camilla engstrom mixed beauty garance dore photos

Mixed Beauty

8 years ago by

One of the most frequently asked questions I get asked is, “Where are you from?” or (even more frequently), “What are you???” I’d always answer the first one with my hometown (yeah – suburbia, USA) but what they were really asking was what my ethnicity was. Yep, I’m one of those ambiguous types. A mix. My dad’s Polish and my mom’s Japanese…

When I was younger, I always assumed that I looked blatantly Asian (still kind of do). It wasn’t until later in life that I was suddenly some sort of exotic mix. Growing up, the way people responded to the way I looked really affected how I felt about my hair, my skin, my eyes… me – and I never really felt confident about any of it. I would look through fashion magazines, trying to figure out what skin tone I had so I knew what makeup palette to use. Am I olive? Yellow? The reality was that I was some sort of combination of both (there’s that ambiguity again). But there was no slot that I fit into, none of the pictures of the models looked like me.

I was speaking to Elle and Neada, my fellow mixed ladies in the studio, about what they went through and it’s funny how we experienced so many of the same things. We all get the “What are you?” question on the regular, we all had to figure out how to tailor beauty trends to our particular ethnicities (or mix of), and none of us ever fit into the “box” (thanks, Barbie).

Elle has naturally curly hair that she blow dries (John Freida Frizz-Ease is her go-to) — making it straighter made it more manageable for her to style growing up. Neada took a long time to work out the perfect blend for her skin tone (MAC concealer, Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer). 

And one other thing that we all have in common is that we moved to New York. Here, you find yourself suddenly surrounded by gorgeous, ethnically ambiguous people – and it makes you feel so much more comfortable in your own skin (we all agreed that we’ve never felt more beautiful than we have being here). 

But maybe that’s just how the world is moving? A more global world might mean that we’re all embracing a more diverse beauty look (about time!)? And I don’t think it’s just limited to those who are mixed, but all types. 

So I want to hear, whether you’re a mix or not, what are some of the beauty challenges you’ve run into – whether it was how other people tried to label you or maybe finding good products for a specific skin or hair type? And did you ever find a good resolution for it? 

What was your beauty experience growing up?

Model: Camilla Engstrom.


Add yours
  • Katherine July, 30 2015, 9:44 / Reply

    This might sound strange, but I feel like I had a similar experience growing up — because I was adopted. Most of the women in my family have blonde hair, blue eyes, aquiline noses, and curvy bodies, while I have wild curly brown hair, a “ski-jump” upturned nose and was a beanpole growing up. For most of those formative teen years I didn’t feel attractive at all because I looked nothing like my gorgeous cousins and I had to figure out how to tame my hair and find makeup that worked for me on my own, without the sort of intuitive help most girls get from mom. Other friends of mine who were adopted – including one who is from asia and in a completely mixed-race family – told me they went through more or less the same thing, it taking a long time to really figure out “what they were” and how to work with it.
    Great, thought-provoking post! :)

  • if we all looked the same (even standard beautiful) it’d be dead boring! :)

  • Martine August, 6 2015, 2:47

    You are lucky your biological parents cared enough to give you up for adoption. Belive me, being a biological parent does not make one a good parent for your child. I had the misfortune to be brought up by my biological mother, who really had no business having children. She wasn’t abusive, or a drug user or a drinker, but she was a terrible parent all the same. Her priorities were entirely on herself. I certainly had no benefit or instruction from a parent that looked like me. I wish more parents realized that giving their children up is the best thing they can do.

  • People always try to put you in a box if it’s for the way you look your origine,,,or what you do…but that ‘s because people feel confident when they understand..when they can have a box for us…but i think the most amazing beauties are the results of a mix… amazing and interesting people can’t be only one thing!!each of us is unique in his own way
    it’s hard to live with it when we are young but it become our force as we grew up…..
    love and happiness
    Yael Guetta

  • « Mais vous êtes quoi, exactement ??? » => vu de chez moi la question est choquante et intrusive, c’est peut être normal aux Etats Unis ? Moi je répondrais que je suis un lézard, une fée ou une casserole, pour remettre la personne à sa place.

    La question de fond c’est la différence face à la majorité perçue. En réalité, on appartient toujours à une minorité face à une autre majorité, c’est toujours relatif. Par exemple je suis une femme, une minorité, aux cheveux bouclés non lissés, une minorité (il existe un lien tacite entre les gens aux cheveux bouclés), j’ai des différences invisibles (maladie chronique, différence neurologique, utérus retroversé, etc etc), on peut toujours en trouver !
    Dans mon fonctionnement, on est tous différents. Je prends chaque personne pour ce qu’elle exprime (ou cache justement) sans mettre dans des communautés (trop simpliste, ca ne fonctionne jamais).

    Pour répondre à ta question, je trouve que la différence est de plus en plus facile à gérer en vieillissant, en s’acceptant totalement, en prenant du recul avec les autres. Je me sens de mieux en mieux avec moi même, avec le physique que j’ai (il est comme il est et puis c’est tout, même si je n’apprécie pas forcément de me regarder dans les miroirs). C’est la confiance en soi qui évolue je crois. Plus forte, plus profonde, plus assurée. Beaucoup de travail sur moi pour avancer vers moi même.
    Et sinon, c’est la 1e photo que je vois de toi, tu es super jolie !!! :D

  • I basically lived and still live the same thing : my dad is french while my mother is from madagascar (where there is also a lot of mixed people, from africa, china, india and indonesia). I look neither like my mother (i’m more fair-skinned) or my father (i tan a lot more easily). The biggest struggle for me is to find a decent foundation… because i’m a mix between olive and sick looking ^^ That being said, I feel grateful for magazines which now include a lot more “skin alternatives” for makeup ideas than 10 years ago when the only option was “fair skinned and blonde” (in France at least).

  • Séverine July, 30 2015, 5:27

    Mon père est français, ma mère est née à Madagascar, de parents mauriciens. Et ma soeur et moi sommes nées en Nouvelle-Calédonie. Je ressemble beaucoup à ma maman, j’ai la peau mate et ma soeur a la peau et les cheveux plus clairs. Et pourtant, on nous dit de plus en plus que nous nous ressemblons, ce qui n’arrivait jamais quand nous étions plus jeunes. On m’a souvent posé la question de savoir d’où je venais et j’ai toujours aimé ressentir l’intérêt que le métissage suscite.
    Bisous de Nouméa

  • Je n’imagine pas les dilemmes que je vais vivre les années à venir, enfin ça a déja commencé !
    Mon mari a vécu l’expérience de Katherine (le 1er commentaire) et nos enfants sont métisses : hâte de lire les commentaires.

  • Mon défi numéro 1 quant a mon métissage (je suis métisse Martinique/France), c’est d’éduquer les gens sur leur façon de me poser des questions sur mon métissage.
    En France en particulier (ou je ne vis plus), les gens sont très maladroits et me demandent: “tu es de quelle origine”. Pour moi la question est mal posée, car mon origine, a moi, c’est la France, c’est la ou je suis née et ou j’ai grandis.
    Il faudrait me demander: “quelle est mon ethnicité”, en anglais: “what is my ethnic background”.

    Quand a la perception que j’ai de moi-même, c’est vraiment assez complique. Même si a 35 ans j’ai eu le temps d’y réfléchir. Moi je me sens très française (je suis attachée au traditions, a la langue, a l’histoire) et tout autant caribéenne (je vais en Martinique tous les ans, c’est un endroit magique et un voyage essentiel a mon équilibre).

    Pour le cote beauté/style, il m’a fallu plusieurs années pour contrôler mes cheveux très frises et très très volumineux, après des années de bad hair day, every day.
    Maintenant j’ai compris que je ne dois jamais rincer l’après shampoing, laisser sécher mes cheveux a l’air libre, et faire des masques, avec des produits que finalement je peux trouver en grande surface. Pas besoin d’aller dans les boutique pour cheveux afros.
    Et contre tout attente, après avoir tanné mes cheveux, j’ai commence a recevoir des compliments, ce qui jusqu’à aujourd’hui, m’étonne. Moi, the super late bloomer.

    Et pour la peau, j’utilise deux poudres, une pour l’hiver et une pour l’ete, car ma couleur de peau change enormement de couleur avec le soleil. C’est MAC qui m’a sauve la vie! Car en hiver, les plus claire des poudres de Molton Brown est trop foncée.

