeed, streaming down your face. A little goes a long way and the mist feels soothing as it melts all impurities away. The best part is that it’s water-soluble, meaning that it’s also a beautiful oil cleanser on its own. BUY HERE, $24
First off, are the ingredients safe? The Makeup Dissolving Mist includes jojoba oil and rosehip oil for nourishing properties, ethyl trisiloxane, a safe skin conditioner, isododecane, a fragrance, cyclopentasiloxane, an emollient, among others. A closer examination of the others makes us feel good to deem this product as safe to use. It’s also cruelty-free, gluten-free, and paraben-free, as well as vegan.
This is probably the biggest wipe on the market. Patrick certainly didn’t come to play when it came to creating one wipe to remove all makeup products. “I am tired of wasting money on makeup wipes that are too small and dry!” This one is, like its namesake, truly juicy and does remove eyeliner, shadow, foundation, and all impurities with one single wipe. We felt as if the product slides on your skin gently, and the rayon cloth makes it very durable. It works best with the mist, but on its own is pretty effective. You’ll need to be gentle around the eye area, as its main ingredients are oils. While we love the size, we are a little conscious of the fact that rayon isn’t recyclable. Together with oils and makeup, it certainly isn’t the most sustainable way to get rid of your makeup. BUY HERE, $15
Aloe, chamomile, fragrance notes of green tea, cucumber, rose, cyclopentasiloxane, an emollient, glycerin (which provides a smooth gliding experience), coconut liquid, caprylic/capric triglyceride, a skin-conditioning agent, and more. It’s safe, cruelty-free, paraben-free and vegan.
(Photo by David Yi/ Very Good Light)
-Beauty guru Patrick Starrr launched ONE/SIZE with two makeup-removing SKUs -GO OFF Makeup Dissolving Mist, and wipes are $24 and $15, respectively -Both contain clean ingredients for the most part and do an excellent job wiping away makeup -Only downside is that the packaging isn’t recyclable, nor is it sustainable. Rayon wipes aren’t compostable and the plastic wrapping seems wasteful.
BUY or BYE?
For the price and the quality, the products are a good buy. But for the environmentally conscious, there are other choices out there for you. Ultimately, that decision lies in how you approach your own beauty consumption.
It was only a matter of time before Soko Glam launched its own skincare brand.
Following in the well-glistened footsteps of Then I Met You, Charlotte Cho is at it again, this time spearheading another brand for the online K-beauty mecca, Soko Glam. Called Good (Skin) Days, the four SKUs debuted Monday, including a cleanser, moisturizer, toner, and serum.
The site launched almost a decade ago, and has since been renowned for curating the best South Korea has to offer. From Neogen, Klairs, Dr. Oracle, to Hanskin, Soko Glam has been the leader of bringing the best of Korean beauty to an American audience. The brand’s first skincare line is a nod to its slogan, “Only good (skin) days ahead.”
(David Yi/ Very Good Light)
“This launch is important to Soko Glam because it is the culmination of what we have cultivated over the past eight years – it’s a true reflection of our philosophy and our brand story of only good (skin) days ahead,” Charlotte tells Very Good Light.
According to Charlotte, the brand was developed around Soko Glam’s community and their needs. The most important aspects: that the price be accessible without cutting any corners when it came to formulation. This meant one-on-one consultations with her community, focus groups, as well as looking into reviews and testimonials to incorporate into the brand. The result: an affordable line of pH-balanced products that even those with the most sensitive of skins can enjoy. The product prices range from its A New Leaf Cream Cleanser ($16), to its serum, C’s the Day Serum($26).
Soko Glam sent me both their cleanser as well as its moisturizer, On the Bright Side ($24), and I tested them for a month. Here are my thoughts.
(David Yi/ Very Good Light)
On the Bright Side Moisturizer comes in 50 mL (or 1.69 fl oz), and its main ingredients are rice ferment (in the form of sake!), probiotics, ceramides, among others. A New Leaf Cream Cleanser comes in 100 mL (3.38 fl oz) and includes mugwort, celery, green tea, leaf extracts, citrus acid, among others.
(David Yi/ Very Good Light)
The New Leaf Cream Cleanser comes out in a gelatinous formula. No surprise, given that its main ingredient is mugwort, a flowering plant common in East Asia. You may recognize it in Korean rice cakes as the fragrant ingredient that makes the chewy treats extra savory. Though it comes out like dduk before it’s steamed, with water, it instantly lathers into a beautiful formula. Created with oil and water, Charlotte says it’s for those who don’t want a two-step oil and water cleansing process. AKA it’ll take off makeup and SPF and give you a squeaky clean feel as a one-stop shop. The formula also comes with pieces of green herbs – with every squirt you feel as if you’re truly getting an antioxidant wash. The experience is enjoyable and I really liked that the cleanser felt as if it was unique in form – just like Then I Met You’s sticky cleanser.
(David Yi/ Very Good Light)ays
The On the Bright Side Moisturizer is water-based and soaks into your pores with ease. Not only is it like a soothing emulsion, but it’s also perfect for the humid and hot summer months. The ultra-hydrating formula comes with probiotics, aka good bacteria for your skin, leaving you with a happy skin barrier that will thank you later. After a couple of weeks, I felt soothed, soft and I didn’t have a need for extra hydration. At nights though, you won’t want this to replace your sleeping masks or heavier creams. It’s super light and will last you through the day but won’t be thick enough to satiate your hungry nocturnal skin.
