Constance Wu is standing up against Asian beauty stereotypes. The 35-year-old actress, who is frequently a pioneer for Asian and Asian-American representation in Hollywood, is switching gears and speaking out on the dangers of skin-lightening creams and the harmful standard the Asian beauty industry often perpetuates.
In an essay for Allure, Wu revealed that she recently traveled to Singapore and Malaysia to shoot her upcoming film, “Crazy Rich Asians.” There, she said she came across multiple skin-care stores advertising skin-lightening products, such as creams and lotions. When she entered these stores, she revealed that she would often be urged by employees to buy skin-lightening products to “whiten” her skin and fade her natural freckles.
According to Wu, the Asian culture’s frequent preference for lighter skin stems from an age-old stigma associating dark skin with working-class field laborers. “I’d go into skin-care stores, and there would be all these skin-whitening products. The salesgirls would push whitening products on me and try to fade my freckles,” she wrote. “This comes from an old Asian cultural idea that dark skin signifies being in the fields and working-class.”
Coming from a family of “Chinese bamboo farmers, Wu isn’t one to deny her heritage. Not only did Wu condemn skin-lightening products, but she also spoke out on why she has no intention of changing her natural features.
“I’m an American, and Americans are proud of our working-class roots. It signifies our heritage, and that’s not something to hide,” she wrote. “I’m not a white translucent tulip. I’m the granddaughter of Chinese bamboo farmers, the daughter of immigrants, the sister of an ultramarathoner (who runs for hours…in the sun!), and an American. I like my freckles and my natural skin color. It’s who I am.”
The “Fresh Off the Boat” actress also opened up about the insecurities she used to have with her small breasts, and how people often told her, “Real women have curves.” The experience, which also included body-shaming for her height and weight, led Wu wear padded bras to look more like the women she saw in billboards, magazines, and TV shows. “When you’re a teenager, you take cues from your environment to find the metrics of how a culture measures a woman’s worth,” she wrote. “And I saw billboards, magazines, TV shows that all equated breasts with beauty.
It wasn’t until later in life that Wu embraced her small breasts, and realized that, no matter what a woman’s body looks like, she will always be a real woman. “Learning to be proud of my flat chest, to stop wearing padded bras—it was a real milestone for me,” she wrote. “Of course curvy women are real women. But small, short women are real, too. In fact, there is no part of your anatomy, be it breasts or genitalia, that makes you a real woman. Trans women are real women. Being a woman is something you know in your soul, not something [dictated by] your body type.”