What is a Peranakan face? How is it different from a regular Chinese face?

I get asked these 2 questions a lot from my “regular” Chinese friends, who don’t dispute I look different to them – in fact, many insist I do – but often wonder why. So in the interest of advancing everyone’s common knowledge, I thought I’d share with you what I’ve found, based upon hours and hours of scrutinising people’s faces, both over the internet and in real life. Yes, and while you weren’t paying attention, I was scrutinising you too.

Before I go any further, I should point out 2 things: 1) Peranakan’s do identify as Chinese, but also identify as Peranakan. It really depends on who you talk to and how aware they are of their cultural and ethnic heritage. 2) Many look like “regular” Chinese, but equally, in those who still have a lot of Peranakan in them (I’ve notice you need at least 50% of the genes), there is a marked difference.

Now what exactly is this difference? Before I go into the dry bits of this analysis, here are some pictures of well-known Peranakans for you to feast your eyes on.

A picture of Godfrey Gao, the first Asian Male Supermodel.

A picture of Godfrey Gao, the first Asian Male Supermodel. 

Godfrey’s Gao’s mother is a Peranakan from Penang and his father is a Taiwanese. He stands 195 cm tall and has the distinction of being the first Asian male to serve as the face of Louis Vuitton – which did not impress HRH much, since when I asked him how he’d feel if our son looked like this in future (given that 1 of my cousins DOES look strikingly similar) he went, “Bleh. He’s just riding on his looks.”

Below is another one for the ladies.

A picture of Godfrey Gao.

A picture of Godfrey Gao.

Then of course there’s Pierre Png, a Singaporean actor and comedian of Peranakan descent, who’s made many a heart flutter when he was younger.

A picture of Pierre Png from Singapore.

A picture of Pierre Png from Singapore.

HRH wasn’t too impressed by him either. “Show me some girls,” he said.

And here’s a shot of Pierre Png taken by a fan. He looks like another cousin of mine.

A picture of Pierre Png taken by a fan.

A picture of Pierre Png taken by a fan.

Then there’s Agnes Monica, a famous Indonesian singer who also identifies as Peranakan.

A picture of Agnes Monica of Indonesia.

A picture of Agnes Monica of Indonesia.

And so the gentlemen reading this post can’t say I’m unfair, here’s another picture of Agnes Monica.

A picture of Agnes Monica from Indonesia

A picture of Agnes Monica from Indonesia.

What you’ll notice about Peranakan faces is that most are long with very distinct jawlines. By contrast, most “regular” Chinese have round to oval faces with soft to non-existent jawlines. With Peranakan faces, the brow bones, bridge of the nose, cheekbones and chins all protrude. In “regular” Chinese, even those with rectangular faces, only the cheekbones are usually pronounced.

Apart from that, almost all Peranakan faces have what East Asians refer to as “double-eyelids.” Simply put, Peranakan eyelids have folds in them. Compared to “regular” Chinese with God-given double eyelids (I have to stress the God-given part since double-eyelid surgery is extremely popular in East Asia), the crease on Peranakan eyes is a lot deeper so that when the eyes open, they appear to be more deep-set.

I’ve also found Peranakans to have much finer hair. One of my “regular” Chinese friends who’s married a “regular” Chinese-looking Peranakan has a kid with light brown hair. The face looks like that of a “regular” Chinese but the hair colour prompts questions of parentage. Her other kid has thick, black, wiry, Chinese locks.

Perhaps it’s the weight gain later in life, but the older a Peranakan gets, the more “regular” Chinese looking he or she becomes. Faces remain long and the protrusions are all still there, but it’s as if the extra fat softens out the very contours that make the Peranakan face so visibly different from “regular” Chinese faces in mid-life to old age.

There is a lot of variation in skin-tone even within the same family. Very few Peranakan are whiter than white; most are a mid-tone, coffee with lots of milk colour and some too are very dark-skinned. My own skin-tone can easily go up or down 5 shades within a year. During winter, “regular” Chinese remark I look fair. If you ask me, I look borderline anaemic.

“Regular” Chinese like HRH, have a more constant skin-tone. Even with extreme changes in weather and temperature, the most his skin changes is 1 shade either way. Many of my “regular” Chinese friends report burning as a result of being in strong sun. If at all they tan, it takes a very long time for their skin to lighten. By comparison, I tan easily. However, after being out of the sun for a couple of weeks, the colour simply goes away.