-Charlotte Cho launched Soko Glam’s first product, Good (Skin) Days in four SKU’s
-Ranges from $16 for a cleanser to $26 for a serum
-The cleanser is based off of mugwort, celery and green tea and has a very gelatinous physical form. It mixes well with water to create foam.
-The moisturizer is like a nice probiotic emulsion. But you’ll probably need a sleep mask or heavier cream for bed.
BUY or BYE?
Definitely BUY. Knowing Soko Glam is already the leaders of K-beauty, this was a no-brainer. If you want affordable, reliable, tested products definitely try the cleanser and the moisturizer. As for the toner and the serum? I’ll have to nab those before they’re sold out!
One, the rise of COVID-19, which still has no end in sight. The other, senseless murders of black and brown bodies by those in blue uniforms. For actor Kelvin Harrison Jr., one of the stars in The High Note (on demand now), it’s been an awkward time to promote a movie. But the 25-year old, who just relocated from Brooklyn to West Hollywood, is taking it in stride. For one, he’s taking time to heal, meditate, and read.
“This time has formed me to read about Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman,” he tells Very Good Light. “Immersing myself in these books and understanding significance of it and how it affects young black lives today is so important. It makes me question how [in our country] there’s always been different levels of access to privilege and power. I’m discovering more as I get older and it’s helped me with this chapter in my career.”
In his career so far, Kelvin hasn’t shied away from intense roles in storylines that are centered around Black history. His debut was in 12 Years A Slave, the 2013 movie adaptation to the memoir by Solomon Northrup, a man born free but kidnapped and sold into slavery. In 2016, he played Simon, in The Birth of a Nation, about Nat Turner, who led a slave rebellion in Virginia. Later this year, he’ll play Fred Hampton, the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers in The Trial of the Chicago 7, directed by Aaron Sorkin. Kelvin stars alongside veteran actors like Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, among others.
While he has the range to play serious roles, he’s also exploring television, joining HBO’s Euphoria for season 2. And romcoms. “These days, I’ve been interested in love,” he says. “In self-worth, self-work, and just interested in sex. I think I want to explore more rom coms.”
In The High Note, which went straight to video-on-demand due to COVID-19, Kelvin plays David Cliff, an amateur singer who dreams of stardom. He stars alongside Tracee Ellis Ross, who plays the legendary singer, Grace Davis, as she navigates her life with her assistant, Maggie Sherwoode, played by Dakota Johnson. While the film reveals a lighter side to Kelvin’s repertoire, it also showcases his musicality. Throughout the movie, Kelvin sings – with his own voice. Not surprising is that he has a music background, which explains why his voice is so beautiful with an impressive range.
(Photo by Kelvin Harrison Jr. /Very Good Light)
Below, we caught up with Kelvin over Zoom and talked about being one of the token Black kids in high school, wearing Joel Edgerton’s sweaty socks, and the one thing Tracee Ellis Ross taught him.
Is it true that you declined this role?
I said no to this movie, what, one, two, three times maybe? I went in and I auditioned. I did the whole thing. They convinced me to do it. But then when I finally agreed, they didn’t give me the part. They said no. And then I end up like a week later, things changed. The guy that was supposed to do it wasn’t doing it anymore. Suddenly, I was doing it. The next day, I was on a plane to L.A. and I was recording music. That to me felt like destiny. I didn’t choose the path, a bigger power did, you know? I was supposed to do this movie for whatever reason. And that has not been revealed to me yet. But I did it and I’m grateful I did it.
The movie was supposed to premiere at all theaters then COVID-19 canceled everything. Did that bum you out?
I was fine. You know, I think the premiers to me are like an opportunity for me to dress up in nice clothes, go to get nice pictures taken. Because when I was a kid, I thought that was cool. I’ve kind of done that now and like, maybe I haven’t done it in the biggest way possible but premiers don’t live up to their hype. I think they’re cool, but I would much rather be at my home in my sweatpants, barefoot eating my food that I’ve decided to prepare and watch the movie with everyone else. And I get so much more fun.
How are you dealing with COVID-19? All okay?
I was excited to go to work. I’m a workaholic. All I think about is work. I dream about work. It’s a problem. And suddenly you’re not going to work. It’s been good because I’ve been reflecting a lot on my last five years and just the past five months. So much has happened with Waves coming out and Luce the love from those movies and then working with Sorkin. At first, I was kind of pretending to be good for a little bit. And I think now finally I’ve been reading more. I’ve been doing all the things that I want to do. I feel so charged up and ready to go now.
In The High Note you sing. I didn’t even know that you sang. Can you tell me about your musical background and growing up in a musical household?
I didn’t really know that I sang, either! [laughs] Well, my parents and musicians. So my dad’s a classical jazz pianist and my mom’s a jazz vocalist. Growing up at home, there was constant music. I went to jazz camp every summer, three jazz Creative Arts School for just piano after school. And in practice, I was playing the keyboard in the church. So I was nonstop. But my vocal coach was a miracle worker.
(Photo by Kelvin Harrison Jr. / Very Good Light)
Valerie Moorehouse is her name – she’s a funny little thing. She really helped me gain confidence and vocal support, trying to expand my range. I would sing for fun on growing up, but it wouldn’t be like this. And I think. We did forty five minutes every day driving lessons every day, and most of the time it was just about just building confidence. I get strep a lot and my voice is always a mess. My voice is always like ugh. She taught me about healthy ways to live like getting an air purifier.
You star alongside Tracee Ellis Ross. What’s the biggest lesson she taught you?