    Je suis vraiment contente de lire ce post, merci de l’avoir poste, Lisa.
    J’allais justement commenter que ce blog était assez desesperement pour les filles blanches/hétéro/trentenaires et finalement je vois qu’il y a un peu de variété. Ça serait bien de voir des posts de garçons!

    Bizz au Studio.

  • Jessica July, 30 2015, 10:43 / Reply

    Amazing post!!!
    I get that question a lot also, people seem to have a need to place others in a box right away. For me though the race question is even more diluted, so what they get is just the place where I was born. Being latin (in particular Dominican) means that I don’t exactly know what my “race” is. We don’t go around talking about our race, because except for some outliers, to say you are Dominican is to say you are mix, we are the product of the europeans who came to colonize the land, the african slaves they brought and a little bit of the tainos (natives) that were left when all was said and done. Plus, unlike in the US there was a lot of mixing between the sides, so we are the product of all that mixing. The country because of some historical developments was formed from those mixed people. We even have a traditional doll called Muneca si rostro (doll without face) which stands for the fact that we are not one “people”/ one face, we are all of them. This is not to say that racism doesn’t exists in my country, it does, but it has a different undertone and context than it does here in the US.

    But this labeling need doesn’t only concern the race aspect, I find that people are uncomfortable when they can’t put you in a category and label you; it must be a “not knowing anxiety syndrome” and a need to have things figure out. I often find myself having to fight labels placed on me that I find constraining and not in tune with who I am, just because the person who placed that label has only only seen me in a certain scenario and has decreed that I’m only that which they have seen or some other prejudice they have about “people like me”. I think everyone has many sides to their personalities but we seem to be obsess with defining each other as one thing, and then be shock because the person we labeled has other sides that are contradictory to the label placed on them. It’s really a futile exercise as we will never know a person fully to be able to definitively put a label on them, not that it seems to stop us from doing it.

  • Jessica July, 30 2015, 1:01

    Loved reading all the other comments of everyone else!

    I wanted to share a little about my beauty challenges:
    hair- the bane of my life:)
    I have very fine tight curly hair and lots of it to boost. It looks great when it’s curly but it doesn’t seem to be a very professional look, a little to wild for the office, so I keep it mostly straight for that reason and because it’s easier to manage during the week and to lose less hair untangling it daily. But also, because we grow up aspiring to have straight hair (aka good hair). To have it straight means that I spend 2 hours under the hair drier at home or a combination of hair drier and blower at the salon. However, I never get the straight hair of my dreams (I get close during winter, when the lower humidity and the cold are very kind to my hair texture). My dream hair would be full body bouncy waves, it looks like that when it comes out of the hair drier but the minute I exit the door all bets are loose as to where my hair will end, and it’s never where I want them! When it’s blowdried by experts it is super straight which somehow stays under control outdoor but it doesn’t have the body I would like. I however, would not chemically straighten my hair, not even have keratin treatments, I like having the option of being curly one day and somewhat straight on others (my continuous fight to have my bombshell hair day).

    Skin- Like MU my skin color varies a lot depending on how much sun I get, in the winter I could be a sickly pale brown with greenish undertones, while in the heavy beach season I could be a very toasted brown, my preference lies towards the middle let’s call it a golden brown;) or some people have the most amazing rosy dark skin, but I don’t have that option in my repetoire of color variation. Any way this means that I have to mix foundations according to what my skin color is that day. Thankfully I rarely wear makeup so I don’t have to worry much about that; this is one of the benefits of having dark skin, you can get away with not wearing makeup and look really young even when you are not.

    Any way, as was mentioned by others it is a challenge when your look is not the norm and you live in a place that embraces something other than what you are and things are not catered to your needs be it hair, foundation, body type, etc. It takes time to own who we are and take the good and the bad that comes with it, and everyone goes through some version of it, even those girls that look like the all american girl next door. However, it helps now that people seem to be embracing diversity, it is nice to have someone that looks like you on magazines and have that person be called beautiful, or have people compliment your skin color, especially in your home, though it is a nice benefit of traveling to see that there are people out there that are partial to your look (I’ve also experience a partiality of europeans towards my looks, hair and color, and not just the boys, also girls admire it, I think this helped in my process of owning myself and finding the beauty within me)

  • I’m half Japanese half Brazilian, and I’ve lived in both countries and in the US and Europe as well, funnily I noticed I’m popular in Brazil and Europe but not at all in Japan and the US!what you find attractive in someone is really defined by what people look like when you’re growing up, I suppose, and I look nothing like Barbie. Awesome to see someone who looks a lot like me on this website :)

  • The hardest thing is finding inspiration – most models are all white and any ethnicity are token – if you’re not 1 or the other what colors and products look good on you? It’s hard to find out and I still don’t understand why there isn’t more diversity in magazines and ads. God knows I’d buy more if the model looks like me! Or are we too much of a minority?

  • J’ai vécu un peu la même chose en tant que métisse. Plus jeune, je n’étais pas à l’aise avec ma “différence” ne sachant pas dans quelle case je devais rentrer. En grandissant, j’ai compris que je n’avais pas besoin de rentrer dans une case, que j’avais juste à être moi-même, que mes origines ne me définissaient pas en tant que personne. J’ai même réalisé que c’était une force. Les gens ne savent pas dans quel case nous mettre non plus et ne peuvent donc pas nous coller de préjugés et d’étiquettes, ils ne peuvent que nous prendre pour ce que nous sommes. Du moins jusqu’à ce qu’ils posent la question “vous êtes quoi” et qu’ils commencent à rattacher alors toutes les idées préconçues sur nos origines, pensant mieux nous déchiffrer ainsi.
    Concernant l’image de la beauté, je trouve qu’il y a un peu plus de mixité dans les représentations médiatiques qu’il y a quelques décennies, mais il reste encore beaucoup de progrès à faire.

  • vanessa la belge July, 30 2015, 11:23 / Reply

    Je suis métisse Rwandaise/Belge et franchement c’est GALÈRE pour trouver un produit, et encore plus une coupe de cheveux, qui convienne à mes cheveux. Une afro ? Impossible, pas assez frisé. Un carré lisse ? Pas assez lisses. Une longue crinière bouclée en mode sauvageonne? Mes boucles décident de vivre leur proper vie dès que mes cheveux dépassent mes épaules… J’ai l’impression d’être condamnée à garder la même coupe de cheveux toute ma vie et c’est horriiiible. Niveau maquillage c’est pareil..

    C’est une réelle richesse d’avoir en soi plusieurs cultures mais pratique, ca non ! :-)

  • Très sympa ce post! ça donne envie de réagir.
    Tout comme Mu, je suis métisse France/Martinique. je suis toujours un peu génée par cette question : “t’es de quelle origine???” déjà parce que c’est quand même un peu intime comme question, et à chaque fois je sais pas, je me sens obligé de répliquer : “mais je n’y ai jamais mis les pieds” sinon les questions pleuvent.

    Perso mon plus gros défi (bon, ok, comme la moitié des nanas sur cette terre) c’est mes cheveux!! J’ai toujours eu un gros problème avec eux et je les ai souvent maudis. Ils sont à moitié crépus, pas assez pour pouvoir faire des trucs sympa, mais trop pour que je puisse les lâcher. Un espèce d’entre deux ‘batard’. L’enfer. Du coup, depuis l’adolescence, je les défrise. Avec un produit qui, à mon avis, décape mais je ne sais pas faire autrement. Je les défrise à la racine tous les 4 mois environ. Mon plus grand rêve serait de tout simplement pouvoir les lâcher, comme ça, sans prise de tête, et qu”ils puissent voler sur mes épaules (surtout qu’ils sont trèèèèès long!).

    En tant que métisse, je me reconnais très peu (voir pas du tout) dans les magasines de mode, ou de beauté. Tous les bons conseils sont toujours pour des peaux blanches, et pour des cheveux lisses. Je n’y trouve jamais aucun bon produit ni conseil. Comme si les peaux foncées n’avaient pas droit à leur place. Je trouve ça assez bizarre… La dernière fois, je lisais les conseil “pour être au top cet été” et là, ils expliquaient comment…se blondir les cheveux! Le magasine a fini à la poubelle :-)

    Quoi qu’il en soit, même si petite je rêvais d’être blanche et d’avoir des baguettes à la place des cheveux, je suis fière de ce que je suis. Et IL me trouve belle, alors…
    Bises! ?

