All posts by Shelly Hacco

A Critique of Today’s Modeling Industry and Representation

By Tanya Chen

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

As the proverb goes, “beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.” However, I’ve noticed that throughout American history, “the beholder” has always been the white majority. With past beliefs playing a powerful role in informing modern-day views and practices, America’s deep-rooted struggle with racism has had a detrimental effect on society’s idea of beauty. When I look to models and influencers who are regarded as “beautiful,” very rarely do I see any representation that looks like myself. In this article, I will discuss the origins of white beauty standards and the subsequent effects that they hold on modern-day beauty standards in the modeling industry.

As a field with the sole purpose of generating revenue for large corporations by selling new trends and products to consumers, the modeling industry has to maintain its exclusive and posh appearance through glamorous models in order to appeal to the American audience. The aesthetics and appearances of the models set unrealistic expectations for ordinary women who feel pressured to look a certain way. These models often have Eurocentric facial features and have light skin. The modeling industry is the most prominent example of how corporations have internalized white beauty standards to sell their products. 

Photo by Pete Pedroza on Unsplash

The modeling industry is known to pull inspiration from and appropriate Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) culture through music and visuals used for shows, hairstyles, and even skin tones. Cultural appropriation is when people from a dominant culture take aspects of the culture of a marginalized group that has been historically devalued, and divorce those aspects from their original meaning. They then use what they took from that culture for entertainment value (such as in fashion). For example, cornrows and dreadlocks have historically been challenging for Black women to wear confidently because of how society has negatively viewed them, but some white celebrities have been seen wearing them. This double standard and example of cultural appropriation show how the modeling industry views BIPOC people as unworthy of respect, despite capitalizing off of their culture. 

By utilizing other cultures to their own advantage, one would imagine that the industry would be willing to give proper representation to BIPOC models and their identities. However, the industry still refuses to hire more than a few BIPOC models per show. While the industry views BIPOC culture as something that they can appropriate, they don’t view these models as worthy enough to represent the idea of beauty and glamour that they perpetuate. When questioned about this, many of the shows’ executives claim that BIPOC models don’t fit their creative vision or intended audience. BIPOC models are told by the industry that their features and personas don’t fit what America considers beautiful. The modeling industry’s treatment towards these identities and appearances shows that they only recognize BIPOC culture when it is beneficial and there is money to be made off of it. 

Photo by Highlight ID on Unsplash

In today’s society, many other industries have the same problematic values, such as the film and music industry. They choose to capitalize off of BIPOC culture when it fits their capitalistic agenda. BIPOC cultures are more than just an aesthetic experience. This is a problem that has resulted in BIPOC people experiencing continued hardships. A failure to recognize this shows how the modeling industry is a flawed system that fails to serve as a proper example to women everywhere what the standard of beauty should be. 

Tanya is a rising senior studying Business Administration. She is from Southern California and enjoys taking advantage of the SoCal beaches. After teaching Mandarin to kids in underprivileged communities, she realized she had a strong passion for social work. On campus, she is involved with LA Community Impact and is a Marshall Research Assistant. In her free time she enjoys watching film analysis videos, designing graphics, and playing with her dog, Mochi.

My Comfort Language

By Chloe Ahn

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

Language plays an incredibly important role in forming connections with other people. This may seem like an obvious statement. To communicate with someone else, you need to have a shared language. However, not all languages hold the same weight in a conversation.

A person’s first language is not always the one they may prefer to use when creating a bond with a new person. This is especially true for bilingual speakers who grew up speaking more than one language. Although these types of speakers may have a dominant language that they tend to use in more day to day interactions, this does not mean that it is the language that they like to speak the most when it comes to socializing. In addition, they may have a certain language that they associate with certain people or places.

Photo by Sava Bobov on Unsplash

Growing up in predominantly white neighborhoods, I never really had the opportunity to use Korean outside of my home and as one of the few Korean students in my high school, I didn’t have any reason to use it with my friends either. Though I spoke mostly Korean with my parents, I had developed a habit of using English with them when we left the house because I had had negative experiences with speaking Korean in public. I would constantly get weird stares or the occasional dirty look from people who did not speak Korean. Eventually, I started to feel embarrassed using Korean with my mom or dad and stopped doing so.

