Unlike many of my other color analyst colleagues, my first exposure to Personal Color was through a Korean TV talk show that I watched when I was in high school. I am a Korean immigrant who spent most of her summer breaks in Korea, and it was during one of these summers that I stumbled upon Personal Color while flipping through the channels. It was an entertainment and beauty channel geared toward teen and young adult women that covered celebrity scandals, music video and lifestyle product reviews. It showed a professional makeup artist demonstrating the effects of wearing warm vs. cool foundation on models that were present and articulated that the effects can be summed up by Personal Color. She also said something along the lines of, “you can be warm-toned or cool-toned.”
You see, I had spent all my time thinking that all Asians were warm-toned because we were “yellow,” and that me looking terrible in warm-toned foundations was somehow my fault. I decided that I would widen my possibilities for foundations and was very happy with my high school decision.
I vaguely knew that Personal Color was a commercially thriving industry in Korea...
When Personal Color was reintroduced to me through a need to look great in my new professional life, I stuck to English sources in my online research as my proficiency level for Korean is much lower. I understand and speak enough conversational Korean that people assume that I am Korean but participating in reading and writing would expose my overseas upbringing.
Soon after my training with 12 Blueprints, I took a trip to South Korea and I became curious about what the Korean counterpart had in store. I went to instagram and searched #퍼스널컬러 (Korean for “Personal Color”). And the top posts were gorgeous! I clicked to see more and it was a Personal Color Consultant who was also a photographer. I wanted to be photographed by her and experience a Korean draping process. I vaguely knew that Personal Color was a commercially thriving industry in Korea and trusted that the Korean perfectionist culture of work would yield thorough technical draping for Personal Color. Oh, how wrong I was.
The draping experience was very disappointing. There was no controlled lighting or neutral color environment. The draping process was very short, around 20 minutes, with no systematic reason as to why certain drapes were used and others weren’t. I received no explanation as to why certain decisions were being made, despite questions. At the end of the session, she declared me a Soft Summer whose best colors were white, black, icy pink, burgundy, and dark navy blue (The color choices themselves were a definitive sign that I can’t be a Summer). I supposed that this mishap was alright since I had come primarily for the photographs anyway.
When I received the finished photos from her, I was heartbroken. I almost didn’t want anyone to see them.
The photoshoot itself was a fun experience. It was my first model-esque photoshoot which included getting my hair and makeup done by professionals. It was thrilling to have a professional photographer along with large cameras and lights focused on me. The problem came as I saw the Lightroom and Photoshop alterations. To see the original image of me warp into muted colors and much smaller chin and cheekbones was incredibly off-putting. I tried to convey my concerns, again and again. “I don’t like how my hair color is so altered that it’s brown, instead of black like in real life.” “Can you keep my chin and cheekbones as natural as possible?” “My skin here looks so washed out. Can you preserve my actual skin tone?” She did seem to make very minor adjustments based on what I said but it remained fake looking. Plus, I could tell that she was becoming more and more uncomfortable with my requests. I gave up and accepted the type of photos that I would be getting from her.
When I received the finished photos from her, I was heartbroken. I almost didn’t want anyone to see them. The pictures of “me” instilled insecurity and shame in my own face: the image was beautiful but unreal. Even my husband told me in a concerned voice, “It doesn’t really look like you.” It was a typical K-Beauty face whose proportions can only be achieved through plastic surgery. I felt stuck. On one hand, these photos that were expensive, contained the labor of three professionals (photographer, makeup artist and hairstylist) and admittedly beautiful. On the other hand, I hated them, went against my values and weren’t accurate. But they were professional photos of me in a suit and resigned myself to using them for professional uses. I thought to myself, “If only I could get another photoshoot where I could do things right…”
A few months later, when I came back to the States, I was lucky to be photographed by a friend who is a professional photographer. She volunteered to be a color model for me and offered to do a simple photoshoot of me in her Los Angeles home. This time, I decided not to leave it to chance. I used my knowledge of my true personal color season: Bright Winter. I focused on the luminescence of my skin through my own Bright Winter makeup, clothing and accessories. I was much happier with the results despite the fact that these photos did not have the help of makeup artists or hair stylists. In these more recent photos, I looked like me: the authentic me that I can recognize everyday in my bathroom mirror. Second, I truly believe that I look more beautiful, vibrant and confident. My facial features and overall energy are focused and clear. There is an added presence to my image by staying true to my personal color season of Bright Winter without photo manipulation. Now I only have pride when I look at the photos from this photoshoot and I’m happy that they could be used to represent both me and my brand authentically.
By Michelle Boni
Written on September 3, 2020
Written on September 3, 2020