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Getting real: online beauty standards and finding your voice

Join the Dove Self-Esteem Project and Refinery29 for The Confidence Code – our three-part series where youth leaders and their moms get real about growing up on social media and self-esteem. Read moving conversations between our mother-daughter dream teams as they talk about beauty standards and building confidence by finding your voice online.

Dove Getting real online beauty standards and finding your voice
Han Na and her mom, Ae Jin, discussed beauty standards, cultural expectations and building confidence by finding your voice online.

In today’s digital world, it might seem like we’re a million miles away from the era of glossy magazines showcasing photoshopped bodies and flawless, airbrushed skin. But, social media sets unrealistic beauty standards too. Now, with filters and digital distortion apps available at our fingertips, young people are seeing the same kind of unrealistic ideals on their feeds – and feeling the same pressure when they’re scrolling. 

Alongside Refinery29 and our three mother-daughter duos, we’re building confidence and self-esteem through The Confidence Code. Together, we want to empower young people with body confidence, self-esteem and self-love – so they can be positive role models and inspire generations to come. Next up, PhD student and body-positive model Han Na Shin sits down with her mom, Ae Jin for a candid conversation about  beauty stereotypes, body shaming, and rebuilding confidence by creating a community online. Read on to hear her speak openly about her experiences emigrating from Korea, growing up in an immigrant household and how the notion of ‘The American Dream’ impacted her self-esteem and confidence. 

Hear our mother-daughter dream team chat about breaking beauty standards, cultural expectations and building confidence by finding your voice online below.


Han Na: “Growing up in a Korean American household, I was very influenced by Korean culture. Body image is a big deal in East Asian culture, like being pale, having big eyes, and a sharp jaw. A lot of people, even my close friends, get procedures done for high school graduations to look a certain way — more like Western beauty standards.”

Ae Jin: America and Korea are so different. We immigrated to the States when you were three, when your dad was in the military and I was a nurse. The whole notion of the “American Dream” really sticks with you as an immigrant, and for me, it was all about choosing a better life for you.

Ae Jin: “I never thought to limit your access to the internet. I knew you could handle your own limit and wouldn’t lose sleep staying up all night online.”

Han Na: “I remember when AIM [AOL Instant Messenger] came out in middle school and became the new mode of communicating with friends. In sixth grade, we were all going through puberty, and two girls — who at the time I thought were my friends — would make fun of me online and say, “You’re fat.” That took a really big toll on me emotionally.”

Ae Jin: “If we had money growing up, I definitely would have sent you to art school, since you were always so creative growing up. That is something I regret, not being able to help you pursue your interest in the arts. But, as an immigrant, I wanted you to get a licensed job — say, a doctor or a lawyer — to make money. I still think of modeling as an internship or part-time job for you, not a full-time career, since I’m not a big fan of you having to wait for others to hire you. But, I’m excited that you’re able to take part in it, because it's something that you want to do”

Han Na: “You’re being a tough mother right now, but I know you’re proud [laughs]. Really though, these past couple years have been the best of my life. I had never been to L.A. before, then all of the sudden, I would be in L.A. for a job. And the money compared to my graduate school stipend is out of this world. To some extent, I’m able to support my parents. In East Asian cultures, you gift your first job stipend to your parents — and that’s what I did after my first modeling gig. It’s a way of me being able to give something back. Modeling has been really good for my confidence in many ways. I would've never imagined making friends or finding a sense of community in this industry — specifically for Asian American woman who look like me and have similar body types as I do.”

Ae Jin: “Is there any advice you have for young girls growing up on social media right now?”

Han Na: “I really want the best for people online, specifically when it comes to online harassment, as someone who was cyberbullied herself. I suppose, be careful of what channels you use and who you communicate with. Take everything with a grain of salt. Because, like we said before, everything you see online is not real. Try not to compare yourself to other women you see online living a “better life” — because that might not be the case. Basically, stay safe, enjoy social media in a way that makes you happy, and find a community if you can, because that, for me, has been the best part about it all.”

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