Asian Beauty Secrets Part 2.

As promised, I am back with the next instalment of Asian Beauty Secrets. Before I proceed, let me point out that many Asian beauty practises centre on improving inner health, so as to improve outward appearance; Westerners find this concept perplexing, preferring to treat what they can see. For instance, if a Westerner had a pimple, he or she would raid the bathroom cabinet for benzoyl peroxide to dry out the offending spot.

While Asians do know of and use benzoyl peroxide, our mothers will tell us to drink MORE water and offer up a plethora of herbal tonics and soups by which to cleanse our bodies of accumulated toxins. Many Asian beauticians I’ve asked, attribute the increase in skin ailments among our young to a) poor diet (too much instant noodles, deep fried food etc)  b) increased pollution and stress c) a Western diet (containing plenty of red meat and dairy).

Without further ado, let me get on to today’s featured ethnicity:


Now, I may not be an Indian, but I’ve been lucky enough to sample a couple of their beauty treatments. It all started when I was living in Darwin, some 6 years ago. I was riding the bus into town with some of my new Indian friends when one said, “Your daughter’s nose looks like a pig’s.”

This is in reference to how you can see up her nostrils. Most Chinese tend to have noses like this, however, most Indians will NOT dare tell you yours looks like a pig’s; especially if they are new to town and you have taken it upon yourself to show them around. Anyhow, I remained remarkably calm, at what most would take to be an insult.

I said, “That’s just how our noses are. In time, hers might grow longer to be like mine.”

“We have special treatments to beautify our noses,” said the same woman.

“Oh, what are they?”

“We start when they are babies. Using a clean hand, we insert one thumb into the mouth and gently push,” she indicated to the roof of the mouth, “We also pull the nose bridge.”

My father used to do the same for me as a child. He called it plonking. “Come, let’s plonk your nose,” he would say. You can see the results for yourself. Then again, it could be genetics as everyone on my mother’s side has sharp noses.

“To make the eyes bigger, we put Kajul around the rim of the baby’s eyes,” the woman continued.

“Kajul. What’s that?”

“You take a clean stainless steel knife and hold it above a candle. Kajul will appear.”

Ah, the earliest form of eyeliner. But on babies?

“If you apply it to the rim of babies’ eyes, their eyes will become bigger and brighter,” she said.

“Can I do that for Amanda?”

“You can try, but she’s a bit too old already.”

Amanda was then close to two years old. I’ve heard that Indians also trim their babies eyelashes so that they grow back longer and thicker. I can’t vouch for this practise as I’ve never tried it and as an adult into eyelash-growing serums, unlikely to try it.

From young, many also have coconut oil applied to their hair and lashes to promote luxuriant growth. I’ve tried a blend of coconut oil and herbs from my friendly Indian and Sri Lankan grocer in Glen Waverley and perhaps, due to inconsistent usage, did not see any results. To try it, all you need to do is apply the oil before bedtime, then wash it out in the shower the next morning. If you attempt to walk around with it on, you’ll only end up looking like a greasy monkey.

On my last visit to Melbourne, where my brother lives surrounded by Indians, I bought Shikakai powder to invigorate my scalp, so as to have lovely, thick tresses. Shikakai is a natural astringent that clears dirt and dandruff accumulated on the scalp, strengthens hair roots and promotes growth. And at $2.90 a box why wouldn’t you get it?

Again, it’s one of those things you do before hopping into the shower. You mix the powder with water to form a paste and plaster the mixture in your hair. For best results, wait a couple of hours before washing out. Avoid getting any in your eyes and mouth.

If you have greys, you might like to try Henna, a natural dye. This too comes in a box, which you mix into a paste and leave in your hair to do its work.

Over the years, I’ve had a couple of Indian facials and let me tell you, lots of scrubbing usually takes place. If ever they ask you if you want to be fairer, say NO, as the product usually contains bleach, which irritates skin. Masks they like to use includes those made from cucumber, oatmeal and yogurt (for dry skin), turmeric and yoghurt (to brighten skin), fuller’s earth and water (for oily skin), lemon juice and egg whites (to lighten dark marks).

As mentioned in a previous post, Indians also consume Safi to detoxify themselves when plagued with pimples, whilst simultaneously reducing or omitting chilli from their curries.

