Opinion: How Kpop helped me love myself

Growing up in the midwest, my ideal standard of beauty was pale skin, big blue eyes, blonde hair, and, of course, being tall and skinny. Although I wasn’t considered ugly, I always wished that I looked like those popular white girls. I wished that I had a double eyelid so that my eyes would be bigger, that my undertones would be less yellow, and that my face was more 3D. I had no idea Asians could be attractive outside of the few token popular East Asian celebrities like Angelababy and Girls’ Generation’s Yoona. Simply put, I wished that I wasn’t Asian. 

It wasn’t until I moved to an Asian majority city in California that I discovered Kpop. I can remember it clearly to this day (which means a lot for me because I have the memory of a goldfish). It was during lunch, when I heard loud music coming from the quad. I had no idea what they were saying—it sounded like English mixed with another language—so I had to ask someone next to me what the song was. They answered that it was “DDU-DU DDU-DU”, a hit song by the Korean girl group BLACKPINK. 

Until that point, the only time I had heard of Kpop was in 2012 when “Gangnam Style” first came out. I also had a misconception that anyone who listened to Kpop or was involved in Asian entertainment was considered a geek, or just someone “uncool”. 

However, that all changed that day when I saw a group of girls from my class who went up to the center of the quad to dance to the song being played in front of everyone. The only thing that was in my head at that time was, oh my gosh, they’re so cool. 

Ever since then, I fell down the rabbit-hole of Kpop and discovered so many groups and their music. Along the way, I also felt shocked, because I didn’t know that East Asians, or just Asian people in general could be so cool and stylish. Because I grew up in an area where I was usually one of the three Asian kids in the class, I was fed the misconception that all Asians were nerds, all worked in STEM, and basically couldn’t do anything outside of being book-smart. I didn’t know these stereotypes were false, mainly because there weren’t that many Asian people in my area to begin with. 

After years of comparing my face to western beauty standards, I finally learned that I will never fit the western standard of beauty, simply because I wasn’t built for it. But I also don’t want to fit in. Instead, because of Kpop and diving more into Asian entertainment, I found makeup tutorials that enhanced my features, hairstyles that suited my flatter face, but most importantly, I learned that Asian people can be beautiful too. I finally accepted that I’m Asian, and that I wouldn’t give anything to not be Asian. We don’t have to be the stereotypical smart nerd, and we also aren’t limited to that either.