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ISSUE

10

embody FUNDED BY UF STUDENT GOVERNMENT


6

big appetite, little time

8

REDEFINING MASCULINITY

14 SACRED STRANDS 16 IT’S NOT A MATCH 18 DOUBLE STANDARDS 20 running on empty 22 NATURAL MASK 24 ON THE OF(FENCE) 26 HIJABI 32 BLOOD LINES

photo, cover/ROYCE ABELA, KEVIN HUYNH


dear reader, When we first set out to do this semester’s issue, we wanted to explore aspects of the Asian American physical appearance. (Think: fashion, sports and eating habits.) Our editorial board mulled over story ideas, weighed in on photography and design aspects and flipped back and forth between titles. Eventually, we settled on the aptly named theme “Embody.” But as my last issue as editor in chief, this year’s theme has grown to encompass more than just a simple editorial concept (which is still pretty cool), but speak volumes about Sparks as a whole. This year our magazine grew beyond its University of Florida barriers and joined hands with a larger portion of the Asian American body. From 2015 to 2016, Sparks officially became recognized under the UF’s Asian American Student Union, the University of Central Florida chapter gained even greater independence and our reignited online presence connected fellow Asian Americans, both in Florida and throughout the country. Staff members also became mentors, study buddies and roommates. And as someone who came to college completely disinterested with the Asian American cause, this publication kindled a personal embodiment of its values of combating Asian American prejudice. Though this issue retells stories of Asian masculinity, highlights the balance between hijabi fashion and religion and features the Filipino tradition of tattooing, know that the stories we tell are more than just words on a page: They are telling of the beliefs we hold and the progress that can be made. My hope is that you join us in that progress.

best regards, Cresonia Hsieh Editor-In-Chief


e-board

Antara Sinha Managing Editor • Rachel Lo Creative Director • Elena Chow Design Editor • Royce Abela Photography Editor • Anisha Dutt Content Editor • Xiaoxi Zheng Promotions Director • Bomyee Woo Promotions Director • Sally Greider Programming Director • John Agustin Finance Director • Rachel Fisher Secretary • Kevin Huynh Art Director • Nicole Dan Online Coordinator • Aimee Wasserman Assistant Programming Director

staff

Alyssa Ramos Writer • Ronan Galvez Photographer • Ashleigh Poole Photographer • Othelia Jumapao Writer • Rachel He Photographer • Ashley Williams Photographer• Alexandra Ng Writer • Howard Lin Writer • Yasmin Naji Photographer • Shreya Labh Designer • Cindy Wong Designer • Esther Olasoji Designer [Not pictured: Anisha Sinha Writer • Jennifer Wai Designer • Rakell Merci Writer]

ucf

Allison Miehl Executive Editor • Brittany Chen Writer • Gabe Cortese Photography Editor • Gabriella Alqueza Writer • Cara San Diego Designer • Jenny Le Writer • Justin Chu Photographer • Kevin Doan Photographer • Lauren Lee Designer • Maria Luisa Abon Designer • Minerva Moreno Design Editor • Beck Pitman Assistant Programming Director • Rikki Ocampos Programming Director • Thalia Su Managing Editor


big

appetite,

time

little

Nathan Figueroa finds a community in competitive eating by rakell merci

T

he timer is set, the challenge is ready, and there’s only one thought running through Nathan Figueroa’s mind: Leave no crumb behind. Eating challenges aren’t unfamiliar to the 28 year old. He’s eaten a 10-ounce burger, a carton of fries and a sevenlayer cake for the Kitchen Sink Challenge at Universal’s Hard Rock Hotel. He’s also scarfed down the Quadruple Bypass Burger, which is commprosed of four half-pound beef patties and eight slices of American cheese, at the Las Vegas Heart Attack Grill. “I’ve always had a pretty big appetite,” said the half Asian and half Puerto Rican American jokingly. Though competitive eating isn’t a full-time job, Figueroa said he 6 • EMBODY

uploads the eating challenges on his YouTube channel “natefiggs” when he has time. “I don’t do this every day,” Figueroa said. “I do this once or maybe twice a week, depending on what the contest is.” Though the cost of traveling can rack up, Figueroa exercises his sport by completing challenges at home or at local competitions. “The cool thing about it - about this - I’ve met some really awesome people. I’ve met Matt Stonie, Miki Sudo… really cool people,” he said. Matt “Megatoad” Stonie is the current Major League Eating (MLE) champion, and Miki Sudo is the top female champion. MLE gathers the top competitive eaters to race to eat as much as they can under a

set time limit. A goal for most competitive eaters is to join the big leagues and compete against the best eaters of the world. Four of the top 10 eaters: Matt Stonie, Miki Sudo, Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas and “The Lovely” Juliet Lee are also Asian American. Despite the prevalence of Asian Americans in the MLE, Figueroa said that he doesn’t think his culture or ethnicity has anything to do with it. “Here’s the thing, I don’t have a high metabolism,” Figueroa said. “The reason why I don’t blow up like a balloon is because I work it off. I literally have to work my ass off to keep my weight maintained without me adding extra pounds to my body.” Figueroa also said he doesn’t

believe his culture plays a role in his competitive eating abilities, but he was intrigued by the theory. “I understand what you are saying,” Figueroa said. “There’s something about Asian (American) eating…. Miki has a crazy capacity. It’s kind of weird. I didn’t even think about till now,” Figueroa said. According to him, fitness is a must for competitive eaters. “If you look at most competitive eaters, if you see the best competitive eaters in the world, you’ll see that they’re in shape or at least not overweight.” According to University of Florida food and science professor Laura Acosta, there are some serious risks associated with competitive eating.


“Obviously, the first one would be weight gain, if done on a regular basis,” Acosta said. “There have been some incidents where people vomited, and there have been rare cases of people choking to death.” According to her, training for a competitive eating challenge could stop the digestive system’s ability to contract. “You could end up with gastroparesis, where the food just sits in the stomach and doesn’t move along,” Acosta said. “That is absolutely a longterm risk.”