Of course no sharing of Indian beauty secrets would be complete without a mention of Neem, Indian’s favourite “heal all” plant. Its cosmetic uses range from curing pimples to being an additive in toothpaste. I once bought a bottle to try but it smelled so pungent, I hardly got through more than a quarter before tossing it. In terms  of pungency, it’s right up there with New Zealand’s Manuka Oil. Taking a whiff of it, my mother referred to Manuka Oil as “passion killer”, which gives you an idea what Neem smells like.

For more Asian Beauty Secrets, join me in the third instalment of this series as I divulge the beauty practises of Malays, Indonesians and Koreans next.





Asian Beauty Secrets (Part 1)

Our beauty practises aren’t really a secret if you spend enough time with us, however, if you don’t, here they are according to ethnicity:


While Westerners take the view that beauty is to be improved on from the outside, Chinese nourish the inside to improve on the outside. We believe that good health is imperative to ensuring youthfulness, and good health can only maintained or promoted through proper nutrition. Westerners’ idea of nutrition involves measuring proteins, carbohydrates, fibre, trace minerals in foods. Ours is about procuring the health benefits  inherent in foods, observing the balance of heat, cold, moisture, wind and dryness in the body. None of this makes sense to the Western mind, but makes plenty of sense to us.

We eat according to the seasons, not because of the lack or availability of ingredients, but because doing so confers health benefits. For instance, Aussies love their BBQ lamb chops in summer. Most Chinese who follow a traditional diet, will contend that lamb should only be eaten in winter because it is a “heaty food”, in that it warms your body. Barbequing it will only add to its heatiness. Too much heat in the body will cause pimples, rashes and a host of other skin ailments; not to mention cause your nose to bleed.

Accordingly, we wait until winter to consume lamb chops, mutton stews, snake curries etc…the basic rule of thumb is that the more gamey a meat is, the more heaty it will be. Cooling foods counteract heatiness, but can also only be consumed in moderation. They include melons, most green vegetables, most root vegetables. That’s why in summer we boil things like winter melon soup, and in winter, body-warming tonics like ginseng.

We increase our intake of lard during the cold seasons to warm the body, and have more steamed foods and boiled soups in summer. In fact, many Cantonese consume soup at least once a day. Anita Yuen, a famous Hong Kong actress of the 90s, credits soup as being the reason why she doesn’t need to wear foundation unlike most actresses. Soup is to the Cantonese diet what kimchi is to the Korean, or Sauerkraut is to Bavarians. If I were to follow the recipe book given to me by my mother on soups, I’d be able to go half a year without seeing the same soup twice. That’s how many we have.

Westerners look at our broths and see meat-flavoured water. In our minds, that’s pure nourishment there. We divide them into quick boil (30 minutes or less, less nourishing) and long boil (minimum cooking time of 2.5 hours, the longer the better, premium stuff). I once met this woman who swam from mainland China to Hong Kong to join her husband. Her complain wasn’t about the guards at her back or the treacherous waters she had to cross, it was that, to quote her, “There wasn’t even a mouthful of soup to drink.”

Indeed, our broths are gold to us. Our mothers often tell us, “Even you don’t want to eat anything else, at least drink your soup. There’s 4 hours in there.”

We invite special guests in for a bowl of soup. Our women seduce men with soup. In addition to soups for the hot and cold seasons, we have soups to increase fertility, special soups for during pregnancy, more special soups for post-pregnancy, plus a myriad of watery gems for 101 bodily complaints. Hokkiens like His Royal Highness, and Hakkas like my father, consume soup less frequently, but even they have a special soup for the Chinese New Year.

So as to get you started on your soup journey, here are a couple of easy ones to try:

  • To increase moisture in skin boil 1 cup pre-soaked Soy beans + I kg pork bones + 10 rice-bowls of water + 15 red dates + 1 TBSP goji berry (yes, this is how we consume it, not with chocolate by the handfuls) + half teaspoon of salt.
  • To increase milk supply boil 1 cut pawpaw + 1 kg pork bones + 10 rice-bowls of water + 6 honey dates (can use red dates if you don’t have any), 1 TBSP goji berry + 2 TBSP bitter almonds (optional) + half teaspoon of salt.
  • To decrease heatiness boil 1 cut up winter melon + 1 kg pork bones + 10 rice bowls of water + 15 red dates + half teaspoon of salt.
  • To warm the body boil 1 small free-range chicken + 10 rice bowls of water + 5  or 6 thin slices of Korean ginseng + half teaspoon of salt.