  • It seems to me that the ” grass is always greener “. As a fair skin brunette (who never tanned, just burnt & freckles), I always envied “les métisses” (a la Noémie le noir). I practice less is more (which means no foundation, i’m a little bit like Garance on this, with my bionic eye sight I think most people/girls look like they have pancake on their face).
    One question remains why was the last sentence of the blog in French not translated in its English version? Pardon my French (or in this case my English) here’s a rough estimate:
    “More generally how do you apprehend beauty while growing up/aging?”

  • I’m such a mutt — I think it’s so much more interesting that way!

  • Loved this post! I’m a mixed teen (Australia/Taiwanese) and I always found that in school people always labelled me as either Asian or Australian; never mixed. It kind of annoyed me because I wanted to embrace both cultures but found I was sort of getting pushed into being either more Australian or more Asian (not sure if that made any sense, but maybe others can relate).
    In terms of beauty, I inherited my mothers hooded eye lids which made eyeshadow application really confusing for me (thank you YouTube for the help!). Foundation is still a struggle!

  • Jennifer July, 30 2015, 11:55 / Reply

    While I would not call myself basic, I’m American born – German, Swiss, French and some tine tiny part American Indian. Fair skin, Blue eyes, deep Chocloate hair. American standard. My best friend is high school was this exotic beauty and I felt so boring. People always tell me I look like someone they know. So I felt I just look like everyone else, nothing special.
    While my Mom always told me otherwise. I feel as if it wasn’t until I started studying the French and their amazing way of effortless style and to my own shock got bangs that I started to feel more like who I am and although I will never be exotic I don’t really feel like everyone else. Amanda Brooks’s “Always Pack A Party Dress” and this Blog as have helped in my growth. To find the best in you and what works for you and take it and run with that. Be you.

  • I had the exact same experience as a child. I’m half Danish and half Filipino and I was always asked “what are you?” or “where are you from?”. I did the exact same thing and answered with my homecity, but clearly people weren’t asking about that. I was also very confused with “what I was” and I related to both the Danish and Filipino culture, so you can’t really avoid a culture clash in your personality. Even though I think I look very asian, people guessed Brazil, Greenland, Japan, Colombia and so on.. It’s a very weird icebreaker every single time.

  • I am African black who have lived most of my life in Europe, Greece specifically in a town with zero black people.
    The only black girl in my university, so it is understandable the stores don’t carry anything that match my skin ever.
    Thanks for this great post!

  • Léa D. July, 30 2015, 12:03 / Reply

    En fait le plus dur c’est quand tu ne connais pas tes origines …

    J’ai un nom qui ne sonne pas très “français” qui me vient d’un pépé abandonné quand il était encore bébé …
    L’histoire de ma famille est très mystérieuse … Quelque part ça entretient le fantasme et j’aime ça.

    Mais aujourd’hui où les origines sont si importantes c’est pas toujours facile, la plupart du temps quand on me pose cette question je n’ai pas envie de m’étendre sur le sujet du coup je dis que je suis espagnole et ça passe ;)

    En tout cas super sujet, la bise !

  • Clotilde July, 30 2015, 12:09 / Reply

    Je ne sais pas s’il faut prendre toute question pour de l’anxiété. Je ne crois pas du tout que ce soit tout le temps le cas. Moi par exemple je suis affreusement curieuse, ça s’arrête là, et parfois je me retiens de parler aux gens de leur “ethnicité”, parce que c’est un peu intrusif, mais ce n’est absolument pas de l’anxiété.
    Par exemple mon mari est de Madagascar et je reconnais très facilement les malgaches d’origine merina, dans le bus ou n’importe où. Souvent j’ai envie de leur parler, de Mada, de la famille, des vacances, mais je me retiens parce que je me dis que les gens n’aiment pas forcément qu’on leur colle une étiquette au premier coup d’oeil. Mais c’est un peu dommage, parfois lorsque j’ai osé, on s’en est fait des copains ensuite !

  • Thank you so much for bringing up this important issue of mixed race and identity! I am a half Indian half European mix and have always struggled with finding my identity. I think fashion and style have helped me form what I consider my own culture, and have helped make peace with the inner stubble of feeling different. Its actually so much fun now to use beauty and colors in ways that make me look different from the crowd!

  • Je trouve ca genial moi qui ne suis meme pas originaire de France mais seulement d’une region: je suis 100% bretonne, rien d’exotique et j’aurai tellement aimé avoir des origines différentes… Bon aujourd’hui j’y remédie, je vis avec un allemand et on aimerait avoir des enfants, pas vraiment exotique non plus mais au moins ils auront 2 langues et 2 cultures ;-)

  • You’re half Polish? That’s so nice to hear/read, especially that I’m reading your blog for a while now and I’m Polish girl living in Denmark :D Greetings from here :)

  • C est très intéressant de lire les commentaires…je pose très souvent la question sur les origines car je m intéresse aux personnes que je rencontre, j aime bien échanger et apprendre. J aime la mixité, mon mari est suédois et je suis très fière des cheveux blancs de ma fille (pas blonds,non, blancs et raides) qui suscitent de nombreux commentaires.
    Donc je suis un peu déboussolée d apprendre que mes questions bien intentionnées soient source de gêne et d embarras.

  • Anonyme July, 30 2015, 1:06 / Reply

    Oui c’est marant je m’identifie un peu dans ce poste .Non je ne suis pas métisse et non je ne suis pas le fruit d’un mixte de nationalités mais j’avoue avoir du mal à me placer dans une catégorie de fille (disons cela comme ça ) . En fait je suis mi-rousse (c’est comme ça que je m’appelle :p ) , donc je ne suis pas brune mais pas complètement rousse non plus. Ça implique pas mal de choses : je bronze pas aussi bien que les personnes normales (loin de là) mais je ne vire pas non plus au rouges écrevisse comme les rousses. Ma peau n’est pas phosphorescente comme les rousses mais on ne peut pas dire que ma peau soit foncée . Soit j’ai ce problème de “patarge” pour un tas d’autres exemples : couleur des vêtements (dépend de la couleur de la peau c’est indiscutable ) , tâches de rousseur, sensibilité de la peau etc…. Mais après tout ça ne me déplaît pas considérons cela comme une chance d’être (un petit peu ) hors du commun ;)

  • My first run in with the “What skin tone am I?” problem was in high school, when I had to learn how to do my own makeup for a play. The director explained to me that because I am white, I had to use the makeup all the other pale white girls were using. In fact, she had already bought me a makeup kit without having me try it out first.

    I looked like a grey ghost…which, unfortunately, was not the role I was playing.

    Turns out that I have a more olive complexion than most caucasian people, and it’s especially prominent if I get any kind of a tan. The director ended up having to re-order a new kit for me, after asking me several times if I was lying about my race (“Are you sure you’re not at least partly Hispanic? Asian? Anything?”)

    Now, I rely mostly on tinted moisturizers and BB creams instead of foundation because I find that it’s easier to find a shad that works well enough. When I do use foundation, it’s always a blend of something pale and something a bit more orange or yellow, depending on the time of year. For years, I just assumed everyone had to do that!

  • I’m a mix of sorts – my mother is mixed European-American (i.e. white and her family has been in North America for many generations) and my father is African American and Native American. I have fluffy curly hair, olive skin and hazel eyes. Finding my place has been a journey, figuring out makeup and hair being the hardest part! What *is* normal, anyway?? People love to guess ‘what’ I am (American), and I’ve become exhausted having to explain myself. I’ve found that if I’m open and friendly, people love to think I must be at least half of whatever they are. And on some levels, that could be true. In my adult life I’ve really enjoyed living in a large city just like NY, where I can live comfortably around other people who understand people come in lots of flavors and just take me as I am.

  • Moi perso, je n’ai aucun problème avec les questions sur mon origine. Au contraire, la curiosité montre l’intérêt que les gens peuvent me porter! :-)
    Le truc le plus dur c’est trouver la bonne teinte de correcteur ou de fond de teint: je me retrouve toujours a devoir en acheter plusieurs pour les mixer!

  • Born in Amsterdam, I was always between many mixed-culture kids in primary and elementary school. Holland has many of them anyways, the Dutch were such colonialists in the past… When I was 10 I moved to a small town where it was either “weird” or “cool” to be able to talk Lithuanian and come from another city. In high school everybody called me Polly (from that cartoon Kids from room 402 – fyi Lithuanians don’t collect spoons nor have goats called Schnitzi nor do they jodel and borsjtsj is a Slavic dish, Lithuanians have saltibarsciai and burokeliu sriuba) but I found it to be amusing and it really became my nickname. I’ve always been proud of my North-Western&Baltic heritage. People, until today, always asked me: do you feel more Dutch or Lithuanian? And my answer was that when I’m in the Netherlands, I feel more Lithuanian and when I’m in Lithuania, I feel more Dutch….

