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Decolonizing Beauty at Queen’s

Written by: Larissa Zhong

It’s a curious incongruity to be Han Chinese (belonging to one of the biggest ethnic groups in the world) and to be acutely underrepresented, but it’s my reality.

At Queen’s, more than ever before, I feel that my almond eyes and short nose are unwanted. Student government leaders, university service staff, and the faces I pass on campus and University District sidewalks scarcely look like me.

When I arrived in Kingston at seventeen, I asked myself, are they reluctant to befriend me because I don’t have their white skin and blonde hair? Am I not pretty enough because I don’t have their light eyes and angled cheekbones?

Here, surrounded by white peers to whom Eurocentric beauty standards cater, I began to understand the insecurities that have plagued me for years. It’s strange to imagine that my process of unlearning set about in such an environment, but it did, maybe because for the first time, I was somewhere I couldn’t pretend Eurocentrism didn’t affect me.

Makeup and clothing advertised on vastly white models, ‘beautifying’ Snapchat filters that make my eyes bigger and nose slimmer, skincare products that unabashedly promise to lighten my skin—Eurocentric beauty ideals are pervasive and, for that reason, incredibly convincing.

But I’m not meant to look that way. I’m meant to have melanin in my skin and hair and round features that make me look Chinese, and unapologetically so. Every time I look in the mirror, I see my mom’s eyes, my dad’s nose, and where my family came from; how could I be ashamed of that?

I’m nineteen now. No great epiphany has come and I’ve yet to experience catharsis, but I have learned to see beauty in my coloured femininity. The Eurocentric lens I grew up seeing myself in fades a little bit more every day, and though I’m still learning self-love and confidence, I don’t want to look any different than I do.

I hope I continue to unlearn the rigid beauty standards that distorted my self-image for too long and that one day I will look in the mirror and think:

“I am beautiful not because I conform to any beauty ideals nor because I stray from them; I am beautiful entirely independent of them.”

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2 thoughts on “Decolonizing Beauty at Queen’s

  1. Your words really resonated with me. It is a good feeling to know that other people feel similarly to how I do here at Queen’s and that us women of colour are not alone 🙂


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