Put the lot on high, then allow to simmer  for at least 2.5 hours once it comes to the boil. To reduce the stench of meat, which most Chinese can’t stand, and to remove scum from your soup altogether, you parboil the bones first then you add it to a clean pot of water, along with the other ingredients. Alternatively, you can add in 1 or 2 very thin slices of old ginger. I prefer to parboil the bones because the resulting soups are much clearer. You can substitute the pork bones with chicken bones, although it will produce a different flavour. If making a fish soup, I will add ginger to remove the smell of fish. For my non-Chinese readers, I’ve especially added the video below to give you an idea of what it is you’re attempting to make.

To know what Indians, Malays and Indonesians do to stay youthful and vibrant, join me on my next post.






The truth about great skin.

Recently I had a facial at Chanel. It was one of those deals where you pay $70 dollars to receive 75 minutes worth of pampering. Your $70 is redeemable against products bought on the day. The only reason I knew about this deal was because they gave me a call when their Myer counter in Queens Street was revamped and I’m on their customer database.
I arrived at the appointed time with not a smidgen of make-up on for I wasn’t going to go through the hassle of face-painting, only to have everything taken off. I was met by a well-made-up therapist, who politely ushered me into their treatment room. There I laid down on the usual “therapy” table. The therapist placed a blanket on me, so as to keep me warm and comfortable.
“It’s okay,” I assured her. “It’s not too cold.”
The air-conditioning must have been coming out of discreet vents in the room for I didn’t feel any cold air, like you do with a conventional air-conditioning unit, jetting down on me.
“I’m going to inspect your face now and then do a thorough clean, followed by a scrub and a mask.”
“Ok.” Everything sounded above board. I closed my eyes and tried to relax.
“You have amazing skin,” she said, pressing my face, turning my head slightly left then right. “What do you use?”
“Oh, nothing special. Moo Goo face wash, which I might discontinue since my latest bottle has been irritating my eyes.”
“They do change the formulas to things sometimes.”
Well, I wish they wouldn’t. Now I might switch to another brand.”
“How about scrubs? Do you scrub?”
“No. I don’t mask either.”
The last time I had a facial was over 8 years ago. I was pregnant; my skin was super oily. The last time I masked was 8, maybe 10 months ago.”
“So what do you use then?”
“Sunscreen, it’s very important.” I tell this to all my friends who ask, but everyone seems to think I’m withholding some secret formula. “I wear sunscreen 365 days a year, rain, hail or shine.”
Indeed, I’m the poster girl for sunscreen in a land where the afternoon sun can cook an egg on the hood of a car. It’s strange that in this same land, most think of sunscreen as something to be worn only and particularly to the beach. We have entire walls of sunscreen products in most pharmacies in Malaysia and Singapore, but no more than 1 shelve full here. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find more than 10 brands at any one time. There are more self-tanning formulas available. Because of government regulation, the maximum SPF a manufacturer may claim a product to have, with testing, is 30.
“What brand do you use?” She was now massaging cream into my face.
“I usually use Loreal, but I’m out of that so I’ve been using La Roche Posay and Mischa.”
“50 PA+++ for Mischa, the highest possible amount of UVA and UVB protection.”
People only look at the SPF, but that just tells you how long you can be in the sun without burning. It doesn’t tell you how much of a tan you are going to get, sun damage.
The fact that your skin’s colour has deepened means you’ve sustained skin damage. Even dark-skinned people like Indians and Africans, can get sun damage.
“Do you use other products?”
I burst out laughing. “Nope. You’re probably wondering what you can sell to this woman since she doesn’t use anything.”
“No, it’s just good for you to come in for a pampering session,” she said in the same cheery tone I had heard throughout.
With most beauty places, you get pressured into buying things, but not here at Chanel. Perhaps it’s also because I know my stuff: I had my skin typified with the help of Leslie Baumann’s Skin Type Solution (a book about skin types) years ago, and have read books from Paula Begoun, the Cosmetic Cop, about the lies spun by the beauty industry, so I’m no pig ripe for slaughter.
“If at all I’m going to spend up big, it’d be to get Broadband light laser therapy, the next generation of IPL.” Yes, sirree, not creams and potions because nice though they are, don’t deliver the results you expect. “What I place my trust in is a good broad spectrum sunscreen and Hyaluronic acid serum.”
Hyaluronic acid serum plumps up the skin, attracting water from the air to it. I’ve bought other serums, composed of Vitamins and herbs but this produces immediate results. Friends and family also know I swear by Fruit of the Earth Aloe Vera Gel for everything from spots to, in my case, rashes induced by some facial products.
Friends, especially Aussie ones, often say to me, “It must be good genes though.”
Perhaps it is, but most Asian women are sun-phobic anyway. There are many who come to school carrying umbrellas to shield their faces. One of my Taiwanese friends even has a “school shirt” – a long-sleeved shirt she wears to shield her arms and neck from the sun when making the school rounds. I always wear a hat in the afternoons.
In Malaysia, the Malays and the Peranakan like their bedak sejuk, to cool down the skin. The Chinese call it “Sui Fan”. Obviously you can’t go around in it without looking like Caspar the friendly ghost. Made from fermented rice, it’s mixed with water and applied to the face as a paste. Many Chinese also like to put cucumber slices on their face to make a mask. This is reputed to be Gong Li’s secret to looking perpetually youthful and vibrant. Apparently Ashwarya Rai Bachan, a Bollywood Superstar, subscribes to it too.
The Burmese use Thanaka, made from the branches of the Sandalwood tree. They wear theirs all over the body, even in the day time. The Indians use Multani Mitti or fuller’s earth to draw out excess oil and supposed impurities. I’ve tried it before and it is effective, if very drying. Do remember to moisturise afterwards and/or mix it with yogurt to use. If Indians have zits, they drink a blood-purifier named Safi which is found in most Indian and Sri Lankan grocery stores in Australia. I’ve had two bottles of Safi in the past; it tastes really bitter. I’ve always thought Indians and Chilli inseparable but when they have zits, they reduce their chilli intake. Some omit chilli from their curries altogether.
For more beauty tips from around Asia, watch out for my next post.