    My skintone is seriously yellow, by the way. And I still suspect my Dutch grandfather to have been a secret gypsy with his black hair, bronzed skin and bright blue/green eyes.

  • being a vagabond…. i am also often asked “where are you from”. It certainly is a difficult thing to answer. My mom is american and my dad is German. Ok, i am “white”… but have been guessed to be everything from Russian, Turkish, French and Israeli. I love not having a cliche look and always enjoy hearing peoples reasoning for their guesses. T

    Turing my travels I love guessing where people are from and learning about the individual beauty-traits the different regions have to offer.

    Thank you for showing me yet another unique beauty.

  • I’m “100% Japanese” — 3rd generation American, but I think at least in America, if you aren’t caucasian, you will get that question. When people ask me where I’m from, I say the state I was born in, and then when they ask me where my parents were born, I tell them what state my parents were born in. :-) I would understand if I had an accent, but I don’t. So, when someone asks me this question, it tells me more about them, than anything else.

  • Very interesting post..and subject.
    As I’m in my 60s, am probably older (?) than most of those posting so can definitely say that the situation, as far as make up is concerned, has definitely improved since the 70s when I was in my 20s. It is still a hunt to find the correct colours but I admit that as a younger woman I had skin that looked great without foundation, so wasn’t too bothered, a nice browny/yellow colour looked better than many others! Now, it’s more about finding concealers that do their job on pigmentation!

    The question that we have all had to answer about where are we from used to annoy me until I realised that it was less about being put in a box and more out of curiosity. When you are not part of the majority, that sparks curiosity to know WTF you are where you are. My take on it was to answer and then return the question. I met some “white” people who had amazing origins and in the US it is like going on a trip around the world! Really, try it at the next even or party. Ask people where their family originate from and you’ll be amazed!
    As for hair, OMG! I’ve had a short afro )and in shops in Paris they’d address me as “monsieur” but that’s another story), braids, and for a long time now have been straitening. I’d like to go back to an afro but it’s not so easy! I’d have to cut all the straight off and i’ll be “monsieur” again! Anybody have any tips about how to manoeuvre the change actually?
    Final word, be YOU @ 300% because no one does YOU better than you and let the others cope with it!!!

  • I am a “white” girl. Even though my parents are from different continents (USA and Germany) I am in fact “white” and have never run into major beauty-product-delemas.

    However I do wear my hair at a length of about 6mm (you read more about that here and just today, on my way home from the barbershop, some girls on the subway asked me if I am a girl. I explained to them that not only men can have short hair. I find peoples assumptions and cliche-thinking of a girl-with-a buzzcut so interesting but i also reminds me to not put people in boxes based on their style of ethnical background.

    Love and Light,

  • I am mixed too. My mom is from the States and my dad is Iraqi. It’s meant a lot in terms of beauty, especially early on as a pre-teen and teenager. I love thinking about how I used Jolen to bleach my black arm hair in 8th grade, and my mustache and the middle of my eyebrows UNTIL COLLEGE when I discovered waxing. How many people wondered, “What’s up with her blonde mustache?” More importantly is how often I wondered, “Are they looking at my blonde mustache?” Waxing wasn’t even a part of the conversation back then in my small town in upstate NY.

    When my husband first saw me he thought I was Chinese. Aside from beauty, I wonder about your upbringing and your sense of identity growing up. What was it like for you? Did you have other mixed family? Did it cause emotional strife or confusion by way of culture clashes? I have definitely experienced that part of being mixed, positive and negative. I often wonder if it is cultural, or if it is because of a generation gap (or two) in my family- I am about to turn 36 and my dad is about to turn 83?

    There was a VOGUE article in which the author, who was from the States and married to a Maori man, wrote about the surprising assessment she made about her relationship some years in. She discovered that the main conflicts had more to do with growing up in different socioeconomic environments as opposed to different cultures. I experienced that part of it too. The dynamics of it all fascinate me. I really connect with other mixed individuals because it is a unique and uniquely layered experience. Not to say that all personal histories aren’t layered.

    Thank you for this conversation!

  • “Where are you from?” “What are you???”

    Basically your story is mine. I hated being asked these questions growing up. It was not until my late 20s that I discovered (thanks internet) this was a common thing for people of mixed race to hear and they also found those questions uncomfortable or unwelcome. Then I moved to Hawaii, for a job and it was a revelation- no one here asks “what are you?”. They can either tell and/or they don’t really care because so many people are mixed race here (and I can “hide” my mainland-ness so long as I don’t speak). During my first visit with my hair stylist, she ran her hands through my hair and proclaimed “you are hapa and you have typical hapa hair”… then she proceeded to give me the best haircut of my life (my brother had a similar experience when he came to visit and he just went to a Supercuts). I didn’t know there was a name for the type of hair that is a horrible mix of fine/limp texture and random bends and cowlicks that cover my scalp- apparently it’s quite common! The ladies at Sephora here are much better at color matching, though anything in a medium shade with yellow undertones tends to sell out quickly. I do get jealous though when I see other hapas with eyes that are any color other than dark boring brown or hair that is any color other than mousy black- I feel like I lost the genetic lottery! But now seeing others I know that my freckles are a unique feature that I should embrace.

  • Great post!

  • My mom is from Belize she is Garifuna ( African, Carribean, Arawak-Indian) and my father is Norwegian/Irish-American. I’m from California so I grew up with a lot of diversity. I did however get the “what Are you ? ” a lot and my answer was always human !! I don’t get it so much anymore thankfully, i love my family and cultures but its exhausting to explain. Curly, mixed hair, was a nightmare growing up as you could barely ever find products for it. I was so grateful for Paul Mitchell leave in conditioner in high school . Now you can get everything for curly hair and i am so grateful. I don’t worry much about makeup because i don’t wear any foundations or powder but i know it would be a pain to find the correct colors. I get darker with the tiniest bit of sun but go extra pale when i don’t get any at all. I love who I am , I feel like a child of the world :)

  • Angelina July, 30 2015, 5:29 / Reply

    Wonderful to open the blog to find something about fellow “mixies”!
    My mom’s German-Italian and my dad Native American-Dominican and all of us have been born and raised in the Netherlands. I feel ultimately Dutch, but when it comes to picking out my beauty routines and finding a hairdresser I really hit a wall. Especially when it comes to my hair! I have a massive mane of curls though the texture is similar to that of someone with thick straight hair, finding someone who knows how to treat/handle/style has been very difficult. And I’m so grateful to have found a hairdresser who I can talk to about my hair and what I can and can’t do with it. I really feel like she understands what it is like to have no idea what to with it and she does a lot of research for me on different hairstyles so I don’t have to walk around with the same hairdo for the rest of my life haha!
    To my “fellowmixies” who experience the same “what the hell am I supposed to do with my hair!?!??” I would very much advise them to find a hairdresser who understands you and knows what he or she is doing! It is such a confidence boost to go somewhere and return after an hour knowing you will look great and feel comfortable with the result!



  • Ahah… Moi je suis métisse…mais d’un métissage qui ne se “voit pas”… et, entourée de métissés “qui se voient”, ben j’étais juste jalouse de voir qu’à moi, on me posait jamais la question de mes origines pourtant multiples si on remonte à plusieurs générations…

  • Annette July, 30 2015, 6:05 / Reply

    I am that rare, exotic mixture of Irish and German! LOL, just kidding, I believe it was one of the most popular mixtures of the late nineteenth and early-to-mid twentieth centuries in America. Which means I have a combination of frizzy hair and ruddy skin, woo hoo! However, my best friend is part Irish, part Japanese. I’ve always liked the mixtures because the features are so unique and beautiful. And I can see that the Japanese and Polish mixture is quite beautiful, too, lucky you!

  • My experience is really quite similar to yours as I am a Japanese/French/English mix, so it’s lovely to hear your story. I have come to love what makes me different and unique but the struggle with beauty products remains :-)

  • Rebecca July, 30 2015, 6:42 / Reply

    I grew up in San Francisco in the 60 & 70’s, 1/4, Mexican, 1/4 Italian, 1/4 welsh and 1/4 unknown. Growing up and even as an adult no one said anything about my color skin. I spent 9 years living in France and I was always got compliments on my bronze skin . I never thought much of it. Then 2 years ago and at 51 years I moved to Marin county in CA. I get asked all the time where am I from what ethnicity am I
    , etc. I answer , I’m American as apple pie, born and raised in San Francisco . They get the picture however It doesn’t always stop there. Its an uncomfortable feeling for me when I’m questioned about my ethnicity over and over again. I now say Swedish and usually I get a dumb founded look and all cross examination comes to an abrupt halt.