She’s always happy no matter what’s going on. She is joy. I think what’s beautiful about Tracey is that she can find any moment and can make any person laugh. She can sort of solve the subtle tension in any room. She does it with grace and beauty. And I think that is what I’m taking from her, moving forward. There is a way to be powerful in your work. Stand your ground and say what you need to say but be nice.
Your next film, The Trial of the Chicago 7 seems so epic with such a big cast. Tell me about that.
I play Fred Hampton who just took over the Chicago chapter’s Black Panther Party when he was 17. And he was also murdered by the FBI when he was 21 in his sleep. It’s a really interesting movie. It’s beautifully written. One of the best scripts I’ve ever read if not the best script I’ve ever read. Sorkin was a dream it was so, so striking to me to walk in on the first day. I was doing Waves press and I had to fly back and forth every week and weekend from L.A. to Jersey. I landed at 4:00 a.m. and I went to work at 5:00 a.m. and the first thing I had was me barging into a room. And I’m like going off on Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, Sacha Baron Cohen and Jeremy Strong and all these guys. I’m kind of like, what is the scene? What have you done to me, sir? But Aaron is so encouraging. And I learned so much.
Is it intimidating being next to such veteran actors?
My parents were always just like, who cares? And I think that was that mentality of knowing you’re there for a job. Yes, I love your work, but also, we’re on the call sheet together and we still have to show up and do the job. I was like, you’re not going to like me if I don’t do my job well so I’m going to push through. When you get on set, you start seeing them and kind of go, ‘oh, you don’t know your lines today either,’ or ‘you’re kind of nervous, too,’ or ‘you never done this before either.’
Do you ever get close to your co-stars?
I’ve also been really fortunate to have people that have taken care of me. When I did It Comes At Night, Carmen [Ejogo] and Joel [Edgerton] both said to come to their house. “We’ll cook you dinner,” they said. We had long walks, Carmen and I went grocery shopping together to buy stuff for our AirBNBs. You know, Joel and I built a fire while chopping down trees. Wait, I chopped down trees and I made a fire when he watched. [laughs] But it was very, like, very fatherly of him. He gave me his, like, dirty socks and I put them on and I was like, “oh, my God! I’m wearing Joel’s sweat on my feet.” But you know, at the end of the day, you got to come in and do the work. So I’ve always put the work first. Otherwise, I don’t get it. I won’t get to see them at all to continue to meet my idols.
Now that you’ve done everything what do you want to tackle next?
I guess I’ve been interested in love and want to explore that. I’ve been interested in and self-worth and self work and stuff like that, and I’m interested in. And I’m interested in sex. I want to explore sexuality and sensuality and how what that look like in 2020. Wow. So, yeah, that’s where my mind is going.
We are experiencing a collective pain that’s shouted from every street across the country. The senseless murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black and Brown Americans have forced America to reckon with its past. This outrage that we’re witnessing is justified; our Black and Brown American family has experienced systemic racism in the form of violence—deeply rooted in the very fibers of our country’s foundation. It’s festered in the form of silence from those with privilege who have actively turned a blind eye when it comes to breaking this oppressive cycle. It’s decayed and permeated into our culture, one where complacency equates to complicity.
At Very Good Light we continue to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. We are a brand that was created to fight for inclusion, advocacy and diversity. And now more than ever, we demand justice from our government and are committed to continue fighting for equity, parity, agency, and visibility for our Black and Brown communities.
Beauty has always been a powerful tool that has historically pushed culture forward. Beauty has never withered away in silence, rather, lived and breathed in utter defiance. Often countercultural, beauty has been a physical display of activism that’s challenged power and the status quo. But for centuries, the industry has silenced Black American voices and attempted to erase Black bodies so they don’t hold space. This, while profiting off of Black culture. As a beauty industry — and as a country — we need to do better and hold each other accountable.
We will continue to support our Very Good Light family, from our interns, our freelancers, readers, followers, and editors to uplift Black American voices, tell authentic stories from the community, and be as fearless as ever. We acknowledge that it’s not enough to sit idly in these times and we are committed to understanding our responsibility by reexamining our own world views, actions, and further educating ourselves. We all must do more than stand in solidarity. We must act. We must vote. We must dismantle the current system.
To our Black community: You are not alone. We see you. We hear you. We love you. Your lives matter.
Growing up, taking care of my appearance was something that my parents emphasized to me and has become a ritual that I’ve since practiced throughout my young adult life.
My fondest memories are of my morning routine with them, triple checking that my face was moisturized, that I brushed my hair, and that I was wearing my Sunday best.
While this may seem like standard parenting, or a simple personal hygiene lesson between father and son, I’ve realized this routine was a little more complex as it relates to my existence in this world.
As time goes on, I realize that these early lessons on looking and being my best weren’t being taught unconsciously, rather, it was an intentional survival mechanism that my parents knew I’d need to “thrive” in this country as a black man. For generations, young black boys have been prepared for how the world will see us.
But what about how we should see ourselves?
When I think more about this pressure to be perpetually prim and proper, I realize that it fully drove my eagerness to find different outlets for my emotional and creative expression. This ranged from a “rock star phase,” where I had a fro-hawk for a few years in grade school (thanks to Usher), to that one time I dyed my hair blonde—and then lavender—because blonde just wasn’t extreme enough.
For once in my life, I have been able to freely go without having my weekly haircuts or having to put on this presentation for an extended time. The idea of temporarily “letting myself go” has never been appealing to me, but now that I don’t really have a choice because of COVID-19, I’ve been afforded the privilege to watch my hair grow out to its natural state for almost 60 days (which I am sure is record-breaking for many men alike).