(there’s a) much less likely chance these long-term risks will happen compared to someone who does this as a sport or trains for it,” Acosta said.

point, their muscles are going to be screaming at them,” the professor said. “But they push themselves to keep going, keep going, be faster than the next person.”

Figueroa doesn’t deny this risk.

Figueroa said that this struggle is familiar to him.

“It’s obviously not a healthy thing, especially if you are doing it on a consistent basis,” he said. “The way I picture it, I give my body a break from challenge to challenge, contest to contest, so I am OK. I haven’t had any crazy side effects from it.

But she said that the frequency of competitive eating makes a difference.

UF psychology professor Neil Rowland said that, like other competitive sports, competitive eating has more than just physical struggles.

“If somebody does this once,

“Like running a race, at some

“The brain has a good way in telling you it’s disgusting,“ he said. “And it becomes a struggle to complete (the challenge).” But the obstacles haven’t stopped him from uploading new eating challenges every week on his YouTube channel. “I actually do enjoy the food challenges. The only food I don’t really like is pickles,” he said, laughing. For him, the sport is all about

the journey. “I have no idea (the outcome), but I am just playing it by ear, day by day,” he said. Figueroa said that he would like to enter a MLE competition with the best eaters, like Stonie and Sudo. “I love the people who compete,” he said. “And I would have not met these amazing people if I wasn’t doing this weird adventure.” His reasons for this “weird adventure” are simple, but significant. “The minority of people don’t eat like competitive eaters, and I like being different than other people. It’s fun,” he said. “Be different.” all photos/COURTESY OF NATHAN FIGUEROA

have “ Itoliterally work my ass off to keep my weight maintained without me adding extra pounds to my body.”


photos/ROYCE ABELA stylist/KEVIN HUYNH assistant/JOEY GONZALEZ models/HAE-YANG CHANG, HOWARD LIN, RAHEEJ CHOUDHARY collection/JOYCE PILARSKY


MASCULINITY Asian American men defy conventional Eurocentric masculinity by alexandra Ng

S

weat drips down his chiseled jawline as he flexes his muscles and lifts weights. He knows that after he finishes at the gym, he must go to the bar, discuss football with his “bros,” check out girls at the bar and eat his body weight’s worth in meat - all while hiding his inner feelings rather than openly talking about them. This image of conventional manliness has pervaded society through a variety of platforms in modern American media. Whether advertisements show clean-cut men attracting the attention of all the ladies because of a certain “manly” cologne, or halfnaked models showing off Calvin Klein boxer briefs, this notion of male masculinity centers around a Eurocentric ideal—that to be considered handsome, one must be buff and Caucasian. Meanwhile, Asian American masculinity is often toned down and quasi-feminized in the media. This, of course, ignores the growing minority’s ability to redefine what it means to be masculine, said University of Florida political science professor Samuel Stafford, who teaches a course on ethnic migration.

“The femininity or background placement of minorities is to reduce the obvious perception of threat,” he said. Such a threat, according to Stafford, reflects the idea that within the next few centuries, the complexion and culture of this country is going to change. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as “the browning of America.”

want Asian men to seem masculine and strong, so it would make white men look better,” Yang said. “That’s when Asian American men began to be seen as more effeminate and emasculated so they would seem weak. Femininity was attached to certain things like drinking tea, doing yoga or listening to classical music, so if you did any of these things, people would consider you feminine.”

According to this theory, the rising population of different ethnic groups will eclipse the traditional “American Caucasian” person, and challenges the status quo.

However, with the increase of diversity awareness, the issue of underrepresentation of minority groups in media has become an emerging topic of conversation.

However, this idea of preserving conventional white male masculinity is not one that has surfaced in recent studies, but rather one that has been persisting for decades.

“With what we grew up with, masculinity is idealized European features, like how handsomeness is based on extremely muscular Greek statues,” Yang said. “In media, Asian American men often fill those stereotypical background roles, especially in comedy.”

Jeshow Yang, a UF Queer Asians and Pacific Islanders facilitator and Asian Pacific Islander American Affairs ambassador, agrees with Stafford’s viewpoint, believing that it even started in the post-World War II era. “After World War II, white males didn’t

To me, being a man is being vulnerable and not wearing a mask.”

Mainstream American culture within the film industry tends to cast the lead male role as a tall, athletic-looking white man, Yang said. Seldom do Asian American men secure a part as the main character. Rather, they are frequently reduced to the socially

EMBODY • 9


awkward nerd who can’t get the girl or the friend whose only purpose is to provide comic relief. The stereotype that Asians have a greater mental prowess than bodily strength defies society’s expectations of conventional masculinity causing many Asian Americans to be overlooked when considering what defines “a real man” in the physical sense. Although traditional manliness focuses on the physical, masculinity is a frame of mind and comes from within, Stafford said. Although Western culture equivocates masculinity with strength, it could also encompass confidence, interaction with one’s environment, as well as how one moves through space, he said. “Being a man means being committed to a long-term vision, being confident, being grounded in your values and have your actions align with your commitments,” UF freshman Dylan Nong said. “To me, being a man is being vulnerable and not wearing a mask.” This mask refers to the feeling of needing to put up a front to be seen by others as a true man. Whereas the societal stereotype may include talking about sports, picking up women at local bars and building tool sheds from scratch, the less-mentioned facet of masculinity includes being mature in one’s development as a human being, Nong said. “In a sense, masculinity is being mature, wise and open-minded,” said UF senior Ravik Samaroo, a member of the multicultural fraternity Sigma Beta Rho. “Everyone is slightly different when it comes to

working out, but not everything can get that big; everybody has their own potential with their body, so when it comes to the physical aspect, you can’t discriminate. That’s why I stress intelligence.” The ongoing generalization that Asian American men are usually shorter, smaller and weaker than men of other ethnicities contributes to a possible lack of self-esteem in Asian boys who grow up in America and feel that they do not measure up when compared to their Caucasian peers, said UF freshman Victor Lin. “I’ve always been a really skinny person and sometimes I didn’t feel that confident,” Lin said. “We live in America, which is predominantly white, and they have roots in European culture, so the media here is still tied to that. We (Asians) are different, but we have our own culture where our standards of handsome men are different.” Just as beauty for women is defined differently around the world, beauty standards for men also vary. According to BuzzFeed News, Asian countries such as South Korea and India encourage soft facial features, makeup wearing and skin lightening among men. The emphasis on male cosmetics has made the Asia Pacific region the largest consumer of men’s skincare products and a hotspot for male cosmetic surgery and men’s fashion. However, the Asian male tendency to dress themselves in fashionforward clothing as an emerging trend of metrosexuality can be seen as femininity in America.

