Learning to Love My Vietnamese Nose

My experience of being mixed race and growing up surrounded by different beauty standards
Jun. 23, 2020
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Cherie is an online community of beauty lovers sharing their stories; whether that's their favorite products, makeup tutorials, or skincare routines. Download the app today to be a part of #BeautyWithoutBarriers and show the world what beauty means to you!My mom has always told me that having a big nose was lucky, that it would bring wealth and prosperity into my life. But little girls don’t really care about being wealthy or prosperous; I was more focused on how my classmates would make fun of my big nose. I remember one instance, when I was 11 years old, very clearly. A boy in my class called me “Big Nose,” instead of by name. At first I didn’t realize he was speaking to me, until he stepped up to me and said “Big Nose,” right to my face. At that moment I felt hyper-aware of that one facial feature, and it wasn’t a pleasant feeling. The worst part was that he was also Vietnamese. That even for children, Eurocentric beauty standards had become so powerful that another Vietnamese boy looked at my nose and saw it as ugly. How I grew to embrace every facet of my multicultural identityIn the more than two decades I’ve been alive, I would guess that I’ve spent hundreds of hours staring at my nose, pinching it to see what I would look like with a smaller and less offensive nose in the middle of my face. Being mixed race — Vietnamese on my mother’s side and Belgian on my father’s side — presented an even bigger challenge for me to come to terms with the cultures and beauty standards around me. America is known as the great melting pot of diversity, but growing up with different ideas of what it meant to be beautiful showed me that this wasn’t as great as it seemed. Even when I started going to a school with more Asian people, where I met other mixed-race people like myself, it felt like the melting pot was less about celebrating diversity and more about making anything “other” conform to white American ideals of beauty.
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Grappling with my internal conflict about what it meant to be beautiful felt so shallow, almost shameful, that I was embarrassed to talk to my mixed-race friends about it; looking back, I’m certain that they felt the same way, that we could have helped each other. It wasn’t until I went to college and met a bigger community of other Vietnamese and Southeast Asian people that I realized I’m not just “half” anything: I’m a whole person who is Vietnamese, Belgian, and American. This fundamentally changed not only how I viewed my heritage but also how I viewed myself in the mirror. I looked at my wide, round nose and in it I saw history, pride, and a culture that should be celebrated for what it is, not what it “should” be.
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And now, even if someone offered me a free rhinoplasty with the best cosmetic surgeon in South Korea, I know I’d turn them down. I can’t imagine having a nose that isn’t mine on my face. And I don’t want to risk the chance that I’d lose out on all that wealth and prosperity my mom promised would come.
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