  • I’m half Chinese and half Scottish, and I get “Where are you from? Like, where are you really from?” and “What ARE you?” allllll the time. It doesn’t bother me! I’m always curious about people and their backgrounds too.
    Unlike you, I don’t think I look “blatantly Asian”. Some people know I have an Asian mix right away, but I’ve had all sorts of assumptions such as Icelandic, Spanish, Hawaiian, and some people didn’t know I was mixed at all!

  • Georgina July, 30 2015, 6:54 / Reply

    I too am of mixed race. My mother Filipino, my father Scottish. Growing up in Sydney which is often described in travel guides as a ‘melting pot of cultures’ strangely was not as welcoming. Throughout highschool my friendship groups were yes “melting pots of culture” from Italian & Hungarian to Korean & Australian. However I was often named “halfcast” as I didn’t quite fit in with the “white” group and the “asian” group did not see me as a of true asian decent either.
    Although the term “halfcast” was used in an endearing way it created a stigma with me that something was wrong. Why was I being singled out? Why did I feel bad about being called halfcast? I have always laughed it off as it was never intended as a bullying tactic & I never struggled to have friends but it always stayed in the back of my mind that I was not accepted.
    As I have grown older, travelled the world & met many more “half-casts” I have realised I shouldn’t feel ashamed & rather it was their own way giving me a culture group (or maybe I am just being niave).
    I too grow tired when meeting new people I still get asked “Where are you from?” if I answer “Sydney born and raised”, it is almost always followed by “Oh really, well what are you?” I almost always answer “I am Australian, if its my heritage you are after, I am a mix of Filipino Scottish”.

  • I hate the “What are you?” question – duh, I’m human! Please treat me as such.

    Great post, would love to see more on that process of figuring out beauty/style/self when you don’t quite fit into the norm. I’m definitely still going through it! (Hawaiian, English/Irish, Dutch, and Chinese – just a bit of a mix.) Does it ever end?

  • Claire July, 30 2015, 7:17 / Reply

    I also get the “What ARE you?” question, and it is so annoying. I’m a human being!

  • Lansky July, 30 2015, 8:18 / Reply

    Je suis 100% haïtienne, je n’ai aucun mélange. Par contre, je trouve qu’au niveau makeup les compagnies ne font pas assez de couleurs pour les femmes noires surtout au niveau des fonds de teints. :) Sinon la vie ça va.

  • i am mexican: meztiza!
    my father (from jalisco) looks like spaniard (white skin, green eyes), on my mom side, my grand mother (from Veracruz) was white skin, blond, blue eyes, my grand father a bit like turkish, my mother skin is like her father, but gray eyes and blond hair… and me, some people say im white, but not, not like my father or grand ma, but my skin tane gold , my eyes are green/gray my hair was reddish, now chocolate… some say i look like italian, buy really im meztiza, like a lot of people here in mexico. mix is great!

  • Lucy Van Pelt July, 30 2015, 10:10 / Reply

    I am 100% Bengali and grew up in Australia and I think I only wear minimal make up because there were never decent options for me when I was a teenager in the 80s- that is, the formative years in terms of working out what make up works and what doesn’t. I have never worn foundation for the simple reason that I have never found one which is suitable for my skin tone. Even Prescriptives back in the day, with their customised foundation, never had anything which was remotely close. And lipstick choices are also very limited.
    So basically, it’s black mascara and kohl pencil, and Benetint- probably not that different to my forebears!

  • I love that beauty and fashion blogs are featuring so many more mixed people lately!!! As someone who is Swedish, German, and Indian finding the right makeup and hair products has always been a bit of a challenge. I have my mom’s fine hair (though hers is straight and blond), and the curls and dark brown color from my dad, which just equals frizz and baby hairs. Finding curl products that don’t either weigh it down or make me feel like a doll has been a bit of a process. Lately I’ve been using the Alterna CC Cream Leave-in hair perfecter, which has been working great to tame the frizz and give me that messy, beachy look. I’m still searching for the perfect foundation and concealer, though. My undertones are very green and my skin tends to look sallow after a long New York winter. I’ll keep an eye out for suggestions.
    Anyway, awesome to see a post about this and read some of the comments for product suggestions and stories. Thanks!

  • Growing up not looking like any one race (arab/eastern european) was pretty interesting for me. I blended into more groups than I would have had I looked one way.. that kind of accessibility was priceless. I have had more issues trying to blend into my actual ethnicity than being accepted by the rest of the world! Hair continues to be the last physical mystery that I need to conquer…

  • Great topic, great post. Personally, I believe the more mixed the person, the more beautiful he/she is. The beauties that have impressed me the most are like the ones you describe. Is that you in the pic? What a beauty.

    I am Latina and people sometimes think I am also Italian or French. I love that ambiguity that being mixed race gives us.

  • DaveysHouse July, 31 2015, 12:59 / Reply

    Well, you are just gorgeous, Lisa!!

    In questionnaires in the US where they ask about ethnicity/race, I always answer “other”, simply because I find it an insulting question for any human being, so I answer it like that even as a “some sort of Caucasian” person. Besides, who knows (or cares) what our complete racial origin is?

    I am a rather ordinary mix of Spanish, some Italian and some Swiss Italian. That shows up as a skin/eye/haircolor conflict! My skin can be sallow but gets ruddy pink with exertion, my hair looks ash brown but has bits of red in the sunlight, and now it’s turning white, and my eyes are olive green, so I’m almost a pale olive skinned “redhead” – red hair with gold in it looks really good on me. Go figure. I have never found a foundation that works. Bareminerals powder, translucent SPF 15 works well and doesn’t fight my skin tone, whatever it is.

  • Rachel July, 31 2015, 2:12 / Reply

    I am half Irish and half Philippino and I always get asked where from ( I now live in France where there is the added element of a language that retains elements that would be considered politically incorrect in an English speaking country when speaking about origins and ethnicity) people think I come from places such as Australia , Turkey, Brazil , Mexico , America but then I tell them my mix and the response I always get oh of course I see the Asian part ( nah you didn’t I just told you!)this article certainly made me think especially as I have a daughter who has beautiful mixed origins too! Yeah I always had fun placing myself in the make up colour guide- olive , Latina ? Which was right ? But I always had a love for make up and my colouring made it fun to experiment.

  • When I was a child I was blonde, then my hair started to get darker and darker. My hair became neither blond nor brown. Something in between and I didn’t know what I was. And I always envied the ethnically mixed types. They are interesting and more define, which may seem a weird opinion. I’m Polish and I look really Polish, European, nothing special. Believe me, being mixed is a lot more exciting.

  • You’re so pretty and I thought you really resembled that actress in the Game of Thrones series – her name is Oona Chaplin.

  • Soleil July, 31 2015, 3:50 / Reply

    Merci pour ce billet.

  • Je trouve qu’être mélangée c’est un atout formidable, ça donne à la personne une beauté unique. Mes origines ne se devinent pas et lorsque je les dis l’effet sur les gens est priceless (moitié algérienne/polonaise). Je serais encore plus complexée si je n’avais aucune origine étrangère.

  • Camille July, 31 2015, 7:26 / Reply

    Je suis très typée méditerranéenne (cheveux très bruns, yeux marrons, sourcils épais) et avec mes yeux en amande et mes pommettes marquées, les gens me demandent souvent si je n’ai pas des origines asiatiques. Quand je leurs dis que je suis 100% bretonne pur beurre ça étonne toujours. Je trouve ça magnifique de ne pas rentrer dans des cases et d’avoir une beauté “exotique”. Cette il faut jongler avec les inconvénients, mais il n’y a rien de plus beau que d’être “différent” !

  • Braaun July, 31 2015, 7:39 / Reply

    I am so very grateful for this post. It’s about time we start to talk about the struggles we face in society, and how those struggles affect our definitions of beauty. What I noticed in most of the comments was that we all had a “Oh, it’s okay to look the way I look” moment – or as Oprah would call it, The Aha! Moment. I’m Black and I grew up in Switzerland & I’ve been asked the “Where are you from?” question more times than I wish to remember. I’ve also noticed that this question requires an especially long answer when you travel and name your hometown, when all the interrogator really wants to know is “Why is your hair/skin that texture/colour?” Also, being multilingual means that I have an underlying accent (some hear it, some don’t) which usually prompts the “Are you insertEnglishspeakingcountryhere?” question. Sigh, I dream of a time when people will know how to approach “Otherness” with a bit, no, a lot more tact.