embody • 11


Another persisting stereotype against Asian American men and the measure of their masculinity has to do with the size of their genitalia. Although there is little scientific evidence to prove this theory, this idea continues to be circulated throughout popular culture. “It goes back to controlling to minimize fear,” Stafford said. “It is a way by the majority Western culture to downgrade or minimize the perceived threat or fear of a seemingly intellectually superior identifiable group, especially males.” Despite similarities in what is considered handsome and manly in other countries, such as a lean, muscular body, American media rarely portrays Asian men as sexual beings or the image of masculinity. The stereotype that Asians are purely academic persists even into the 21st century, Samaroo said. “(Asian Americans) shouldn’t be offended; every culture, every ethnicity has their own stereotypes, whether it’s true or not,” Samaroo said. “There will always be stereotypes, and that will never change, but as long as people don’t let it affect them, then I don’t really have a problem with it.” As more Asian Americans come into the spotlight, they prove that Asian American men are well-rounded and cannot be generalized as merely skinny and submissive males as often portrayed in the media. Actors such as Ken Jeong, Aziz Ansari and Randall Park pioneer the way for more exposure to Asian American males in American culture and redefine the physical conventions of masculinity. “We need change in the future because this society is robbed of the benefits that can be offered if men don’t put forth, or aren’t able to put forth, and invest all that they have in a particular country, culture or location,” Stafford said. “You’re going to have half the power for discovery and for productivity.”


SACRED STRANDS Celebration and beauty of body hair

by gabriella alqueza

T

he conversation of women’s body hair polycystic ovary syndrome. According to has been hidden behind shirt sleeves, womenshealth.gov, this causes her to have collared T-shirts and jeans for too long. excessive hair growth. Kaur embraces her looks and in an interview with Rock N Roll In the book “Becoming Women: The Bride, she said, “I used to keep my beard for Embodied Self in Image Culture,” the religious reasons, but now I keep my hair conversation of body hair extends to South to show the world a different, confident, Asian women in the United States. “A diverse and strong image of a woman.” majority of South Asian women identified body hair as a problem trait,” author Carla Though for most people, body hair isn’t Rice writes. something to be left alone. It’s something most women want gone. Body hair according to the book is considered an “anomaly, undesirability, and “In middle school, the boys would tease me blurring of boundaries between the sexes.” about having a mustache or more facial hair than they did,” University of Central Florida Though hair on women may carry a negative psychology senior Selina Urul said. “It made image, there are women who are trying to me more self-conscious.” change that perception. Urul talked about the pressure of having Women like Ayqa Khan, Suraiya Ali and to take off her body hair. “Generation after Harnaam Kaur are bringing light to the generation, women are presented with this conversation of body hair. With social idea that they have to shave while men aren’t media as their primary outlet, each woman pressured as much,” she said. has given a voice to the beauty of their own She said that this pressure comes from the bodies. idea that women should be sleek, pretty, Ayqa Khan is a Brooklyn based Pakistani- dainty and fragile. Women don’t want to be American illustrator and photographer seen as masculine, she continued. who uses her art to take a stand against hair removal. Her illustrations showcase richly Sarah Siraj, president of the National colored backgrounds with South Asian Organization for Women at UCF, deals women as the centerpiece with their natural with the same issues but has grown to body hair emphasized. On her Tumblr embrace the idea that women shouldn’t feel blog she writes, “There are many issues that forced into shaving. society is fighting for in regards to women, and at this point in my life, I am choosing “Being a part of NOW made me feel more to focus on creating a space of acceptance.” comfortable in my own skin,” she said, “Body hair is natural and it’s not for someone else Suraiya Ali gained unexpected interest from to decide what to do with it.” the media when she posted a picture on her Twitter account that drew attention to the She talked about the false advertisements hair on her stomach and thighs. Though she in the media, saying that it made her angry did receive negative backlash for her image, seeing razor commercials with women who there was a wave of body positive comments had already shaved. “They didn’t show what that thanked Ali for being confident enough it looked like before,” she said. “They didn’t to post a picture highlighting the hair on her show what the woman’s body looked like with hair.” body. Harnaam Kaur is a model who has photo/JUSTIN CHU

A University of Central Florida story

Siraj also talked about how the pressure of a

woman taking off her body hair comes from “the male gaze.” She said that “clean-shaven women are much more appealing than a hairy woman’s body. I grew up thinking that guys will like you if you don’t have noticeable hair.” These two women aren’t putting down the idea of body hair, but promoting the idea that it is a woman’s decision when it comes to what she wants to do with it. For some women, like Harnaam Kaur, there is more meaning behind keeping one’s body hair. “Sikhs believe in keeping their body in its most natural state possible—this includes hair,” Harshpreet Kaur, a University of Florida graduate student studying information systems and operations management, said. “There is really no reason to cut or trim hair because our hair finds a way of rejuvenating itself,” Kaur said. “Additionally, we believe that hair is a gift from God and our uncut hair gives us a unique identity.” Growing up in a Westernized culture has caused Kaur to struggle with balancing society’s views and her religious views of beauty. “There is a more western aspect of me that finds clean legs and arms more attractive,” she said, “but there is also the more traditional part that propels me to not get too engrossed in physical appearance and to remember that our body is temporary.” Kaur said that Sikhism allows her to rise above the materialistic things in life and allows her to focus on the spiritual aspect, instead. “We, as a society, need to learn to look past these things and focus on what really matters, which is character and humility,” Kaur said. “This awareness is especially important for women who practice Sikhism because many times, out of pressure of society, they will feel isolated and demoralized, which no one should ever feel.”

embody • 15


It’s Not a Match Experiencing stereotypes, rejection and discrimination on dating apps by Howard lin

S

wipe left, swipe right.

