5 min read
It’s Deeper Than Skin™
It’s Deeper Than Skin™ is a compilation of interviews featuring diverse multicultural individuals each carrying unique aspirations and desires yet bound by a common passion to create a more joyful, diverse and inclusive space for us all. They inspire, empower and help transform the way we think and feel about beauty, culture, ancient traditions, diversity, mental health, societal standards and more. Through these multifaceted lenses, we learn to celebrate our uniqueness and are reminded once again that our beauty is deeper than skin.
Content creator, Activist and PhD candidate Bekah Sun (@bekah_sun) is not your typical beauty influencer. She was one of the first in the online beauty community to raise her voice against anti-asian racism in the wake of the Atlanta spa murders, after which a slew of others followed. We caught up with Bekah as she shares her thoughts on beauty, her skincare ritual and Asian representation in the beauty industry.
Sachi Skin: Tell us a little bit about yourself?
Bekah: I’m a digital creator and a PhD Candidate working in Asian American Studies, American Studies, gender and sexuality studies, and cultural studies. My academic work engages questions of empire, militarism, indigeneity, and cultural production. I try to bring this framework to my digital creation. While I love beauty products and can gush them for hours on end, I am also interested in interrogating beauty culture and its formations.
Sachi Skin: What inspired you to join the online skincare community?
Bekah: I followed many bloggers and creators (like you, Farah!) for years, and I loved the interesting and critical conversations about beauty and beauty culture happening among smaller creators. I felt a connection with other beauty enthusiasts and critics. There are so many meaningful conversations about beauty happening in these spaces, and I wanted to be a part of that dialogue.
Sachi Skin: What is your current skincare ritual?
Bekah: My current favorite ritual is using a wash-off mask while I take a bubble bath and read. My current favorite mask is the I’m From Honey Mask, a delicious experience! It’s my favorite way to unwind at the end of the day.
Although I’m always testing new products, my skincare steps generally involve double cleansing, treatment (BHA, retinoids, or pigment correctors), hydrating toners and serums, and lightweight creams, and SPF.
Sachi Skin: Do you have a favourite Sachi Skin product?
Bekah: So tough to pick just one! My favorite (American spelling here!) Sachi Skin Product is probably my first love and your first product, the Triphala Pigmentation Corrector. It is efficacious, gentle, and so unique in its ability to tackle pigmentation without the use of traditional actives. My skin is very stubborn when it comes to pigmentation, and I have seen a visible improvement with TPC. I also see so much of the brand identity in this product – the use of ayurvedic ingredients in such an elegant formulation. I love that about Triphala. It tells a story.
Sachi Skin: We love the wide variety of makeup looks on your IG feed - where do you get your inspiration from? What is your go-to makeup routine?
Bekah: When I’m creating content, I channel all my alter-egos. I love classic looks as much as I love the avant-garde. I find inspiration in everything: clothing, paintings, landscapes, films, books, poetry, someone I saw on the street, a memory. I grew up painting, so I love the tactile feeling of working with a visual medium. I’m also inspired by the medium itself: makeup is an ephemeral art form. You create it with the full knowledge that it is temporary. And there’s something very liberating about that ephemeral quality.
As an Asian American woman, I feel I can now embody all the styles and looks that were absent in popular culture when I was young. When I’m experimenting with makeup, I’m creating shapes and looks for the first time – looks I’ve never seen on a face like mine.
Sachi Skin: Has the pandemic changed the way you approach your skincare, makeup and self-care rituals?
Bekah: Absolutely. My skincare routine has remained mostly the same, but I wear far less makeup, simply because I’m not out and about nearly as much. I’ve learned to be more comfortable with a bare face, whereas before I always felt a little insecure or exposed with a bare face. It’s been freeing to feel comfortable without makeup. When I wear makeup now, it feels like an intentional choice, and not just an automatic part of my routine. Lastly, my bath routine is much more, let’s say, extensive. Bath salts, bubble bath, bath oils, body scrubs, body lotions – I’ve explored this category a lot. In fact, I’m working on a body care edit now!
Sachi Skin: Tell us a little more about the hashtag #sundaysix you created on Instagram.
Bekah: #sundaysix is a weekly hashtag series I started a little over a year ago. We share six things we enjoyed that week, of any category. And I mean it when I say any category. I’ve shared everything from beauty products to podcasts to sparkling water flavors to my favorite seamless underwear.
Since the conception of #sundaysix, dozens of people join in each week, sharing their #sundaysix in IG stories and posts. I repost as many as I can to increase visibility. It’s an engaging and interactive way to share and discover people’s weekly favorites. You can also tell when a product is trendy or beloved because it gets mentioned repeatedly. It’s an interesting way to keep my finger on the pulse.
Sachi Skin: What inspired this?