The dark side of NATURAL.

I have a problem with natural. Some days ago, I wrote about Amanda’s fixation with her uneven eyes and what followed was a link from a friend, supporting my assertion that Koreans have a fixation with a standard of beauty achieved largely through plastic surgery.

A distant acquaintance, one whom I have a past history of falling out with, wrote to say that this is “a generalisation.” That there are “many naturally beautiful” Korean women. That Koreans have the highest IQs in the world. But I think that’s besides the point.

I would agree there are many naturally beautiful Korean women, but many of these “natural beauties” have their faces remodelled entirely to attain the prevailing beauty standard of double eyelids, high-nose bridges, V-shape faces…Creases are stitched into their eyes, silicon injected into their noses, sides trimmed to give a less flared appearance, jaws shaved, a procedure that leaves them unable to talk, much less chew food for weeks.

Yet, we have people claiming that this is natural. I have no problems with surgery as long as people don’t try to invent a DNA profile that never existed. If you are brave enough to subject yourself to the pain of surgery, then own up to it like Singapore’s Xia Xue or Malaysia’s Leng Yein. I admire them both for being honest, even if I personally disagree with surgery as a means to enhance one’s beauty.

If you think I’m rubbishing Koreans, think again. I’m just stating a fact, which may be a generalisation, but the nature of generalisations is that they apply to many people.

I’ll let the facts speak for themselves:

I too have Korean friends and frankly, I can’t be bothered to ask them whether they’ve had their faces remodelled. It’s when people put a premium on a “natural” that is clearly “unnatural” that I get riled up. Then they want to laugh at the poor Chinese woman whose husband sued her for being born ugly! The hypocrisy of this really pisses me off!

Equally annoying is one race looking down on another for being dark, then coveting their facial features. Asians that are naturally (there’s that word again) sharp featured, tend to have darker skin tonnes. Now, you can’t have your cake and eat it; remodel your entire face then PROUDLY say this is natural to your race. You and I know it isn’t.

Look, if you want to argue with me, you are going to have to do so FACTUALLY. You can’t date the odd Korean/Japanese/Pakistani etc dude or dudette and then want to defend their ENTIRE race. I’m not accusing them of anything they’re not doing.


Have you HUGGED your heart/liver/gall bladder etc today?

I have an ulcer the size of Texas in my mouth, but all I can think of is that darn vein just above my left eyebrow. Can’t see it? Check out the picture of me with His Royal Highness during his 40th birthday. You’ll see it snaking above the bridge of my nose there, along with its other siblings.