To be honest, I don’t hate it. It has allowed me to feel as liberated as I have ever felt in my life.
With all this newfound freedom, I’m getting to know myself on a whole new level. I’m learning what I want to say to the world, and what the world has been saying to me. I’m feeling inspired to write again, and my creativity is spewing over in my personal projects.
For so long, I’ve been taught that what I look like on the outside and the things I accomplished were what made me a man, but that’s not completely true. It’s really about how you treat others, and more so, how you treat yourself. Things like reflecting and redeveloping are necessary for evolution. I’m discovering that sometimes the only place you have to go is inside your thoughts. No matter how many times you change your hairstyle, you can never outrun your true self.
I know that existing, creating, loving, and ownership as a black man are paramount to me because history has shown me that it was not important to anyone else.
This streak of growing out my mini afro and full beard may be over shortly, but the importance of maintaining my grooming will remain. After all, cleanliness is next to godliness, and personally, when I look my best, I do feel my best. However, what good is looking your best if you aren’t being true to yourself, evolving through learned lessons, and exploring your identity?
Once this pandemic is over, I want to look back over this time in the months or years after and remember my reflections and personal takeaways: As a black man it’s okay to express your feelings, it’s okay to want better, and it’s okay to be in touch with your feminine side. It’s okay to be still and just exist.
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In multiple cities across the country, images of banks being set on fire, Molotov cocktails thrown at police cars, and buildings ablaze are displayed everywhere from our television screens to social media. Americans are enraged. They’re mourning. They’re tired. Protestors are marching against police brutality – most of them peaceful, others anarchist – with the same message: They demand change and they need it now.
Black Americans are exhausted from waiting for America’s promises for change, what Roxanne Gay writes have been “comfortable lies.” After all, our country has yet to own its oppressive history that’s caused deliberate damage against black and brown bodies. Its nefarious structures have continued to propel disadvantages for black communities that can still be seen today. This, from our school systems, neighborhoods, employment, incarcerations, to hospitals now with disproportionate amounts of COVID-19-related deaths.
One of the most egregious examples of injustices have stemmed from decades of police brutality. What Huey P. Newton once fought against during the Black Panthers era is still what we are facing today. In the past month alone, we’ve witnessed George Floyd murdered by a policeman; Ahmaud Arbery gunned down by white vigilantes; Breonna Taylor killed by cops, mistaking her home for another’s, and many, many others who didn’t make the news. For Black Americans everywhere this painful reality isn’t new.
It’s a cruel reminder that our country has never been great, rather, a capitalistic system made off of the backs of people of color. While white folks have reaped the benefits of America’s promises, they have long neglected how it only benefits people who look a certain way. But the blinders are now being torn off to show how evil and ugly America has always been. The bandages are now unraveling to reveal a country that’s never healed from slavery to Jim Crow. Instead, it’s exposing rotting flesh, infected by a virus called hate, with a president who chooses not to find a cure, hoping that it will finally destroy the people he’s willfully ignored.
But the world is waking up to the madness of the Trump administration. Black Lives Matter is no longer a movement for black Americans only. On the streets from Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Denver, New York City, to Salt Lake City, people from all backgrounds are marching in solidarity, allying with their brothers and sisters. It’s catching on overseas as well. From London to Tokyo, people are demanding change. They’re observing from afar, showing strength and solidarity, validating how America is not the “world’s greatest country” it’s purported to be.
And it’s sparking real change. For the first time in four years, we’re witnessing a boisterous president suddenly shrink away. He’s not only unhinged, he’s alone. Sitting on his throne inside the White House, he has little to no more moves left. His greatest fear is facing millions against him. To destroy Trump and his cronies means erupting with collective anger and disempowering him once and for all.
In order to do so, we must burn America down.
For centuries, native peoples in continents around the world have understood human relationships to fire. Fire could destroy their land if inadvertent, but could allow it to prosper if used deliberately. Since, fire has become an essential tool used to continue the livelihood of any ecosystem. In order for land to prosper, forest fires are necessary to start anew.
From an ecological standpoint, healthy forest fires turn dead, decaying, or damaged plants to ash, returning precious nutrients back into the soil. Another study published in National Geographic found that fire was the only way to clear underbrush so thick it’s prohibited the sun from ever shining onto forest floors. The only way forward is to set it ablaze – the future of the forest’s living, breathing ecosystem depends on it.
The World Wildlife Federation has since called this method “backburning,” a technique that involves a controlled path of fire. The fires are not only well-managed, but controlled, and are effective in stopping out-of-control aspects of land. But backburning isn’t only for destroying unwanted vegetation, it’s also to prevent uncontrolled forest fires. Natural, low-intensity wildfires have occurred in the wild to burn dead, old, discarded trees, plant debris, excess insects, to make way for young, new flora to thrive. “The new growth in turn supports forest wildfire,” the WWF writes on their website. In the long term, forest managers have discovered that controlled, deliberate fires are the only way to make room for the future generations to bloom, grow and flourish.
A few years ago my friend who I’ll call Chris, and I were at a local bodega. It was a sweaty, humid, New York City summer and we were in Chinatown after slurping on soup dumplings. We were buying seltzer and I offered to pay. Chris asked me matter-of-factly if I was getting the receipt. I don’t care, I replied, shrugging it off playfully. Should I use it as a tax return? You don’t always take receipts with you? He asked. No need, I replied.