Bekah: I started the #sundaysix series in Instagram stories as an antithesis to the hyper-curated Instagram post. I was feeling a bit suffocated by the pressure to create uber-polished Instagram photos and videos. Don’t get me wrong, I love a beautiful Instagram post, but they take a lot of creative labor to produce. And, I wanted to share things I enjoyed off-the-cuff across all categories, and not just excluded to beauty.
It’s been very freeing as a creator to have a series that functions as a catch-all for my random favorites. If I enjoy something but can’t find a place for it on my IG feed or other socials, I know I can mention it in #sundaysix.
I also wanted to create something communal and participatory on my page. Anyone can join in on #sundaysix, even people who aren’t creators.
Sachi Skin: What does beauty mean to you?
Bekah: Beauty historically has functioned as a category of exclusion. Because beauty has been tied to social and cultural and material capital, to race and gender and sexuality, those without access have not been considered Beautiful. And yet, the Unbeautiful have persisted in making, practicing, and creating beauty.
Beauty as a practice of honoring the inherent value of those who have not historically been Beautiful – that space of possibility is where I find the most inspiration. The oppositional, the playful, the surprising, the unruly, the excessive, even the ugly.
Maybe that’s a broad and very abstract way of thinking about beauty, but I guess what I am trying to say is that beauty to me far exceeds the beauty industry. Beauty is art, and art is a path to other worlds.
“The beauty industry has so much power to dictate what is beautiful, and I’d love to see the industry embrace people of all abilities, genders, and expressions of sexuality, not only in marketing but also in practice.”
Sachi Skin: You once quoted "none of us are free until all of us are free" in your IG caption. What did you mean by this?
Bekah: This is a reference to Fannie Lou Hamer’s speech, “Nobody’s Free Until Everybody’s Free.” I draw on Fannie Lou Hamer’s words and the black radical tradition to think about freedom as a collective project. Freedom is not an individual goal or state of being. Rather, it is a collective process of seeking liberation for all. So in that sense, the work of freedom should center the most un-free among us.
I shared this in the wake of the uprisings last summer after the murder of George Floyd. It is not just a quote; it is also a literal call for freedom. It is a call for the abolition of prisons, policing, and the mass incarceration system.
Sachi Skin: At the beginning of this year, you took a strong stance on STOP ASIAN HATE and received great support from the beauty community. Do you feel that a significant impact has been made? How do you think the beauty industry can play a role in supporting this?
Bekah: I was very vocal about anti-Asian racism in the wake of the Atlanta spa murders in April 2021, and continue to be in my digital and academic work. I do think the Atlanta shootings were a turning point in which many non-Asian people became aware of the realities and violences of anti-Asian racism. However, racism is systemic and structural. It is not reducible to individual prejudices, a single violent event. It is rooted in empire, colonialism, wars past and ongoing, and exclusionary policies that continue to threaten the freedom and safety of Asian and other non-white peoples. The work is ongoing.
The beauty industry plays a role in this that is not insignificant. There have been many rallying cries for more Asian representation in the beauty industry and beyond. While representation is important, it’s not enough. I would call on the beauty industry to interrogate its marketing and domestic labor practices, alongside its entanglements in exploitative transnational labor practices, resource extraction, and the ongoing colonization and displacement of indigenous peoples.
Sachi Skin: If you could make one change happen in the beauty industry, what would it be?
Bekah: So much to say, but I’d love to see beauty become a less cis- and hetero-normative and able-bodied space. The beauty industry has so much power to dictate what is beautiful, and I’d love to see the industry embrace people of all abilities, genders, and expressions of sexuality, not only in marketing but also in practice.
Sachi Skin: I see you are now on YouTube how was it like to start a Youtube channel?
Bekah: Clearly, I have a lot to say, so I am loving the ability to create longform videos, without time limitations. I feel like I can be my full conversational self on camera, and when I film it’s like hanging out with friends. It’s required a lot of new skills, like setting up filming and video editing, but I’m excited to see what new forms my content can take. I’m just at the beginning of this journey.
Let's do some quick fire questions:
Coffee Tea or Neither?
Bekah: Coffee, a daily morning necessity. Tea throughout the day, especially in the winter.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
What are you currently watching on Netflix?
Bekah: I just finished watching The Chair, starring Sandra Oh. It’s about a Korean American professor who becomes the chair of the English Department. It’s satire, but at times it hit a little too close too home. I laughed and I cried.
What is on your current playlist?
Bekah: Olivia Rodrigo, Julien Baker, Megan Thee Stallion, Big Thief, Park Hye Jin.
Finish the sentence: I feel beautiful when...
Bekah: I feel seen by those who love me.
What is the best makeup advice you've ever received?
Bekah: It’s all temporary! Wear whatever the hell you want.