  • I tend to think people are just curious when asking the these questions, but I have to admit that I do enjoy not answering the way they want. “What are you?” “American.” “No, I mean, where are you from?” “California, born in LA.” “But where are you parents from?” “They grew up in Chicago.” I like making them have to say “race” or “ethnicity” to get the answer they want, so they feel a bit uncomfortable too.

  • It was only until I moved to Nashville, USA from Africa that I experienced the “What are you” question. From little kids to adults who should know better, I went from being a part of a relatively common group of mixed individuals in Cape Town to a novelty in Nashville. It was decidedly uncomfortable!

  • I so identify with this post. I too, grew up in suburbia USA from a Mexican mother and American father (of Polish decent). My biggest challenge wasn’t so much physical – but the issue was labeling me. Are you white? Are you Hispanic? Check the box please! I always have a difficult time picking one – because I feel both Caucasian and Latino and live in two worlds at once. I identify with both cultures and feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to experience that. I spent my summers in Mexico as a kid (visiting my HUGE family) and that has impacted me in a special way I cannot describe. I never felt comfortable in my hometown, and knew that there was another place for me. The hardest part of it all was being teased about my Mexican heritage (called terrible words I cannot write here). I always ignored it and didn’t let it bother me – I knew that my culture was special and beautiful and I felt lucky I could experience it! When I first visited New York at age 18, I immediately knew this would be my future home post-college. I love this melting pot and how differences are celebrated and appreciated. I felt like I finally found “my tribe” and have friends from all types of backgrounds, places, countries and mixes! It’s like a lovely pot of soup with a million different ingredients that make it just delicious. That’s New York for me.

  • Camille July, 31 2015, 9:16 / Reply

    D’origine polonaise les gens me posent très souvent la question de par ma couleur de peau. Très blanche, pleine de tâches de rousseur partout (visage, bras, jambes…), yeux bleu et cheveux blond vénitien. Ce qui interpelle le plus ce sont les tâches de rousseur et j’ai alors droit à des questions sur mes origine puis invariablement j’ai droit à “mais tu dois prendre de sacré coup de soleil !” ou “tu ne dois pas beaucoup bronzer”… Comme si c’était honteux de ne pas avoir le teint hâlé !
    Plus jeune j’ai été très complexée par cette caractéristique (d’autant plus que mes parents ont vraiment le type méditerranéen – brun, cheveux bouclés, bronzés, yeux marrons – et j’ai grandi dans le sud de la France) à cause justement de toutes ces questions stupides. Aujourd’hui j’ai 29 ans et décidé de m’assumer (même si me mettre en robe et montrer mes jambes reste un peu difficile) grâce à ces quelques personnes qui me complimentent sur ce que je prenais pour un défaut.
    La vraie beauté est dans la singularité de chacun et chacune ;)

  • I was always much taller and skinnier than average, and I have always been asked, “How tall are you?”, “Do you play basketball?”, and my favorite, “You’re so skinny! Are you anorexic or something?” I never really liked the attention, and being tall made me very self conscious. On top of that, growing up, clothes never fit me right (now some places are finally making taller fits). When I was a teenager, I even was prescribed a pill that would help my body finish growing faster so I wouldn’t be the 6’2 height the doctors predicted I would be. (Even though I turned out to be 6’2, anyway.)
    Well, I finally feel beautiful being tall. It’s my identity. I don’t know where the confidence stemmed from, but I wear clothes that accentuate my height. I also married a (the greatest) man who is significantly shorter than me, despite what people think and how stereotypes try to seep in. Life is so fulfilling when you learn to love your body! I still have insecurities, and it’s annoying to hear “REAL women have curves!” but I love feeling beautiful in tucked in shirts, high waisted pants, and heels when my feet are feeling up to the challenge. I especially love walking down the street with a man shorter than me, despite all the stares, because hey, my husband is ridiculously wonderful, my body is beautiful, and stereotypes are lame.

  • Caroline July, 31 2015, 10:53 / Reply

    It’s always really awkward whenever someone asks me the question, ‘where are you from?’ as I always answer with Plymouth (UK) as that’s where I grew up. However, once I say that people say ‘Where is your mum from?’ to always indicate to my ethic origin rather than the place that I call my home town. (Although I was born in the Philippines, I identify myself with Plymouth more so.) It seems to be the only chat up line guys come up with whenever I’m outside the house.

    One thing that also frustrates me is that people don’t seem to realise that China, India and Pakistan are all part of Asia or that there are other countries that can identify themselves as Asian. For the census that we all have to complete, I always say Asian British, as that’s what feels right when describing what I am yet the other options are also confusing and ambiguous as they also describe me, e.g.: mixed: asian and white race, white and other race (the ones usually stated are chinese, indian, pakistan, and as already mentioned asian)

    Complaints aside, I do agree with you that it’s great that the globalisation of our world has meant that beauty standards have become more hazy and ambiguous for the simple reason it means everyone can feel more comfortable in their own skin realising that everyone is beautiful in their own way. That’s a great point to have made and I’m glad you’ve made it.

  • Renu Beniwal July, 31 2015, 11:00 / Reply

    This article is so on point. I grew up hearing the questions “What are you?” and “where are you from?” and have grown to hate those questions. My father is from India and mother from Ireland and I look racially ambiguous and have an Indian first name (my name alone throws people off). This resulted in me navigating through different groups and cultures and shaped my self – confidence since you have to have a strong sense of self to answer these questions.
    (Has anyone been told their background is “exotic”? That response just seems so inappropriate and annoying to me.)

    It’s refreshing to see a post like this. There are so many biracial/multiracial people out there, but rarely is acknowledged.

  • Hi Lisa, I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoy reading your posts. I like your style of writing very much!

  • My mother is Colombian-Lebanese and my father is American (ancestors Dutch and English). I definitely don’t look Hispanic, and Europeans generally think I am French. I have my fathers features with my moms color-influence. No drugstore makeup works on me because my skin is not pinkish or yellowish … Somewhere in between! Using Clinique for now, but it’s still not perfect, as I am more olive in the summer and pink in the winter. Sigh! My hair is straight, so that is easy. My sister is very Lebanese looking, with curly black hair and olive skin! We do not look alike, but are best friends nonetheless!

  • hellestorm July, 31 2015, 1:54 / Reply

    I have to agree with Ruby. I think that the majority of the time, people are asking ‘where are you from’ or ‘what are you’ because they are simply curious. Let’s admit it’s fascinating to see the beauty that emerges from parents with different ethic backgrounds. Why is this considered offensive? Why do you find it inappropriate? It’s a perfectly legitimate question to be asked. Respond with pride!

  • Jacquelyn July, 31 2015, 2:09 / Reply

    I have been asked this question for as long as I can remember and it continues to haunt me to this day. “What are you”? What a funny question to ask. “Where are you from”? Ummmmm Texas. “No, I mean your parents, where are they from”? Ummm America…Ah, I see what your getting at. You would like to know how I have light eyes but dark skin, caucasian features, but obviously curly hair under my straightened rouse. I have battled this constant confusion others have had with my “ethnicity” all of my life. I use to get insecure and feel uncomfortable that I looked so different from the average girl next door, i.e. all of my friends. When I became more interested in my adoption and birth parents is when I truly began to embrace my differences and I realized it’s sort of awesome and exotic to look so ambiguous and keep people wondering. I’ve always had the basic facts of my birth parents, she was Irish and English, fair skinned, blonde with blue eyes he was French and Spanish, olive skinned, with green eyes and dark hair. I find myself just jumping to this quick and rehearsed explanation whenever asked the question of why I look the way I do. But now I boast it loud and proud!! My beauty experience growing up was a battle. I had tight spiral curls and fought them for as long as I can remember. I became the ponytail girl, can’t manage it, slick it into a curly gelled ponytail. When I turned 15 and after many many arguments, my mother finally allowed me to get a permanent straightener. This changed my beauty routine. I could finally manage my hair which gave me the confidence to tackle makeup and other girly things. Over time, I have tried every single treatment under the sun to tame the curls, but as I have gotten older I have found myself preferring body over the sleek straight look. The grass is always greener right? Today, I find the keratin treatments to be the most effective curl tamer by not eliminating all curl, but just helping control while causing less damage. I recently tried the mane tamer service (a more permanent solution to keratin) offered at Arrojo Salon in Soho and it has cut my hair styling morning routine in half. For me, my morning get-ready-for-work routine should be quick and painless. Continuing to relax my curls has been a step that I have decided I am not ready to cut from this routine. Makeup was always a challenge for me as well. Whenever I would have my makeup done as a teenager they could never find the right concealer for my skin tone. I would always end up looking way to light on my face or way to dark. There was never a happy medium. After several failed attempts and prom/banquet makeup disasters, I began to default to a more natural look using bronzer and blush only and I have been lucky enough, because of my darker complexion to continue this practice to this day. I am constantly trying new products based on magazine articles or recommendations, but currently my go to blush is Nars Orgasm and Bronzer is Bare Minerals Warmth All-Over Face. I am happy with both brands!