Tinder, like many popular dating applications, has allowed people to simply swipe away the possibility of romance. Using the app, people swipe through photos of single people in their area with brief descriptions about them. If they like the picture they see, they swipe right to indicate that they are interested and if not, left. If both sides swipe right, the two are matched and can message each other. But does everybody on Tinder get an equal chance? Some are saying no, citing research that points to differences that Asian Americans have in their online dating experiences. Keith Melendez, a 22-year-old health sciences major at the University of Central Florida, has been using Tinder on and off for the past year and contends that Asian American men are not as successful as people of other ethnicities on dating websites because Asians are perceived as soft and less masculine. “Asian people aren’t really the most sought after when it comes to relationships.” Melendez said. Melendez isn’t alone in this feeling -- there’s research to back this up. In a Columbia University speed dating study, Asian males received lower ratings of attractiveness than men of other ethnicities. According to the study, women were 60 percent less 16 • embody

likely to respond positively to Asian men than members of their own ethnicity. Even Asian women preferred white men to Asian men. Meenakshi Palaniappan, a 24-year-old doctoral candidate in psychology, said she agrees that discrimination is alive and well on dating apps. She relates this issue to society’s perspective on how women want men to look and present themselves in a certain way. Starting at a very young age, people grow up learning what they should find attractive, and Asian men do not fall under that category, according to Palaniappan. “Asian American men might not fit the tall, dark and handsome ideal that we hold as a society,” Palaniappan said. “If you look at toys or cartoons, you see the types of men that are considered attractive and the men that are not considered attractive.” Apparently the issue of Asian American men being less desired than men of other races isn’t just a heterosexual one either. A study from OkCupid found that 43 percent of gay white men prefer to date their own race. Additionally, on the dating platform Grindr, people put phrases like “no rice” or “no curry” in their bios to discourage Asian Americans from contacting them. Asian women experience a different kind of discrimination. In a study from “FirstMet,” an online dating website previously


known as “Are You Interested,” Asian women were the most likely to be messaged by all races of men except by Asian men. But, Asian women were least likely to respond to Asian men as well. Priyal Patel, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Florida, uses Tinder and Dil Mil, a South Asian matchmaking app. The anthropology major said most people on the apps have been friendly, but there have been three or four instances where someone made comments about her ethnicity. “They’ve been like, ‘Oh, do you like curry?’ and they try to make a joke about me being Indian,” Patel said. “It’s like, you could have been a normal person and just said ‘hi’ instead of trying to have been funny about me being Indian.” Pooja Chandrasekhar, a 20-year-old junior at UF, has had similar experiences on Tinder and Dil Mil. The psychology major said she had mixed reactions on both apps. In one instance on Tinder, someone called

her “pretty for a brown girl.” “You know, that’s not a compliment,” Chandrasekhar said.

Asian people aren’t really the most sought after when it comes to relationships.”

In another instance, on Dil Mil, someone asked her if she smelled like curry. However, she’s not sure if the person was being sincere or joking. Palaniappan explained that Asian women may be more desirable because they fit the guidelines of what men want in a partner with the added benefit of seeming “exotic,” she said.

attention on dating websites, much of that attention is racist and offensive. Men tend to message Asian women, target their race, and shower them with unwelcome racial slurs, comments and questions ready to jump on the “yellow fever” train. Some Asian women have found a solution in the form of creating their very own, exclusive dating application. Siren, a dating app created in 2015 put women in control, giving them the freedom to pick who is able to see their photo or who can message them. The app lets the women set their own pace and be in charge of their destiny. According to Palaniappan, media plays a huge role in all of this. “(Asians) aren’t seen as very exciting, risktaking men,” Meena said. “That impacts how they do on dating websites.” “It’s important for there to be more awareness and education about these implicit attitudes that we all hold toward every kind of race,” said Palaniappan.

Although they appear to get plenty of embody • 17


DOUBLE STANDARDS

“ 18 • EMBODY

In American media there is a very different understanding of who is Indian and what Indians look like.”


South Asians face different standards in Indian and American media

D

by anisha sinha

espite being part of an elite group of A-list celebrities, Indian Americans Mindy Kaling, Aziz Ansari and Nina Davuluri have more in common than just their profession. “The Mindy Project” actress, “Master of None” actor and former Miss America respectively, have achieved success that they may not have been able earn if they worked in their ancestral homeland. According to Cornell University sociology professor Paromita Sanyal, this may be for a variety of reasons, including skin color and India’s colonial and religious history. According to the professor, the British planted the root for a desire for light skin, but India’s religious history of the caste system perpetuated the light-skin-versus-dark-skin divide. “Caste culture (helped contribute to the fairness obsession) for a long time because intercaste marriages prevented the mixing of people through marriage,” she said. Sanyal explained that this is why different caste groups may have certain physical traits. It’s hard to speculate where this obsession comes from, but we know that it is something that is getting strengthened rather than weakened due to the demand (for fair-skinned actors) by corporate (Indian) culture,” Sanyal said. Sanyal pointed out that most American South Asian stars such as Aziz Ansari started as stand-up comedians and didn’t follow the usual path to stardom that many American and Bollywood celebrities follow, like acting in TV commercials. She also said that Hollywood and Bollywood have to

appeal to very different audiences. In American media, there is a very different “understanding of who is Indian and what Indians look like.” According to Sanyal, American South Asian stars are cast to look more like the generalized perception of how America believes South Asians should look. “That way, anyone watching the show (or movie) can immediately tell that the character being portrayed is an Indian,” she said. Around the world, movie industries are becoming increasingly Westernized, in everything from clothing styles to musical styles. The Bollywood movie industry, in particular, is made up of largely light-skinned actors and actresses who follow more and more Westernized looks. Even deeper than looks, some think the personalities that make these Asian American celebrities popular in American media wouldn’t do the same in Indian media. Anjuli Jones,18, a physics and biomedical engineering major from Florida State University, watches “The Mindy Project” religiously and said she finds Kaling’s personality different from what would be seen in Indian media. “She (Mindy Kaling) seems to be the kind of person who is really outspoken, which is not very common,” Jones said. Sanyal pointed out that beauty is something that people perceive to be held by a few, and those people stand out. So, to stand out, you have to look different - such as having tan skin. “India has very vibrant regional film markets (whereas the United States does not),” she said, “And the 200 years of colonial rule may (have) contributed to the consolidation of the fairness obsession.”