Since I’m still identifying options to remove the critter, I’ve gone ahead and named it Barney. My logic is I might as well get comfortable with the offending vein, seeing as how I am at its mercy. Hopefully the thing has an ego, and will decide to do me the favour of staying hidden most of the time. Otherwise we’ll have to bring out the big canons: sclerotherapy or lasers. I was going to puff up the area with injectables but apparently it can make the problem more pronounced.

I first noticed Barney and his siblings on my father’s face some 3 years ago.

“Why are you frowning?” I asked my father at the time.

“I’m not frowning,” said he.

“It looks like you’re frowning,” I insisted.

Now, to my chagrin, Barney has migrated to my face, where he seems most comfortable. He’s all I think about even when I am down with some kid from school’s bug, nursing high fevers Friday night and the whole of Saturday. In my sleep, I dream of a beautiful, cold, needle killing him softly with saline or whatever solution they use to make veins disappear.

My obsession must concern His Royal Highness because he attempts to lecture me in his roundabout way. He usually disguises what he has to say to me in story, so as to make the message more palatable. He knows how opposed I am to the the imposition of other people’s values on mine, and so, only attempts the alter my view in the subtlest of ways.

“People neglect their bodies all the time,” he says, as we are driving from one part of Sunnybank to another part of Sunnybank, where we go most weekends.

“No, no, I never neglect any part of me,” I say. “I love myself fully and truly.”

Indeed, I won a gold medal at this year’s Olympics for Narcissist, where I have been a medal contender for years.

“But when was the last time you had a look between your elbows?”

“Just now, while I was rolling up my sleeves.”

“Or the back of your knees?”

“Hhhmmm…you got me there. I haven’t checked the back of my knees in a while.”

“That’s just your knees and they help you to walk. Have you thanked them lately for helping you to walk?”

I’m thinking aliens must have kidnapped His Royal Highness and replaced him with Tony Robbins or one of the gurus from “The Secret.”

“Most of my patients don’t even think about their gall bladders, until I’m about to remove theirs. Suddenly, they want to know what it is for.”

I gasp. It sounds just like me. “What is a gall bladder for?” I ask.

I’m suddenly afraid for all these body parts I have, whose functions I’m ignorant of, whose lifespans I always assumed to be the same as mine, but as His Royal Highness shows, is clearly not the case. What am I to do, if one of them wants to pack up and move back to China?

“And there you are, worried over a tiny little vein on your face. Have you given your kidneys or liver or pancreas a pat to say, ‘Good job. Thanks for helping me to live’?”

“No,” I say quietly.

I never expected the need to. I always expected them to be just there for me, working optimally, uncomplainingly, day in day out, until I expire. Obviously, like all relationships, that with your body is a two-way street and my expectations for my organs far exceed any care I’m giving them. Having said that, I’m sure I’m by no means alone in my negligence. Hands up – and be honest now – how many of you have given your heart/liver/lungs (fill in the blanks) a big hug today? 




When Prevention Magazine holds more promise than Cosmo

By Estella

You know you’re growing older when Prevention Magazine seems a more enticing read than Cosmo or Cleo. When I was in my twenties, “How to rock his world in bed” and “Buy that dress right now” were all good feature stories worthy of the $7 or $8 price tags their magazines commanded. Now in my thirties, a good feature story is one that helps me shift my camel hump of fat at the front without moving a muscle.

This morning as I walked past the magazine aisle whilst doing my weekly grocery shop, this month’s Prevention Magazine  literally leaped off the shelves and onto me, when I saw the words “Slimmer thighs” and “Jiggle-free arms.” Forget about Karma Sutra for the suburbs, what I want is buns of steel, baybeh!  And if it can all be accomplished while I am putting out the washing and hoovering the floor, so much the better. Who has time to visit a gym when caring for a family anyway?

I noticed that this month’s edition of Prevention Magazine also comes with a free booklet on “wheat-free eating.” There means no eating wheat. A couple of editions back, it was no eating meals over 400 calories as part of the “Flat-belly diet.” I had a sixty year old friend who tried that for 2 weeks and shed 5 kilos, before deciding, I opine unwisely, to go onto Human Growth Hormone supplements. Sure, you can loose weight taking Human Growth Hormone supplements but did you know you also up your risk of getting cancer?