    At 28, I find myself getting excited to experiment with different techniques and beauty products to enhance my “what are you look”. I feel flattered to get to explain to people why I look the way I do. And I agree, I have been in NYC 7 months now and I have never felt more beautiful and empowered to embrace and be me! That girl you can’t pin-point at first glance. ;)

  • I’ve always thought mixed race people are the most beautiful.

    I’m bizarrely mixed as a white person: Jewish, Greek, Italian. Mostly it manifests itself in my mind, but everything about me is sort of dappled—hair is blondish brownish now grayish too, eyes greenish, skin very white but also olive. Weird, but it’s me and I’m ok with it.

  • Interesting post ! both my parents are mixed so that make me some sort of quadri mixed freak + the culture of the country I live in ! Despite the fact that that’s a lot of knowledge to carry around culturally speaking :) it’s as fullfilling as someone with one background.

  • I think mixed people are gorgeous. I’m ethically white, but I have not-quite-olive-not-quite-yellow-and-very-pale-to-boot skin, dark brown hair that has red in it when lit by the sun and long bones paired with very short height and it’s the weird mix of Italian, Belgian, Irish, English and a drop of German that has made me what I am. And finding makeup is pain, Clinique seems to be the closest, right now I just use a tinted sunscreen. I have to work very hard to get a tan, think a week at the beach with no sunscreen (I embrace my paleness at this point). I am not “pretty” in the modern sense of the word (no beautiful bone structure here) but would certainly have been considered “handsome” a few hundred years ago, I have the long nose and soft features you see in old paintings. I’m different looking. I’ve yet to have anyone guess that I was born in the US and usually solve the old “where are you from?” question by explaining I spent time in Europe as child. This immediately gets me “I thought you looked European!!” from my questioner. Yes, I look European. There are worse things. I miss Europe, it’s the only place where I didn’t feel out of place among tall, tan, short-nosed American girls. So you are mixed? Great! I’m jealous! I’d love to have beautiful, up-tilted eyes and well defined bone structure. And height, did I mention height?? Embrace it, live it and be proud of all your heritage.

  • I’m half from Madagascar and half from Benin but born and raised in France: no matter what I’m African.

    In France, people think I’m from Senegal, Ivory Coast, Gabon etc. Basically anywhere in West Africa.
    In the US where I lived, people thought I was Jamaican or Haitian. I got Cap Verde once in Florida.
    In Canada where I live now, any black person has got to be from Haiti so that’s the category in which most people put me at first sight.

    It became a funny thing to me over the years when asked that question. North Americans care a lot less about your origin than Europeans who need to define your worth by that criterion.

    In terms of beauty products, I have to make trips down South or order online. Sometimes, I even make my own products to make sure I get enough of the active ingredient I need (hair masks, facial masks, body butters etc.) What we find here is lame-o quality wise and expensive at that. I cannot really rely on my origins to count on graceful ageing. I grew up in the Western world, with chemicals, GMO foods, pollution levels unseen during my parents’ and grandparents generation in Africa. That’s everyone around the world anyway but it does affect our wrinkles and overall ageing process. So far, avoiding sugars and drinking enough water have been my best beauty routine.

  • jenjenchoo July, 31 2015, 10:48 / Reply

    i’m ethically chinese but grew up in malaysia – studied a couple years abroad in the UK and travel quite a bit for work – i don’t drive, so cabs and now uber is a big part of my life and the question i get asked ALL the time is where i’m from – and this is from my fellow malaysians – they usually guess I’m japanese or korean – sometimes they think i’m thai chinese or filipino chinese or half malay – i am baffled because when i look in the mirror, i see a chinese looking girl but perhaps it’s the clothes – i live in COS – or the haircut – i rock a bob – or the manga eyes – i have oddly big eyes for a chinese girl – but it’s a source of constant amusement (and puzzlement)

  • I’m Chinese-Croatian and look far more Croatian than Chinese. My siblings and I are each different shades in the spectrum. I wish I had appreciated how great it is to be different in my childhood and teen years… it would have saved a lot of agonizing about appearances and searching through Elle magazine of the 1970s for a Caucasian model with Asian eyes! Now at the age 45, I still have no idea how to wear mascara on my super straight eyelashes with Chinese eyelids. Around age 20, after figuring out what people were really asking when they enquired about “where I was from,” I decided to always answer the question they were really asking about ethnic origins – there’s no point being a smarty-pants and stating your country of citizenship etc. making the other person feel uncomfortable for just being curious. Usually, they are just trying to pay you a compliment!

  • Ai-Ch'ng August, 1 2015, 1:04 / Reply

    It’s sweet when someone asks another person “What they are”/”What are your parents?”/”So – where do you come from?”, because it shows (and that person often says to me) that they don’t want to offend me because there are so many types of ethnicities within a major culture group (for instance, Europe has so many- Asia, too), and they’ve had instances when Asian people they’ve spoken to have been highly offended to be called Korean, when they were Japanese etc.

    Plus, with all the exposure we have to the rest of the world through Internet, global trackers coming through, and to more couples now less confined to having babies with people only from their cultural bowl, people now realise there’s much more to someone being called- say- European, or Asian.

    As a child, up until my late teens, I was always mistaken for Japanese.

    Between my twenties and thirties it was, “are you Eurasian?”

    For a time therafter, I was asked, “Are you Japanese or Korean?” That was around the time Gangam style was big- and we had a lot of Korean BBQ places pop up locally.

    Now, I often get asked, “Are you from Tibet or Nepal?”

    And most recently, a lady of Chinese descent said ahe was sure that I was Mongolian.

    I think what also happens is that even though we may be of a certain genetic pool, our facial expressions and body movements (50% inherited and 50%, some say), the clothes we choose to wear, the result of adapting and reacting and encompassing our country’s local culture) plays a huge part in how we appear to other people.

    I’ve never minded looking like myself. I know I don’t look like anyone I’ve seen in magazines, but because my ninety four year old grandmother (who was pretty “out there” in her childhood and still is, always said that we are who we are- and physical uniqueness is the only thing that’s normal), now that I’m in my late forties, I feel really comfortable with what I look like now.

  • This is something I can very much relate to. Being half-italian, half chinese, I have often felt like both do not really see me as their own. At the same time it is a great gift to grow up with different cultures, even when your face does not match how you may feel. For italians I have the almond eyes, for the chinese I have lion hair (wavy). I just spent a year travelling from Europe to Asia by land and the most common question we faced every day was “where are you from?” When my simple answer did not satisfy them, they would ask “But where are you reeeally from?” The more we meet people from all over the world though, the more we realize that there are more similarities between us than differences and that actually we have all been mixed over the centuries. Mixed beauty is actually not a new thing. In central asia and many parts of the world, every face you look at is a mixed beauty. I wrote about identity, perception and the question of “where are you really from”, here – xx

  • Je suis aussi métisse: russe, mongole, allemande. Je me suis très vite rendue compte que c’était une chance! Je n’ai jamais souffert de me différence, au contraire. Peut être parce que j’ai hérité de mes ancêtres pas mal de qualités: la peau lisse et l’ossature fine des asiatiques, des longues jambes des filles russes, les traits classiques, l’ordre et la ponctualité des allemands. Je peux dire sans fausse modestie, comme Nancy Huston, je suis belle et intelligente. Je n’ai aucun mérite, c’est juste une bonne combinaison génétique. Je me suis mariée avec un homme métisse. Il est allemand, italien et polonais. Il est beau, grand, intelligent, 1m 90 de perfection. Le métissage est l’avenir du monde

  • AnneElise Hudson August, 1 2015, 10:25 / Reply

    I grew up in Honolulu, where all the reallly pretty girls are what you call “mixed” and we called “hapa.” So being a super WASP was boring, plus I did not tan. At all. Friends would marvel at my paleness…even after a beach vacation, the most my skin will go is a very pale gold. So I was an oddball anomaly.
    Once I moved to New York, I fit in better, but I still thought the girls with mixed ethnicity were just prettier. It has taken awhile to accept myself as I am.