photo/RONAN GALVEZ

EMBODY • 19


RUNNING ON EMPTY

A student’s complicated relationship with food and family

by othelia jumapao

Y

ou’re fat.” “You’re disgusting.”

Insults like these used to litter *Trang’s University of Miami dorm on sticky notes posted on her wall -- a space most students reserved for movie posters, family photos and inspiring quotes. “I know it’s psychotic,” said the microbiology and immunology sophomore. Trang, a Vietnamese American, said that because of her family’s judgment, she never felt like she could act independently at home because her family would judge her every move.

20 • EMBODY

But at college, Trang finally got that freedom when she moved into a single dorm. For the college freshman, that meant restricting her diet. But eventually, her disordered eating began to rampage her body and her mind. According to her boyfriend Sravan Narapureddy, 21, Trang placed stringent limitations on her diet and often demeaned her body in her mind. The University of Florida business management first-year graduate student said his girlfriend would often eat only an orange for the day and would complain that she was fat. Despite the fact that she lost nine pounds that semester and suffered

from hair loss and amenorrhea (not having a regular period), Narapureddy said Trang would even think people were lying when they commented on how thin she was. According to the Genevieve Camp, a mental health counselor at the UF Health Eating Disorders Program at Springhill Health Center, Trang’s overlapping mental and physical issues with her eating condition aren’t unusual. Camp said the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) even made a catch-all term for people with eating disorders: Other Specified Feeding or Eating * = Indicates a pseudonym


Center licensed psychologist Jennifer Stuart said that she believes there appears to be a certain thin ideal amongst Asian American patients that often includes addressing body image and frequent weighing. “I think there is obviously a cultural influence,” Stuart said. Despite the issues at home, Trang said the real breaking point was when she found out that her former boyfriend was cheating on her. Trang said she believes that he cheated because she didn’t have the body he wanted. “It triggered a downward spiral of my self-esteem,” Trang said. “After that, I became—I don’t want to say depressed. And I feel like the reason I don’t want to say ‘depressed’ is also kind of from our culture that doesn’t recognize mental illness.” Eating Disorder Hope founder and licensed professional counselor Jacquelyn Ekern said

photo/YASMIN NAJI

Disorder (OSFED). People typically develop anxiety or depression before eating disorders, and that in these instances, eating abnormalities can serve as a coping mechanism to help numb someone from feeling emotional pain, Camp said.

dorm while she was away and noticed the derogatory notes scattered on her wall. Trang’s resident assistant was alerted immediately, and the incident was reported to the housing

But according to Trang, her insecurities did not begin her freshman year of college but stemmed from incidents that happened at home and in a bad break up with her first boyfriend (not Narapureddy). At 6 years old, Trang said she remembered her mother repeatedly throwing up in an attempt to lose weight after pregnancy and her husband’s remarks on her body. Trang said her father also would sometimes comment on her own weight and call her pudgy as a child.

It triggered a downward spiral of my self-esteem.”

“Lots and lots of people have eating disorders,” she said. “If you can’t eat; doesn’t mean you’re a failure.” The food restrictions finally came to a halt when a fellow floormate came into her

office shortly after. In the following weeks, she began her steps to recovery: Trang got preventive counseling and treatment with a licensed physician. She also finally came clean to her parents about her eating issues.

UF Counseling and Wellness

that it’s important for treatment providers like nutritionists and physicians to treat Asian American eating disorder victims with sensitivity because of the lack of recognition for mental illnesses in Asian culture. Ekern suggests bringing the parents with the victim of eating disorders to have a discussion mediated by a professional. Although Trang agrees with Ekern’s advice, Trang does not follow the advice herself. However, she does recommend it to others struggling. “For anybody who has an eating disorder—regardless of what their parents say—they do love you and maybe they just don’t understand you,” Trang said. Efforts were made to contact Trang’s sister and parents; however, Trang did not allow this communication to be facilitated.

EMBODY • 21


Korean beauty products heading U.S. mainstream

22 • EMBODY


by Jenny Le

2

015 was, without a doubt, the year of Korean beauty products. From news outlet The New York Times to style site Refinery29, there have been numerous articles raving about the rise of Korean beauty trends. According to Taylor Bryant’s “Why Korean Beauty Isn’t Going Anywhere Soon,” an article featured on refinery29. com, the overseas sales for Korean beauty products have grown 73 percent in 2015. In 2013, retail stores like Sephora and Urban Outfitters started to catch onto this beauty trend coming from the East. For the past three years, the two stores have been stocking and restocking their shelves with products from brands like Dr. Jart, AmorePacific, Belif, and TonyMoly. “We always see our Tonymoly fly out our door,” Courtney Rice, Manager of Women’s Accessories and Beauty Department at Urban Outfitters said. “We always have customers asking about it.”

products compared to their American counterparts. An article on sundriven.com, titled “The Korean Beauty Skincare Trend,” stated that Korean women take care of their skin inside out, using the beauty products to prevent damage instead of masking it. Korean skin care products often appeal to users with their focus on protecting the skin from harmful UV rays with Sun Protection Factor (SPF), and moisturizing and replenishing the skin using natural ingredients. Cindy Hall, a 17-year-old Korean American from Merritt Island, FL, explained one of her reasons for liking many Korean beauty products. “Korean beauty products have a lot of brands that only use healthy, nontoxic ingredients that are really good for your skin,” she said.