I’d prefer to stick to a more conventional approach – diet and exercise – which I’d also recommend you do, unless you have a death wish, in which case losing weight becomes totally redundant. While it’s to my advantage that I have skinny genes that go back centuries, I have to watch what I eat like everyone else, as living in Australia has exposed me to cheese and wine, both of which I indulge in constantly, as part of my on-going cultural assimilation into the land.




An hour at Southbank in Brisbane.

After a lovely midday meal of fish and chips in the company of friends at the Swampdog on Vulture Street, His Royal Highness, Amanda and I adjourned to the Cineplex on Southbank to catch “Prometheus”. At $8.50 for an adult and $4.50 for children to watch a 2D movie, this has to be the cheapest cinema in all of Australia!

Since we had an hour to kill, we decided to take a stroll around the surrounding parklands. As you can see from the picture, Amanda dispensed with decorum by climbing into a tree. Later His Royal Highness had a lie-down on the grass while I moseyed over to the gigantic “Epicurious?” sign, where I dug the brain of a Plant Up employee for my story on the Southbank Corporation’s “Regional Flavours” event.

Amanda in the tree at Southbank parklands.

Amanda in the tree at Southbank parklands.

I was tempted to get ice cream at Movenpicks nearby but had to hold that thought since in the manner of all loving Asian parents, mine had told me to watch my weight. I’m small by Australian standards but back in the East, where only the newly-rich are grossly overweight, they subscribe to a different set of weights.


The Asian beauty dilemma: are we really ugly or do we just think we are?

Yesterday, an old friend of mine asked me to weigh in on Singapore’s obsession with mixed-race persons. She was irate because organisers of Singapore’s Motherhood Magazine had snubbed her fifteen-month-old Chinese toddler, in favour of candidates who were either Eurasian or multi-ethnic. She was quick to concede that  these mixed-race candidates were better looking than mono-race ones, but asserted, and quite rightly too, that Singapore is a largely mono-race city-state.

Asian media pundits point to the double or triple fold circulation of magazines with mixed-race persons on the cover, as opposed to those with mono-racial ones, as being incentive enough to go with the former. While parents of mono-race children such as my friend bemoan their beloved offspring’s lack of desirability, does the mass appeal of mixed-race children to a mono-race population not speak volumes of the way Chinese look at themselves?

I’ve heard and read that in many parts of Asia, the cosmetic procedure du juor is blepharoplasty, followed by rhinoplasty. In lay man’s terms: eye jobs and nose jobs. In more extreme instances, Koreans and Chinese have been known to get their foreheads implanted, chins lengthened, jaws chiselled and skin-whitened ala Michael Jackson, in a bid to approximate their ideal. This begs the question: are Chinese really physically unattractive or is this widespread dysmorphia the result of deifying the wrong beauty paradigm?

Many of my Asian friends were totally amazed when I told them that Aussies routinely compliment me on Amanda’s looks. To Asians, Amanda has small eyes and a short nose. To Aussies, she’s  the equivalent of a pink flamingo in the middle of a suburban park. I just wished my Chinese, Korean and Japanese sisters would see themselves the way enlightened whites do, then none need be subjected to the plastic surgeon’s knife.

Confessions of a former ugly duckling.

As the third of four children, the first two Eurasian, and the last looking more like our Peranakan side of the family, I was what no family member would call a beauty. Indeed, the common refrain among my mother’s Peranakan family was that I looked like my father’s youngest sister and mother, both small-eyed and flat-nosed, if like most Chinese, very fair. With Chinese notions of beauty having always been about big-eyes and sharp noses, even my father’s family considered me rather dour-looking.

Estella as a baby.

Me as a baby with my mother.

Thus, no one expected me to look quite like I do now. As you can see, with time, my Peranakan genes, unknown to me until I was twenty-nine, would out itself. My eyes, while never as large as any of my siblings, somehow grew or opened up to take in the heightened bridge of my nose. My face elongated when I was six and by the time I was twelve, I looked like a childlike version of what I am today.

Estella aged 3.

Me as a 3 year old.

Estella aged 6.

Me as a 6 year old with my father and brother.

Estella aged 12.

Me aged 12.

The point of this whole story I suppose is to say that one can’t really tell how a child will grow up looking. Certainly, having no expectation that I would ever be good-looking, even though I should point out that my mother is, allowed me to concentrate on developing other aspects of my person. It sure beats having everyone fuss over your looks as a child only to outgrow them as an adult.

Estella aged 21.

Me aged 21, at my graduation from university.