For Chris, who’s a Black American, getting a receipt had been taught by his mother since he was a child. Growing up in the South, his mother would instruct him to ask for receipts after every purchase. It was one way to prove to anyone that he hadn’t stolen anything. A preventative measure to prove his innocence. That receipt, he was told, could mean life or death.
It was humbling and made me realize how I, as an Asian American, have lived with so much privilege. I would never need a receipt from a local bodega. I would never have to prove my innocence. I would never have to fear being perceived as guilty. That moment, while small, was extremely telling of the disparity between me and him. Until his life was seen as equal to mine, we would never be freed.
It’s why we, as non-black people, must continue to support our Black American brothers and sisters. We must swallow hard pills, have difficult conversations, and center their voices. We must protect, enact, demand change in big ways and small. After all, we’ve been blind to certain privileges our entire lives, reaping the benefits off those who have been oppressed. Until Black people can have all of the same privileges — until Chris can walk into any store without fear of being accused — we must all bear the burden to make change.
Which is why we must burn our system down completely to ashes. We must smash white supremacy and its laws down to mere bits of fleeting dust. We must use our power to vote out policies to unfetter ourselves from the chains of brutality. We must tend to our collective rage and turn it into an inferno so great — so hot — that it decimates America’s outdated, unjust systems forever. Only then can we resurrect our country and move forward.
Like wild forests, we must burn dead debris, singe the decaying trees that do not serve future generations, and char excess underbrush that attempts to suffocate life below. Let’s take our torches and take out the old regime, planning where to burn, where to grow, where to take life from here.
To burn it all down is the only way out.
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May is officially Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, celebrating the journey of Asian Pacific Americans, what they’ve accomplished, and what’s to come. For an entire week, Very Good Light is kicking off a series of Asian American stories, highlighting the future of Asian America. From Generation Z activists, healthcare workers on the front lines, music artists, and more, we’re uplifting Asian stories. We’ve partnered this week with Hate Is A Virus, a grassroots campaign that aims to raise $1 million to businesses affected by COVID-19. Together, we hope to spark conversations, change, and community. After all, the Asian American experience is the American experience. We’re in this together. For more on Hate Is A Virus, go here.
I grew up as one of the only Asian Americans in a mostly white high school in Colorado Springs, CO. My peers wore Abercrombie & Fitch. They listened to Blink 182 and Eminem. They gathered at each others’ houses on a weekly basis to watch the latest episode of The OC. Unlike many other Asian American experiences – kids who would give anything just to fit in, to be accepted for even one semester – I truly didn’t give two f***s.
I’d blast Korean pop music from my MP3 player, scribble on my paper bag-wrapped textbooks “Korean PRIDE,” wear my hair in a floppy, 2000s K-Pop way, all while speaking in Korean to any exchange students I could find in the hallways. Of course, this made me a social pariah. I had zero friends in my class – I was obviously too Asian for my high school and they didn’t know what to do with someone like me. But despite their best attempts, they couldn’t erase me from the halls. I wasn’t like any other Asian American they met…I was loud. If I didn’t agree with you, you’d certainly know it. When my assertion created tensions within my classes, I’d call out teachers who would practice microaggressions, call me “Oriental,” or side with a racist classmate. I took none of it and, consequently, set my high school on fire.
In the midst of all of the chaos, I recall being a lonely child dreaming of a bigger world outside Colorado. I’d eat lunch alone in my Jeep Cherokee, blasting Amerie, imagining a better future where possibly I, too, would be accepted for who I was.
Through my high school rage I practiced becoming unabashedly Asian, almost militant in my identity. To survive, I read history books about Asian immigration, Asian American pioneers, and anti-Asian politics. I channeled my studies, and agenda, into the school’s newspaper, The Lever, finding space to articulate and publish my thoughts for our high school audience. I didn’t care that my reporting never catered to a mostly white readership, much to the chagrin of my editors. Asian American history was American history, after all, and I figured these people needed education.
I wrote an article about Abercrombie & Fitch’s racist depictions of Asians (it was of two Chinese immigrants in coolie hats with the words “Two Wongs Can Make It White”). It caused an uproar. The day after it was published students confronted me, saying I should, “Go back to China” if I didn’t like it. Nevertheless, I remained undeterred. Focused. Even though I was only a baby activist, I was fearless.
(Photo by David Yi/ Very Good Light)
The next few articles featured two Korean immigrants and their experiences; the rise of Asian technology; and a two-part story about how my Korean grandparents escaped the Korean War. Though I felt no one believed in it at the time, the latter eventually won first place for a statewide Colorado High School Press Association award.
My advocacy, played out in the public high school domain, soon ushered in detractors who tried to silence me. The features editor my junior year, met me in the hallways to speak about her issues with my ideas. “They’re too Asian, David,” she said, without skipping a beat. “We don’t want to be labeled an Asian-loving newspaper.” I blinked, hardly shocked. “Even if I wrote about an Asian American story every single day of the year, there still would be a lack of stories about my people.” I stalked off to collect my thoughts in my Jeep.
But the feelings of erasure and gaslighting wasn’t an experience I, as an Asian American, experienced alone. And it wasn’t even their fault. None of my peers cared about Asian Americans because we were no Asian Americans to be found. Not in our history books, not on television (unless the Yellow Power Ranger counts?), not in movies. It was as if we’d never been here — we simply didn’t exist.
And so I continued pouring over textbooks, finding comfort in history. I was both saddened and heartened to know that many ancestors before me also felt pushback. My experiences weren’t unusual. I learned Asians have always been treated with fear and disgust. The largest mass lynching in America was in 1871, when 20 Chinese immigrants were hung by white Americans in Los Angeles. There would be two other massacres subsequently after. Native Americans certainly weren’t safe: when Sikhs immigrated to California in 1907, they were targeted with hate attacks.