Regarding the Korean beauty products’ popularity in the U.S., Rice said that “for the Tonymoly products, the way that they make their products is very convenient and the packaging is adorable.” She added, “Also, everybody admires the Asian skin.”

With beautiful and naturallooking skin as the top priorities, Korean makeup products establish goals completely different from their American counterparts. According to “Beauty Around the World--Comparing American Products and Perceptions,” an article written by Helena Kim, Korean makeup brands go for the dewy, no makeup look, whereas American makeup brands aim for heavy contour and matte style.

According to the BBC article, “The Key Ingredients of South Korea’s Skincare Success,” Korean women have long been obsessed with skincare, spending twice as much of their income on the

Christina Thach, a senior majoring in business administration at the University of Central Florida, noticed this main difference when she used the Korean beauty products.

“I personally like them better because they don’t feel as heavy as the American ones,” she said. “Korean (beauty) is all about the youthful look.” There is also the question of whether it is mostly Korean American consuming the Korean beauty products at the major retail stores. According to Rice, the customers looking for Korean beauty products at Urban Outfitters represent diversity in both ethnicity and gender. “It is not even really a specific group of customers, it is everyone,” Rice said. “It is not really male or female; we have both genders looking for the stuff. I want to say it’s usually between the 20’s and 30’s that I see coming in here for those products.” The phenomenon of Korean

beauty products hitting the mainstream in the U.S. could indicate a major shift in preference among many makeup users. According to Thach, some of her non-Asian friends have started liking the products. “They like the scent and how light it felt,” Thach said. “It’s different and unique (compared) to what they are used to.” Up to this point of 2016, constant news and updates on Korean beauty products show no sign of the beauty trend dying down in the U.S. “I think the Korean beauty trend will last a long time especially because the products focus on the natural look,” Hall said. “They bring out the beauty that you yourself possess.”

I think the Korean beauty trend will last a long time especially because the products focus on the natural look.”

photos/KEVIN DOAN A University of Central FlorIda story

EMBODY • 23


on the of(fence) Korean American Cindy Oh breaks barriers in collegiate fencing by alexandra ng

T

he sabres clash against one another with the sound of metal on metal as opponents advance toward one another. Carefully anticipating the other’s next move, the fencers move with agility and confidence, thrusting and parrying with each step. The attacker lunges and her blade makes contact with her rival’s chest. Touché.

other applicants. After attending classes and practicing footwork with other students, Oh realized that she had an affinity for the sport and developed a passion for it.

she believed was due to the push to get into better colleges and the fact that the sport was becoming more popular in Asian countries.

For Northwestern University political science junior Cindy Oh, this is home.

“It was such a welcoming environment, and the people who were my age in the class helped me have fun with it,” Oh said. “As I stuck with it, my love for the sport and anything that came with it kept growing and is growing to this day.”

“All the top-tier schools, the Ivy Leagues, have fencing teams, so that has a major impact,” Oh said. “For a lot of parents, they see their home countries doing it too, so seeing your people excel at it incentivizes you to do it as well.”

As a first-generation Korean American student, Oh knew she had to fulfill her parents’ dream of attending a top-tier university. Keeping up with academics was a given, but it wasn’t until sixth grade that she discovered a talent that would set her apart.

Oh practiced about two to four hours each day on average. Although her parents wanted her to put school before fencing, Oh felt that athletics taught her skills such as responsibility and time management that future employers would look for.

When Oh was 12 years old, her mother discovered the sport of fencing through a classmate’s parent. Originally wanting to play basketball, young Oh had no interest in attending fencing classes. However, her mother wanted her to get involved in a less popular sport to make her stand out among

Despite falling in love with fencing and how it strengthened her mind and body, Oh noticed that there weren’t many other Asian Americans in the sport when she first started. However, as time went on, she noticed an increase in the number of successful Asian American fencers, which

Before the sport became popular, Oh especially noticed the lack of Asian American athletes when she attended international competitions in countries such as England, Austria and Germany, where tournaments were larger and more intense. She observed that there weren’t many Asians competing, and of the ones that were competing, most were on the United States team.

24 • EMBODY

“To (be) able to represent the U.S. is incredible, but to be one of the few Asians and good enough to do well at competition


Northwestern University competitive fencer Cindy Oh (right), 21, competes in a fencing match.

There’s a need for change, and if there’s a time to do it, it’s now.”

makes me feel a lot of pride to be representing the Asian community,” Oh said. Despite being an Asian American student at Northwestern University, Oh doesn’t feel very familiar with the Asian community at her school because she feels she is part of an athletic bubble. It surprises students when they see Oh walking down the street speaking fluent Korean and wearing athletic clothes, because there is an unspoken stigma that Asians and sports don’t go together. Prevalent in all platforms of media, there is always an emphasis on Asian mental prowess rather than physical agility and strength, according to Oh. “I hate the tiger mom or the nerdy Asian stereotypes, so I want to prove that I can be booksmart, but successful athletically, as well,” Oh said. “Even at school, we don’t have that many Asian student athletes, so to eliminate that unspoken Asian stigma motivates me to do well.” As Oh heads into her last year of undergraduate school,

photo/COURTESY OF CINDY OH

she feels that she may not have time to continue honing her passion for fencing regularly. She once dreamed of competing in the Olympics, but gradually realized that she would have to give up that dream due to the level of time and commitment it would take and the fact that she would have to take a year off of school. Despite having to forego this aspiration, Oh does not regret her decision. She is content competing with her school team and pursuing political science. Even though Oh may not be aiming for the Olympics anymore, she encourages Asian Americans in the future to defy society’s expectations and limitations based on race. “There’s a lot of room for improvement of diversity in sports for minorities, especially for Asian Americans to step in, improve and to have a voice,” Oh said. “It’s important to be involved and to bring down the stereotypes, because there are a lot of opportunities available to break the stigma. There’s a need for change, and if there’s a time to do it, it’s now.” EMBODY • 25


hijabi photos/ASHLEY WILLIAMS stylist/KEVIN HUYNH clothing/HENRI GIRL BOUTIQUE, THE TEASE models/FIZZA IMRAN, BUSHRA HABIBA RASHID


Eventually things clicked and it was just a matter of constantly experimenting with how to wear the hijab.”

