#SmallSquad Stories: In Between Asian and American Beauty Ideals with Gwen Grace

#SmallSquad Stories is a series to feature you, and the stories of our community. Let's redefine beauty standards together and start a movement to love ourselves as we are.

Introducing Small Squad member: Gwen Grace

Gwen lives in New York City, and is an advocate for increasing diversity in the fashion industry and making it less intimidating for minorities.

We fell in love with her commitment to breaking stereotypes. Here's her interview:

Why the fashion industry?

Growing up, I didn’t learn to speak English until I was six.

Reading fashion magazines and experimenting on my own helped me connect with people, and shaped me into the person I am. Although fashion was invaluable in life, I didn’t see myself represented in the covers or pages of those magazines.

I knew I wanted to change that (more on that later), so I decided to dedicate my life to increasing diversity in fashion and media.

What shaped your body image perceptions?

In many ways, my self image has been shaped by both Asian and American beauty ideals, which has been confusing to say the least.

I grew up in an area where being blonde and tan was the standard for beauty, and it felt like an impossible ideal. Although my parents worked hard to raise me in an Asian community, where I could always feel at home, I grew used to hearing the phrase “you’re pretty for an Asian” within the American community, and “you look too American” from the Asian community- it gave me a sense of isolation, where I didn’t feel like I fit into any standard of beauty.

It’s hard to accept who you are, when you feel you constantly have to explain that one or both societies.

How did you overcome adversity to become who you are today?

Growing to love myself and the skin I’m in has been a journey, led by a series of unpredictable events. I started getting really sick my senior year of college, and by the time I moved to New York, it had escalated.

This made me focus on becoming stronger, rather than skinnier, or any myriad of other things I believed would make me feel more accepted. I focused on health from the inside out, starting with becoming a pescatarian, cutting out alcohol, working out every day, and focusing on building healthy relationships. It was this combination that taught me to feel good in my skin, because I was rallying for myself, even when it felt like my body was betraying me. It’s also what got me into modeling, because it allowed me to make an impact by showing other girls like me that there is no definition for beauty.


Do you relate to Gwen? Let us know in the comments below! Or send us an email at hello@wearpepper.com if you'd like to share your own story.

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