A decade later, would-be immigrants from China were completely barred from entering the US with the Chinese Exclusion Act, passed in 1882. Those who were brought over, like a few Filipinos, were treated like animals. In 1905, a white American named Truman Hunt, brought 50 men from the Bontoc Igorrote tribe from the Philippines back to the U.S. He made them a part of his exhibition at Coney Island, where people could come to see “how savage” these Asian men were. In 1930, there’d be anti-Filipino riots in Watsonville, CA, demanding that immigrants be banned from the city. They’d become ineligible for citizenship.
(Photo by David Yi/ Very Good Light)
During 1941, the U.S. would go after Japanese Americans after the Japanese navy attacked Pearl Harbor. In an executive order signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, more than 100,000 Japanese Americans – and Native Americans and a few Latinx as well, who were thought to be Asian – were sent to Internment camps. It’d be the only time the government would force a group of Americans to be imprisoned en masse. The anti-Japanese sentiment carried into 1982 when a group of white American men beat a Chinese American named Vincent Chin to death. Believing he was Japanese, murderers accused him of taking their jobs away from the American automobile industry.
Though we’ve been here for centuries, I was appalled that these important stories weren’t being taught in our curriculum. We’d read about the Civil Wars, European history, but Asians were relegated to a footnote at the bottom of our textbooks. It reinforces why education is so vital.
I graduated high school with a firm understanding of my place in America and how as an Asian American, I’d continue to go unseen. Sadly, not much has changed in my adult years. I wrote about feeling invisible back in 2016 – and it still rings true today.
Though I became accustomed to the idea of remaining a perpetual foreigner – that I didn’t belong and never would – I never expected the pain of encountering anti-Asian history in my lifetime.
In the 2000s, I witnessed South Asian Americans targeted with hate crimes, much like I’d read about throughout the previous century. It would carry on into the 2010s. In 2016, an Indian American man named Srinivas Kuchibhotla was shot and killed at a bar. The hate crime was eerily similar to Vincent Chin’s killing – both were perpetrated by white American men consumed with xenophobia.
Fast-forward to 2020 and we’re seeing how Americans haven’t learned from our dark past. Anti-Asian sentiment has run rampant in the midst of Coronavirus, reminding me of what I’d read about Asian Americans facing for decades prior. Since March, there have been thousands of racist reports of beatings, verbal harassments, and assaults – daily. It’s disappointing, and deeply troubling, that nothing’s changed.
I feel enraged. Just like I was in high school, I have remained audaciously Asian American. Throughout my career as a journalist in New York City, I’ve combated against racist editors who attempted to squash my voice. It made me realize we, as a people, have so much more work to do. But, as always, it all only further inspires me to continue to fight not only for the visibility of my own, but for all marginalized people. From the LGBTQ+ communities, Black Lives Matter, indigenous brothers and sisters, the undocumented Latinx, and much more, I’ve realized that every struggle is my struggle. Since, I co-founded Advocates for Inclusion in Media, along with my friend Sarah Springer, a Black American creative. We wanted to send the message that we’re stronger together. We’re in this together.
And so, to counter future erasure, I’ve decided that we need to uplift Asian American stories even more. To celebrate Asian Pacific American History Month (it’s all of May, if you didn’t know) Very Good Light is dedicating an entire week to Asian American stories. We’ve partnered with the grassroots movement, #hateisavirus, a campaign that aims to raise over $1 million towards Asian American businesses affected by anti-Asian sentiment and hate. Collectively, we’re presenting you with an entire series of stories that hope to educate, empower, and eradicate hate.
I think about high school-David today, and wonder what he’d think of his adult self. Would he think I was weak? Would he be disappointed that I didn’t work harder to advance underrepresented voices? Would he think all of his hard work would be in vain? While I don’t know the exact truth, I do hope he’d at least be proud that I’m still loud, still vocal, and still as angry as ever.
I can hear my younger self writing these words on the pages of my high school newspaper. It’s late at night in the English classroom where The Lever would put together the final touches to our monthly ‘zine. The room is quiet, the sun setting in an orange pink melange. There, in large, serif font is this across the front pages. “Silence is erasure and erasure is death. Will you stand with me?”
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Even when it comes to our hair. Lengthy stretches at home mean more time investing into self-care, and considering the energy demanded by our natural hair, we could use it. While we want to give our tresses endless attention, it’s easy to become inconsistent with upkeep – but now’s the time to build your haircare regimen to its best (and strongest) ever.
As a haircare connoisseur, I’ve tried products from high to low, and also DIY. I’ve compiled some easy at-home hair recipes that suit every budget – including some of my favorite products for natural hair – in the hopes this takes some of the stress out of maintaining your hair at home. All of these items can be purchased online and at your local grocery store. With some consistency, you’ll have healthier natural hair in no time.
You can’t have healthy hair without a healthy scalp. This is especially important for textured hair because our scalps are more prone to dryness and irritation, which, when left untreated, can lead to breakage at the ends. As a common issue for natural hair, extra care is needed to make sure the scalp is in good condition. Try using a scalp cleanse or a gentle exfoliator. The below is the best concoctions I’ve come across.
