I grew up in Los Angeles with a family of Korean immigrants. There was (and still is) a distinct divide between the ideal beauty in Korean culture and American culture. Korean ideals centered around jet-black sleek hair, small face, light skin tone, V-shaped chin, gentle “adorable” features and puppy eyes, whereas I felt the American ideal was essentially Barbie: blonde, tanned, sculpted facial features, and plump lips. Growing up, it was interesting to see which of my friends would go blonde and/or permanently straighten their hair (and I was no exception; I bleached my hair platinum blonde at one point. I got a Magic Straight permanent perm at another point in my life).
Did I want to be more Korean or more American? Did it mean I valued one culture over the other? Can I do both?
In my teens, I struggled to find my own home or identity between these two ideals. Did I want to be more Korean or more American? Did it mean I valued one culture over the other? Can I do both? As I grew older, it dawned on me that both of these ideals were incredibly difficult to achieve for most women. More questions arose, such as: Would I even look good by following these ideals? Why are these ideals so narrow? And if it’s going to be narrow, why is it the version that’s so difficult to achieve? There was so much frustration and confusion.
I began to understand that both of these ideals and other fashion trends are arbitrary in how they relate to most women. Despite the abundance of plainly beautiful women in my life, almost all women do not satisfy these specific beauty ideals nor the “it” look of the year. They were alluringly beautiful in a different way. I was very aware of how these arbitrary and very limited beauty standards created needless shame in my beautiful friends and this shapes my philosophy to this day. I needed the definitions of beauty to be different. And I needed to know that you can succeed in being beautiful without subscribing to these strict beauty standards.
This was further complicated by being an Asian American who was trying to find a foundation for herself as a teen. I picked out warm-tone foundations because the general consensus was that Asians are warm since we are more “yellow.” I picked a shade based on the knowledge that I wasn’t the palest even though I was in the fair to fair-medium range. But everytime, it did not look right. I just chalked it up to my skin being very strange and maybe the fact that I was a minority didn’t help either.
But this experience proved to be so crucial. While I was in Korea for summer break, I was flipping through TV channels, I stumbled upon a talk show centered around cosmetics and they were discussing personal color and how to tell if you were warm or cool toned by looking at your wrist (the incorrect technique of wrist checking for undertone is global!). I was stunned at how they were positing that it’s possible to be a cool-toned Asian (back in the mid-2000s, this was radical information to most). I immediately thought, “OMG, maybe I’m a cool-tone Asian!” I happily decided to not be constrained by warm-toned makeup products and left it at that.
Most of my time and energy was consumed by activities for college and career prep. I majored in Economics at the University of Southern California and entered the realm of international business in Dubai. I worked as a manager at a food and beverage trading company with a conservative business formal dress code. It was fascinating to see yet another beauty standard that exists powerfully in the Middle East. In talking to women there, I found that so many concerns surrounding beauty were so universal and perhaps even more poignant. A place where vanity is publicly frowned upon but where beauty is even more crucial due to lack of women’s rights. It opened my eyes to think of beauty with a fresh appreciation for its complexity.
I returned to LA to continue my education and career. In that time, I married and started my tech startup job that I was thrilled to have. In a way, it was the most abundant time of my life and that’s when my interest for personal color flourished. The tech company had a business casual dress code compared to the formal business wear that I was accustomed to. I found business casual dress much more difficult.
I couldn’t hide under the uniform of stuffy dry business suits. So you gotta bring your own style into it and still look professional? And in this context, what does professional even mean? It means looking trustworthy and well put-together and competent while expressing your individual taste and style. Damn, if that’s not a tall order, I don’t know what is.
There were many practical concerns that I had with my professional presentation at a business casual setting: correct foundation and lipstick along with what to wear other than black blouses with jeans. I knew that there must be a well considered and thoroughly documented system that can articulate the answers that I was looking for. I remembered the short Korean talk show that I watched on personal color as a system that could be holding all the answers to these concerns.
I plunged into personal color analysis research online and I quickly found Christine of 12 Blueprints. As my research into color as its own subject matter deepened, I was so pleasantly surprised by the wealth of information and became enamored by its systematic approach of the SciART method and talked about it with anyone who would listen to me. Diving into the history of color theory concerning Albert Munsell and Johannes Itten, I found out about color’s fundamental relationships to our psychology, and its adherence to mathematical principles. What I loved most was learning that people’s character became more rich while wearing their correct colors. The distractions fade to let the person shine to enhance even their personal relationships. The excitement of maybe finding a home that I couldn’t find in either of the American or Korean beauty ideals was real.
Not much time after that, David got a job in Portland, Oregon so I quit my job due to the move.
And Things Just Clicked.
Somehow, I found the courage to leave my career entirely so that I can devote my time helping others to find their own home or sense of belonging with their appearance. I entered my training, braced for a life-changing experience and it surpassed my expectations. Christine was more personable and dependable yet direct and practical than I had imagined. I connected with her immediately despite our age difference and could see that she truly cared for the success of her students and would answer questions even before I could find the words for them.
The experience of seeing everyday color models transform into other-worldly fairies and otherwise appear before me with the fullness of their humanity with the help of only drapes is jaw dropping. For example, I could see the person’s particular style of leadership and care that he gives to people in his life when we became settled on his season. I could see another’s empathy and thoughtfulness be unveiled when we discovered her season. Part of the training also involved getting draped myself to find my own season, which is detailed in my blog here. The amount of knowledge I gained each day was enough to make my head spin, but leave me so excited and giddy that I could barely sleep due to the daily improvements.
After the training, I eventually relocated to Florida. I live in Sanford, a quiet suburb in Central Florida with my husband David Boni and a growing squadron of houseplants. Sanford is approximately 30 minutes away from the bustle of tourist-heavy Orlando, Florida and Daytona Beach, Florida; and two hours away from Tampa, Florida. It is a historic city centered around Lake Monroe and St. Johns River with its charming downtown, and in my spare time I like to walk along the lake and take in the majestic cloud paintings that sunsets create.
I’m happy to provide accurate personal color analysis consultations by bringing all my life experiences that blessed me with insight to the workings of how beauty impacts any human being.
By Michelle Boni
Written on Nov 11, 2020
Written on Nov 11, 2020