Balancing religion and fashion as a hijabi woman

by NICOLE DAN “If you Google ‘Muslim woman,’ there is a pretty distinct image that comes up,” said Rana Abdelhamid, a 22-year-old student at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. “It’s of a woman that’s wearing a niqab that’s completely black, which is very uniform and not representative of the diversity and heterogeneity of Muslim women,” she said, referring to the veil that entirely covers the woman’s face. This veil is popular in some predominantly Arab countries such as Oman, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Seeing a lack in media representation for Muslim women and the prevalent misconceptions of women who wear hijabs, Abdelhamid created the Facebook page ‘Hijabis of New York” to highlight the stories of hijabis, in a style similar to the popular Facebook page, “Humans of New York”.

THE MOVEMENT

Abdelhamid started “Hijabis of New York” to humanize Muslim women, who

are particularly susceptible to hate crime. “There is research that shows that 80 percent of hate crimes that happen against Muslims, happen against Muslim women,” Abdelhamid said. “Hijabi women are a subset of Muslim women who may be more vulnerable to attack because of the visibility of their faith identity.” While Abdelhamid acknowledges that this project cannot completely solve the problem, she hopes to make a difference. Through “Hijabis of New York”, she has learned about the diversity of experience among Muslim women, and found that some of the violence hijabis experience comes from within the community. In her trips to Spain and the U.K., Abdelhamid found similar narratives. “I went into this thinking that this would be a platform to raise awareness for other people, for non-Muslims, and for men and non-veiled people who maybe might better understand the experiences of veiled women,” Abdelhamid said. “But what ended up happening was a lot of

the engagement that we had was from Muslim veiled women themselves.” Abdelhamid, a hijabi herself, wears it for religious purposes but also as a form of self-expression. “If I’m feeling edgy, I wear a turban,” Abdelhamid said. Getting her style inspiration through social media, Abdelhamid said she feels empowered by the newly thriving hijabi fashion industry, which has elevated the number of outlets about Muslim fashion.

BEAUTY & FASHION

“I definitely had my awkward hijabi days,” said Mariam Sleiman, a 24-year-old who works in publishing. The Lebanese American sees finding the perfect hijab style like finding the perfect haircut. “Eventually things clicked and it was just a matter of constantly experimenting with how to wear the hijab.” EMBODY • 27


For Bushra Rashid, a University of Florida sociology senior and health disparities minor, experimenting meant watching YouTube videos to try to see what works for her face shape.

“Everyone’s allowed to wear what they want to wear. It’s their freedom to do it,” Rashid said. “You want to show people that wearing hijab isn’t restrictive, and that you are happy wearing the hijab.”

a style that was flattering for her face was a struggle because Rashid did not have many people to ask how to wear it.

“When I first started out, I did what the basic hijab style is,” Rashid said, which involves using a square that is folded in half and pinned by the neck.

FAITH & FEAR

However for Rashid, wearing her hijab is more than just an accessory.

“But my face is really round,” Rashid said, “so I looked like a big tomato. That was not OK.”

“It’s so that I can realize my own devotion to God,” she said. “It’s not just to show others that I’m a follower of Islam.”

“Everything in your life, if you do it with your heart, you can feel like it’s easy for you,” she said.

Coming to college allowed her to experiment in a way she couldn’t in the more conservative community she grew up in.

Rashid starting wearing the hijab after her parents got divorced, a major change in her life. Many of her relatives did not approve of her wearing the hijab, out of fear that she would be subject to Islamophobia and discrimination. She first made the decision to wear the hijab in middle school, but stopped after about a month due to physical bullying.

“I don’t want to say it’s an accessory, because that’s diminishing its value, but there are a good amount of scarves in my drawer.” Rashid has about 40 scarves in her drawer, and she can wear them with anything in her closet. Among Muslims and nonMuslims, there is a lot of judgement on what the perfect way to wear a hijab is.

28 • EMBODY

“There was so much Islamophobia, even then,” Rashid said. She started permanently wearing the hijab on the first day of 10th grade. Learning how to keep the hijab in place and finding

But for Malaysian American Wan Ainal Yaqin, 36, learning to wear a hijab was not as difficult.

Yaquin started wearing the hijab at 13 years old. By that time she was used to wearing hijab for prayer and had seen many women put it on, which she said made it easier for her. “It’s your responsibility to yourself, responsibility to your religion, responsibility to your parents,” Yaquin said. For Sleiman, wearing a hijab is a careful balance between displaying one’s faith and maintaining its sanctity. Sleiman said she is offended by those who appropriate the hijab, because the hijab is a religious and political symbol and wearing it as a non-Muslim devalues it.


“Completely divorcing it of its religious meaning would be an injustice,” Sleiman said.

POLITICS

“I was sort of really able to find a way to mix the best of both to engage really thoughtfully with both sides of my culture, whether it was being American or being Muslim and Arab,” Sleiman said.

As a Palestinian American, in Walmart, people will come up to Shraiteh to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Others will ask where she is from, even though she has lived in the U.S. her entire life.

Growing up, Sleiman did not see her culture as at odds with society, but she now sees the hijab as a loaded religious and political symbol.

But for Tesneem Shraiteh, a 22-year-old fourth-year linguistics major at UF, the hijab’s political symbol has often lead to unpleasant and unsolicited questioning.

“The fact that I’m wearing hijab doesn’t mean that I’m just an open book for you to learn from,” she said.

30 • EMBODY


Ways to wear

a Hijab

Wrap to the side & accessorize

Frame the face & add a head chain

Create intricate designs like flowers within the wrap

Wrap as a turban with a top knot photos/HIJABIWORLD.COM, STYLECENTER.INFO


Blood Lines


A look into a lost culture that is more than skin deep by alyssa ramos

H

ow could I refuse my dying father?” asked Lane Wilcken softly.

