Blogged By: La Tray
Source: Daily Mail
Media Credit:Daily Mail via Ashley Perez Facebook / YouTube (Lee Won)
Posted: Monday June 3, 2013 @1:54 p.m. PST
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South Korea, which last year overtook Brazil as the plastic surgery capital of the world, is now home to the highest number of cosmetic procedures performed per capita.
And for one young writer, the country’s extreme emphasis on appearance and immersion in western celebrity culture was so overwhelming that she decided to quit her teaching job and move back to America.
In an essay for Buzzfeed, Ashley Perez, who identifies as Cuban, Filipino and Korean-American, reveals how during a year teaching English to fourth-graders in Daegu, she was ridiculed for her ‘very big’ U.S. size 8 body, ‘too dark’ skin tone, and ‘plain face’ features.
‘I quickly learned that despite sharing the genetic traits of many Koreans (round face, high cheekbones), I would not be accepted as a true fellow Korean,’ wrote Miss Perez, who is in her twenties.
‘In a culture where so many people strive to look the same way, any slight difference in appearance rapidly singles you out.
‘In my case, I was too tall, too fat, and too dark — traits that are not typically considered beautiful by Korean standards. In many ways, being partially Korean actually made my experience more difficult than that of my foreign white friends.
‘Whereas Koreans admired their white skin, small faces, and upturned noses, I remained a vaguely Korean-looking girl who didn’t quite stack up.’
Recently it was revealed that in South Korea, double eyelid surgery, which creates the Caucasian crease many Asian women do not naturally have, has become as common as going to the dentist.
Going behind the scenes of Seoul Fashion Week for Vice magazine’s online series Fashion Week Internationale, host Charlet Duboc last year uncovered the country’s quest for a stereotypical vision of a western face – something Miss Perez is now very familiar with.
‘I also sat next to a crying student and tried to comfort her after all the boys in her class called her the “mayor of Africa” for having slightly darker skin than the rest of the students,’ Miss Perez recalled.
‘I watched my 28-year-old co-teacher (who is already smaller than I’ll ever be) starve herself every day on a diet of black beans, grapes, and weight-loss shakes. And I saw high school students get handed pamphlets on plastic surgery as they left school.’
While she described her experience as ‘largely positive,’ after being ‘thrilled to live in a place where I expected my heritage to make me feel like I belonged,’ she said that ultimately, the year was ‘soul-crushing’.
She explained: ‘I tried to fit in. I made multiple trips to Korea’s seemingly endless makeup stores, only to find there was no makeup for me: My skin was too dark. “No, no — very, very dark,” the saleswomen would say.’
And despite having access to large quantities of ‘cheap, trendy clothing,’ Miss Perez found it impossible to find anything that fit her.
‘Whereas in the United States I’m smaller than the average woman — size 8 bottoms, medium tops, and a size 8.5 shoe — in Korea, I truly felt like a whale.
‘Walking into shops where everything was “free size” (one size fits all), I felt like I was playing Russian roulette with my waist size. Nothing will destroy your confidence faster than a store clerk shouting at you from across a crowded store, “no, no — very, very big” as you hold a dress up to your body in the mirror.’
Though she attempted to try on clothes in department stores, she said it was hard to find places that carried her size.
‘In the U.S. I fit very comfortably into a medium-size shirt; in Korea I was always an extra-large. Always.
‘And though I understand the system of sizing is different in every country, the fact that clothes bigger than a U.S. medium were mostly unavailable means even larger Koreans can have a really hard time finding things to wear.’
In a bid to change their looks, 20per cent of women between the ages of 19 and 49 in Seoul, the country’s capital city, admitted they had gone under the knife.
According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, the most popular surgical procedures include double eyelid surgery, lipoplasty – which uses high-frequency sound waves to eliminate fat – and nose jobs.
I think South Korea has a very rigorous and narrow definition of beauty because we’re an ethnically homogenous society and everyone looks pretty much the same, said Joo Kwon, the founder of JK Plastic Surgery Center – one of the country’s largest clinics.
Tired of living in a culture she ‘literally couldn’t fit into,’ Miss Perez said that she eventually had had enough of ‘getting looks of disgust from strangers if I walked two blocks from the gym to my apartment in my workout clothes,’ and was ‘sick of feeling of ugly in a country that was once home to my ancestors.’
Before she decided to sever her teaching contract and return to America, Miss Perez, who felt that she ‘couldn’t be beautiful or fully accepted as Korean because [she] had fallen short of mainstream Korea’s unattainable beauty standards,’ said she tried to dissuade her forth-graders from falling into the same beauty-standard traps.
But in the end, Miss Perez said that her attempts were futile.
‘When I told my students they were all beautiful on the inside, I was met with nothing but blank stares. Eventually I realized they couldn’t understand what I was saying, they had no idea what “inner beauty” even meant.’
Soul crushing: For Miss Perez (pictured), the emphasis on appearance was so overwhelming that she decided move back to America
BEFORE AND AFTER PHOTOS OF DOUBLE EYE-LID SURGERY
Beauty standards: An advertisement in a Seoul subway encourages women to have double-jaw surgery in order to have a smaller, more ‘delicate’ face shape