DIY Scalp And Hair Cleansing Mask:
Bentonite Clay (1/3 Cup)
Raw Honey (1/8 Cup)
Apple Cider Vinegar (1/4 Cup)
Water (mix to desired texture)
Mix with all non-metal utensils. Apply to hair evenly from root to tip using a brush or gloved fingers. Let the mask dry for 20 minutes and rinse in the shower with lukewarm water. No need to shampoo. Follow with a conditioning treatment.
Shea Moisture Charcoal Pre-Shampoo Scalp Scrub, $9.99, BUY HERE
Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Tea Tree Scalp Treatment, $32, BUY HERE
Conditioning is necessary to reintroduce moisture, and also helps to detangle natural hair. This is an essential step in natural hair care, and should be a regular addition to your routine between shampoos — otherwise known as “co-washing.” Don’t forget, your hair should still be washed with a sulfate-free shampoo at least once a week as conditioner is more effective when the hair has been cleansed of buildup.
DIY Deep Conditioner:
Avocado (1 half or more for longer or fuller hair)
Olive Oil (1/8 Cup)
Raw Honey (1/4 Cup)
Aloe Vera Juice (1/3 Cup)
Mix ingredients to a cream-like texture. Apply to hair using an application brush or fingers. Saturate ends cover hair with a plastic or foil cap for 30 minutes. Rinse with cool to lukewarm water.
Nubian Heritage Olive Oil Vegan Conditioner, $11.99 BUY HERE
As I Am Hydration Elation Intensive Conditioner, $16 BUY HERE
If you’re trying to avoid brittle hair, give your hair as much extra moisture as you can. Natural hair loves to be pampered. Incorporate rich moisturizers into your routine that will lock in hydration and leave your hair healthy so that it can continue to flourish and grow.
DIY Shea Hair Moisturizer
Shea Butter (1/3 Cup)
Aloe Vera Gel (1/3 Cup)
Black Castor Oil (1/8 Cup)
Whip ingredients with a device or by hand. Store in a safe container and apply to hair mostly when damp. Focus on the ends of the hair and apply regularly.
Urban Hydration Honey Health & Repair Daily Moisturizer, $9.99, BUY HERE
ORS Incredibly Rich Oil Moisturizing Hair Lotion, $10, BUY HERE
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On my fourteenth round of trying Doja Cat’s “Say So” dance, I realized it was time to let it go.
Sweat dripping down my blemished skin, making its way down to my bony clavicle, I realized that it just wasn’t working. I had failed. I immediately deleted the video on TikTok and threw my iPhone into the kitchen. It was already 1:13 p.m. and I hadn’t accomplished a single thing except trying to learn a viral dance that wouldn’t even make it into my group chat.
Was I okay? Why was I attempting to launch a TikTok? Was this my version of spiraling at a time of quarantine? I didn’t have an answer.
Like most Americans, ever since COVID-19 upended our lives, my mental health has been iffy at best. I’ve distracted myself by eating bags full of carbs and crunchy fried things, scrolling through Instagram to keep me busy, while writing on the side to get my mind off of things. But every time I read about how our president is handling this with grave incompetence, or nurses dying on the frontlines to save those with coronavirus, or how people are protesting to come out of quarantine, I spiral. My urge to scream is assuaged by my lack of energy. Though I know how grateful I should be – I have a bed to sleep on at night, food to eat, friends to call – it feels me with insurmountable guilt knowing that thousands are dying while I’m complaining about TikTok.
(Photo by David Yi/ Very Good Light)
That same morning, I received a package from the CBD brand called oHHo. I’d opened the package, where I discovered two separate paper cylinders with illustrations of Colorado and New York. How funny, I thought, thinking the universe was pulling a fast one on me. I’m currently in self-isolation in Colorado, my new place of residence, while New York had been my home for the past decade. Was this a sign? If anything, it felt kismet.
Regardless, I expressed much gratitude as I was in need of something to calm my anxiety. Turns out both locations are core to oHHo‘s business as both locations are where they farm their CBD. One strain is from the mountains of Colorado, the other, the valleys of, well, Hudson Valley. The two states are the crux of oHHo and it was ironic that it was the same for me. Similarly, both Colorado, my place of birth, and New York, where my career was nurtured, were essential to the person I became. As I pored over the thought, I realized it triggered me into a state of nostalgia.
(Photo courtesy oHHo)
As it’s described, nostalgia is a “longing for the past,” or remembrance of a period or place that connects with a happy memory. Nostalgia also derives from the two Greek words: Nostos, which means “return home” and “algos,” which means pain. Together, it means homesickness and the pangs you get when you think about your past. Nostalgia then, in its essence, is a mix between pleasure and pain. It both punches you in the gut, but somehow makes your smile.
Recent studies have shown how powerful nostalgia is for your well-being, even going so far to conclude that it’s the antidote to fear. According to one Rutgers University finding, nostalgia is the only tool that can “help restore a sense of meaning in life.” One researcher there concluded that nostalgia allows humans to “think about our most meaningful relationships – the people who love us, make us feel important, and give us confidence.” Ultimately, nostalgia is so potent because it reminds us of who were were and how we still matter.
An article from The Atlanticreiterates this notion and explains how nostalgia’s primary function is to make sense of our ever-changing emotions and allows us to make sense of it all. “You were once the person who visited your grandmother and hosted dinner parties, and you’re still that person, even though you can’t do those things right now,” the article emphasizes.In that moment, I remember having a That’s So Raven type of flashback, and traveled back to my humble one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment. The humble walk-up has three plants in one corner, though two have died. There’s a tiny stove that sits next to my L-shaped IKEA couch. As I open my window, a hum of Caribbean music blasts through, its based booming through my concave chest. A block party is about to begin. I walk down my stairs and outside, take a left towards the Brooklyn Museum. With an iced oat milk latte in hand, I wind my way through the bustling farmer’s market. There, I bump into an editor colleague from my past, we briefly catch up before she gives me a warm hug.