After Wilcken’s father, Willis Lane Wilcken, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, doctors suggested marking his skin so they could track the radiation that would soon be used to fight the aggressive disease. Wilcken’s father didn’t want a stranger marking his skin, so Wilcken found a stick, shaped a hole inside and plucked a thorn from his mother’s lemon tree. While his brother stretched their father’s

skin, Wilcken used Indian ink and the Filipino tattoo method of tapping to paint his first tattoo on his dad. At the time Wilcken had no intention of becoming a tattoo practitioner, and the tattoo he drew was not a traditional one either. But by tattooing his father, Wilcken carried on a Filipino tradition.

of “batok,” the name of the traditional Filipino tattooing method. According to Wilcken, the practice is deeply ritualistic.

METHOD & HISTORY

After a client researches his ancestry, the tattoo practitioner helps him choose a design and placement of the tattoo in accordance with the client’s religious practices.

As a Nevada-based tattoo practitioner and writer of the book “Filipino Tattoos: Ancient to Modern,” Wilcken has spent 25 years studying this tradition

Then, he follows the detailed, traditional process: There is a food sacrifice where blood is drained to ward off evil spirits and Wilcken speaks ancient prayers. But all photos/RACHEL HE


before the food sacrifice is put away, the client is asked to speak something from his heart, and the food offering is burnt or buried. The actual design is done by a tapping method, in which a piece of lemon thorns or boar tusks are carved to fit into the end of a stick. A hammer is lightly tapped against the stick to poke into the skin. Though Filipinos were originally dubbed “los pintados,” or “the painted people,” by the Spanish. Today, Filipinos are far from painted.

THE LOST CULTURE

Because of society’s association between

crime and tattoos and coupled with the tendency for Filipinos to migrate to other countries for work and education, the traditional art of Filipino tattooing is endangered, according to Wilcken. “The tendency of those who migrated away is to assimilate into the predominant culture of wherever they are living,” he said. “So we lose language, and we lose the practices, which usually happens with the first generation.” According to Wilcken, this lost culture is what drives his passion for spreading cultural awareness through his tattoo work. He contends that the common thread that pulls modern-day Filipino

Americans to get traditional tattoos is a search for identity and belonging. “The tattoo isn’t about you, most of the tattoos are about being part of something bigger than yourself,” Wilcken said.

THE PEOPLE

Felicia Perez, a psychology teacher at Diablo Valley College in California, embarked on a journey into her Filipino roots after her father’s death. She said she always felt that her ancestors wanted her to take on a tattoo, but an email from Wilcken was the push she needed to finally do it. For Perez, her tattoos are visual reminders


The tattoo isn’t about you, most of the tattoos are about being part of something bigger than yourself.”

of that connection. “Tattoos ground me,” Perez said. “When I look in the mirror, I’m like, ‘Yes, this is who I am.’ It’s a reminder I’m from an indigenous culture that has a lot of gifts to give to the world.” According to Wilcken, by receiving a tattoo, an individual is establishing an open relationship with their ancestors for protection and wisdom. The artist said that this feeling is similar to one of instinctively taking another route home and later finding out the original route was clogged with traffic. “Those designs represent the ancestor spirit and their communication with the person,” Wilcken said. Perez also said that her tattoos not only link her to her ancestors, but mark who she is as a person and the obstacles she’s overcome. “It’s like sharing the same space in time,” Perez said. “Things are changing all the time and reconfiguring itself, but it also still feels anchored in the past.” For other recipients, the Filipino history of earning tattoos is more important. Lauren Funiestas, a 32-year-old health coach, waited five years after meeting Wilcken to get a tattoo. She waited until she finished her graduate studies and started her career so her tattoos could represent something she earned. Funiestas said that her tattoo decision was an act of following her ancestor’s footsteps. Funiestas, who has 11 tattoos, said that her the traditional ones were less painful but the process was imbued with a lot of emotional meaning. “There was more care,” Funiestas said. “Lane sat down and talked to me and explained every line, what it meant and why it was there. It meant a lot to me that my ancestors were coming in this tattoo. I felt like I was being honored and not like a cattle coming in a tattoo shop and coming out.”

her first Filipino tattoo.The communications studies student understands both the media and the younger generation’s role in making traditional tattooing more known to Filipino Americans. Filipino Americans should do their research. The biggest challenge is educating Filipino Americans about their own culture, Mendoza said. “I feel like having this media attention is the first step, but it also stems deeper than that especially for this generation. Especially for us raised in America when we don’t even hear about our history - let alone our history in America. So it’s an education thing,” Mendoza said. At its core batok focuses on family, a cultural value that remains relevant to this day. Wilcken emphasizes that respecting the ancestors who are alive are equally important as respecting those who have passed. “It’s the pinnacle of our past culture,” Wilcken said. Many know Filipinos for their hospitality, basing a strong support system in their family. Traditional tattoos seem to bring those full circle. The title of “Mababatok,” or tattoo practitioner, is usually given by a village, but Wilcken has been able find a community where he has made his mark. Now, clients like Lauren Funiestas, Felicia Perez and Jasmine Mendoza refer to him with the same title as those before him: Mababatok. Like the tattoos that were given to Filipinos in centuries past, Lane Wilcken is immortalizing and honoring his ancestors through his work and giving that gift to others. “The designs themselves are repetitive for a reason,” Wilcken said. “It shows the continuity of the family line. We are just part of a link in a chain of ancestors and descendants going back through time and forward in time - that we’re part of a whole.”

PAST & FUTURE

At 21 years old, Jasmine Mendoza, a student at San Francisco State University, received

EMBODY • 35


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• 3 bus routes to UF (9, 19, 3 bus routes to UF (9, 19, 35, 37) 35, 36, 37)

Sparks Magazine Issue No. 10 | University of Florida  

REAL stories. REAL people. The Embody Issue.

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