This mindset changed with the onset of the pandemic. Since I was home all of the time, I began to use Korean more often than English. During winter break of my freshman year, I visited my grandparents in South Korea and was able to spend a lot of time with them. My negative associations with using Korean in public disappeared and I started to connect more positive ideas with the language. Korean is the language of my culture. It is the language that I use with the people I love the most. It is the language that allows me to spend quality time with my grandparents and other relatives who I do not get to see often because of the distance between us.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

With this new perspective, I came to campus at USC for the first time this past fall semester. For the first time I had the chance to interact with and meet people who had the same cultural background as I did. I joined the Korean American Student Association (KASA) with the hopes of making new friends and was successful. Many of the close friends that I have today are people that I met through KASA.

That being said, not all of my friends are Korean and I do not think that you have to be the same ethnicity in order to form close connections with people. Rather, being able to speak Korean with the friends that I made in KASA helped me to open up to them sooner because of the associations I have with the language and my family. Having come from the East Coast, I was worried about feeling homesick and missing my parents and sister, but making these friends and being able to use Korean more in my daily conversations with them gave me a sense of comfort and was a reminder of home. Sometimes, you find comfort in a language other than the one that you speak most often, and it becomes a great way to form deeper bonds with others.

Featured Image by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

 Chloe is a rising junior studying Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the Keck School of Medicine with a minor in Business. She was born in South Korea but grew up in New Jersey. Aside from English, Chloe is conversationally fluent in Korean and is learning Spanish. Her involvements on campus include Dear Asian Youth, International Student Assembly, Innovative Design, and the Korean American Student Association. In her free time, Chloe enjoys watching movies, going shopping, hiking, and listening to music.

My Experience Spending the Night at the Airport

By Matthew Kim

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

Back in April 2021, I was a high school senior still deciding where to go to college. At that point, I was pretty committed on attending USC, but I wanted to visit my other potential options so I could be 100% sure in my decision. One of the other colleges that I was considering attending was UC Berkeley, so I decided to take a day to visit their campus.

Photo by Jeremy Huang on Unsplash

I left on the first flight out of LAX one morning and was planning to catch the red eye out of SFO on the way back. I spent the whole day exploring Berkeley and San Francisco; my day was filled with eating amazing food and desserts. I was thoroughly enjoying my day, exploring campus and enjoying the nice weather. That is, I was enjoying myself until it was time to go back. I constantly checked my phone the whole evening to ensure I had enough time to make it back to my flight, but honestly, I was too lenient with myself. By the time I was on the bus back to SFO, I realized about fifty minutes before my flight that the only way I had a remote chance to make it was with an uber. So, I got off the bus at the first top I could and called an Uber. I rushed to the airport, and arrived about five minutes before my flight was set to depart. However, when I got there the receptionist told me my flight had departed about ten minutes ago. I was stunned because I thought I had already checked in for the flight, but the receptionist insisted I hadn’t. There wasn’t anything I could do about the situation, so my only option was to catch the next flight in the morning. I paid the rescheduling fee and prepared for my night at the airport.

Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash

As I walked through the terminal, I noticed that many shops and restaurants were already closed. I knew that I would have to get as many essential items as I could before the rest of the airport closed for the night. The first thing I did was get food and drinks so I wouldn’t be stranded without something to snack on. I decided on getting a sandwich from Starbucks for dinner. I also got water and a Naked smoothie drink to make sure I stayed hydrated for the night. If you ever have to stay at the airport overnight or for a long period of time, I highly recommend stocking up on food and drinks for the night because it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. I would hate to be hungry or dehydrated while waiting uncomfortably for my flight all night. The second thing I did was get toiletries, such as a toothbrush and toothpaste. After these two steps, I found a nice place to sit down that was near an outlet to charge my devices. The rest of my night was filled with watching a show called The League, and numerous poor attempts to get some sleep. If I was put in another situation that required me to spend the night at the airport, I would’ve invested in some melatonin or a sleep aid if the airport shops had it. 

Continue reading My Experience Spending the Night at the Airport