(Photo by David Yi/ Very Good Light)
Back in the present, I tear into both Colorado and New York tinctures and place a few drops under my tongue. I hope it will calm my sporadic mind, one that has difficulty retaining information as of late. oHHo suggests trying .25 ml and then increasing by .25 ml until you reach 1 ml max. In my case, I take .5 ml, wait a few seconds, and swallow the oil. Instantly, my brain feels as if it’s embraced by a supernatural force. I move to lay on my back and gently closed my eyes. It feels warm and I feel secure, as if a heavy blanket sits on my abdomen. The sensation allows me to stop time – no more nostalgia, just the present moment.
When I later ask the brand about this #brainhug sensation, they explain to me that it’s very normal. After all, CBD – aka cannabinoid – brings our bodies back into homeostasis.
CBD – aka Cannabidiol – is one of many cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. The primary cannabinoid in oHHo’s oils helps bring bodies back into homeostasis. The reason their products work in the way they do is because they are full spectrum (which, if you need a refresher, go here) – not just including CBD but many other cannabinoids as well, enhancing the overall benefits.
(Photo by David Yi/ Very Good Light)
It works in tandem with our own endocannabinoid system, which regulates and balances the body, including our immune response, communication between cells, metabolism, memory, sleep, among many other functions. A CBD like oHHo, then, allows your body to come back into balance.
“For some this could be sleep, for others, anxiety, and still for others, inflammation,” the brand tells me. “If your brain was feeling particularly overloaded when you tried it then perhaps your system responded to oHHo by calming it down and trying to bring you back into a more restful state.”
For me, the CBD oil stopped my mind in its tracks. After my brief meditation, I opened my eyes back to the world, refreshed and renewed. I conclude that while nostalgia is indeed powerful, it’s best used in small doses for times when you feel as if you’re helpless. For the day-to-day, it’s truly being present, practicing discipline in the moment, and conquering your fears with your own volition.
Nostalgia be damned – if I can make it in New York, I can make it through quarantine.
When I landed my first job working in the major Korean beauty world even I was surprised.
As a black male navigating the Korean beauty skincare realm, I was always a bit overwhelmed, considering I didn’t see too many people that looked like me. Korean society often admires fair, “glass skin,” which caused it to be overlooked by darker skin tones for years. But the more I began to learn and experimenting with the Korean beauty philosophy, the more me and my skin began falling in love with it.
Fast-forward a couple of years later and I am now a certified K-beauty skintellectual and my face has never looked or felt better. Throughout my journey, it’s been important that I bring men of color specifically into conversations about self-care, beauty, and what it means to live our most empowered lives.
I’ve written about how Korean beauty’s changed my skin in the past, but what are the best products for more melanin-rich skin? Here are my current favorites below. A friendly reminder: Korean beauty routines are usually highly personalized and address the treatment of specific areas ie it’s more about maintaining the health, hydration, and radiance of the skin rather than a quick fix. With that out of the way, here are my K-beauty recommendations.
Banila Co Clean it up Zero – Double cleansing is the backbone of K-beauty and starting with an oil-based cleanser is extremely effective at lifting dirt, grime, and other pollutants that can accumulate throughout the day. Banila Co Clean it up Zero is formulated with active botanicals, antioxidants like Vitamin E and Vitamin C which are essential for protecting the skin from sun damage that causes hyperpigmentation while also leaving the skin visibly brighter and softer.
Dr.Jart+ DERMACLEAR Micro pH Foam – Follow up with this mild cream cleanser, to remove any excess dirt left behind. This gentle but powerful cleanser is specifically formulated to heal/prevent breakouts, combat inflammation all while improving uneven skin tone.
COSRX AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner is a two in one exfoliating fluid that effectively eliminates flakes and dull skin cells while preventing blackheads and whiteheads from forming. This toner can also be used after shaving, the alpha hydroxy acid fights against ingrown hairs which is more prevalent in deeper skin complexions.
Liz K super first vitamin c serum: Deeper skin tones are more prone to dark spots especially with increased sun exposure, Liz K super first vitamin c serum is formulated with 13% pure vitamin c to effectively brighten and even skin tone while treating existing hyperpigmentation. This serum is extremely potent so it’s best to start only applying 2 nights a week.
Ashiness is public enemy # 1 for deeper skin tones, so finding a long-lasting moisturizer to lock in all your hard work is paramount.Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Cream has been a K-beauty staple for some time now. Its key ingredients include yeast-derived beta-glucan, jojoba oil, and ceramides that works to strengthen your skin’s natural protective barrier and provide long-lasting moisture. Say bye-bye to ashiness!
Properly caring for your skin means proactively guarding it, and that includes wearing a daily sunscreen with SPF—no matter how fair or rich your complexion, unfortunately for those with deeper skin tones it can be hard to find a sunscreen that doesn’t add a thick sticky white cast. Neogen’s Day-Light Protection Sun Screen is as ‘light’ as it claims it easily absorbs into the skin and leaves it feeling soft and hydrated, formulated with rose and honey extract which is high in antioxidants and amino acids, so not only are you protecting your skin, you’re also nourishing it. You can even double it as a moisturizer for a light dewy finish. Remember, sunscreen is most effective when applied 15-20 minutes before sun exposure so that it has enough time to absorb into your skin.