    My beauty challenges are finding foundation pale enough that’s not also too cool, and eyemakeup that is not too harsh for pale skin, blue eyes, and dark blonde hair (black is too hard, brown is too warm, gray is too cold…a genius saleslady steered me toward a plummy purple eyeliner pencil that is perfect, especially for tightlining).

  • Ethnically I am half Korean and Black but was raised by a Korean mother. A lot of the challenges I faced dealt mostly with my big curly hair that my Asian friends didn’t have and later on, color palettes that would work for my friends but look completely different when I applied it. I now live in New York and ironically work as a buyer in the Beauty industry. Simply, I’ve come to appreciate my natural beauty rather than trying to conform. Just in the last year, I’ve finally embrace my curls while curbing my flat iron addiction and come to realize that there are colors that look great on me and not others. I’ve given up on finding the perfect foundation (after getting my makeup done professionally but walked out appearing 10 shades darker) which has paved way for me to pay more attention to more important things such as skincare. It shaves off so much time when getting ready and I love that I can walk out the door with a little bit of bronzer and lip tint!

  • Ana @Champagegirlsabouttown August, 2 2015, 1:49 / Reply

    Japanese-Polish mix- how awesome! And I don’t think that because I’m Polish ;) I’m a Slav through and though but I’v emigrated and I get asked the same question all the time. I’d like to think people are just curious about differences that set us apart from others.

  • Wow the responses is what makes this post amazing! I’m Thai/English but was raised across Asia (Thailand, Singapore & India)… my beauty challenges were so similar to the other hapa beauties I’ve read about… In the winter it’s so hard to find a foundation/concealor/anything to hide the eyebags because my skin colour gradually gets yellower/more pale every week until it’s kind of sick looking but I found L’Oreal Sublime Bronze spray works so well! In the summer we can usually go make up free because the sun tans our skin in less than a day (perks from mother’s skin tone). I feel very luck to grow up taking the best from both worlds. In Thailand we had our half-thai crew, speaking English with bits of Thai, always meeting up to eat street food from the locals… spiritually there was so much on offer from my Asian roots… but i’m thankful for my white genes too! It’s hard for dark asian hair to get lighter from the sun but mine turns a shiny coca-cola brown (Cheers Dad ;0)

  • Chaque beauté est unique et incomparable avec une autre…

    C’est un réflexe très humain de demander à une personne son origine ethnique, mais il faut bien dire qu’il y a des gens qui n’ont aucunement l’art et la manière de vous le demander avec diplomatie…

    Cela peut-être de la curiosité innocente ou au contraire cynique…

    On doit être fier de ce que l’on est, peu importe nos origines et notre couleur de peau, et laisser les réflexions désobligeantes de côté…

    La beauté est universelle et multiculturelle -:)

    Prenons soin de notre beauté !

  • Hello les filles !

    Voilà je me permets de vous conseiller un nouveau site de cosmétiques naturels et bio !

    Une mini pub vite fait qui pourrait en intéresser plus d’une hehe :)

    Une bonne journée à vous !


  • Well said. The post and everyones comments, just made the world even smaller for me. Much of it sounded like an echo.
    ‘What Are you?’ ‘Where are you from?’ and my favorite one, ‘You’re So exotic!’ I assure you it was all far from exotic, unless you consider small town, USA exotic. A blinking red light that hung from a wire was our only traffic light for years. That isolation made it all the more difficult to explain me.
    There were no ethnicities that were not super white. Then I turned 9, and there was my new best friend, who’s mom was from the Philippines and her dad was American of Irish descent. We stuck together like glue. But her family made sense because it was all out in the open. She looked like her mom and her sister. At that point, I was not told a thing about my ethnicity.
    At the age of 12 I spent 2 weeks crying, because I just knew I was adopted and no one had told me.
    Finally my Mother told me a tiny bit about how I got here. It was sketchy at best. Years later I found out more, but there are still questions. My Mother passed away 6 years ago, without telling me much more. So,….
    I have 2, 1/2 brothers who are as white as snow, just like mom, with blue blue blue eyes just like mom, with hair that ended up just like grandpa (too bad), they can blame mom’s dad. They’re all tall (6’4″ is the short one), just like mom’s family etc….. not much helped me fit in. And that made it even worse.
    My Mother was beautiful and very much into beauty and fashion, so that made for many awkward moments. Like that first make up for a ballet recital. I remember her saying, ‘my makeup will work for you because we’re the same color’. I remember looking at her like she was crazy. Because she knew better. Yes, it looked ridiculous. Obviously she had not come to terms with me.
    The not so subtle racism that ran thru her family, her father was the worst of the group. He referred to me in racist terms, but strangely was loving in his way.
    Growing up I could not make sense of the image that stared back at me. It seemed wrong. I would catch a glimpse of myself in a shop window while walking down the street and be slightly startled at the reflection.
    I was different in most ways to everyone in my family, yet the things that brought my Father and Mother together for however brief a moment, were the things that helped me through it.
    Once I got out in the world it felt so much better and travel was my best friend.
    I still get the same questions, but I love the ones that say, ‘oh, you don’t look it.’ What does that mean?
    I am sure many of us have similar stories.
    I am thankful ethnicities are being mixed up more and more.
    I see many people with similar looks and backgrounds as me, Thank Goodness.
    So let’s keep mixing it up!
    Mom = British
    Dad = Afghan (Pashtun)

  • Jan Armstrong August, 7 2015, 8:25 / Reply

    My Dad, Sicilian; my Mum, Irish/Scottish/English. Not only mixed on the outside, but also on the inside….

  • Great post! I’ve gotten the “so, what ARE you?” growing up as my parents are Welsh-Swedish and Korean. Finding yellow-toned skin makeup that works for me has always been a challenge (A makeup artist doing the Pantone color test at Sephora once told me I’m MAXIMUM yellow-toned), but there are great products from MAC, Shiseido, and Bobbi Brown.

    One perk is that I find that I can fit in to a lot of places I travel to as I look vaguely similar to many different ethnicities!

  • Great post, and I loved reading everyone else’s experiences in the comments. My ethnicity is Filipino and Scots, so I definitely got the “What are you?” questions growing up, even in a place as culturally diverse as Toronto. I think it’s a blessing having grown up ‘mixed’ as those obvious qualifiers that we use to hang our identity on, such as race or culture, are never clearcut….it forces you to dig deeper beneath the labels placed on you to eck out an identity for yourself. One of the things that did bother me growing up was the idea that being mixed race meant that I must be beautiful and exotic looking. As this isn’t the case, I always felt that I either disappointed people or any favourable comments about my ‘mixed race beauty’ seemed farcical.

  • I am an European living in New York so everybody’s always guessing where I’m from. But the funniest thing is that I do not even look like a girl from where I’m from and my accent is a mixture of places I’ve lived – Scotland, England and now US with the undertone of my own Finnish.
    In my home country people might assume I am a mix being darker than the most. In Nyc I am always curious to hear people’s assumptions. Although my blood is not mixed I am trying to figure out who do I resemble. More than often it goes into Eastern Europe, last time I was asked if I was a Polish beauty. I am proud of where I come from though, it is always so much fun to see how surprised people are to hear that. Also, nobody picks up the language.

    xx Varpu

  • I’m a mix of Chinese and Indian, and it’s interesting to hear people’s guesses on my ethnicity because it varies widely according to countries I travel to. For example in South India I’m “Israeli”, in Germany I’m “Spanish”, in Africa I’m “Native American”, in Australia I’m “Filipino”. It says a lot about themselves and their culture. Generally, I’m deemed to be more “attractive” when I’m in Europe, compared to where I am now (Australia). But I think it’s because Australia is a young country and its population is not yet as global as Europe.

    Beauty-wise, I struggle to find the right balance in terms of eye makeup because I think my looks tip towards the Indian side, but their eye makeup doesn’t really work for me. The best foundation I’ve found for my complexion is Dr Perricone’s No Foundation Foundation because it’s quite sheer so it smooths out the complexion but still lets my skin colour shine through.

    Side note: Do any of the other mixed-race people feel like both an insider and outsider all their lives as well? I do.

  • I’m mixed Asian – Filipino and Dutch-Indonesian. I got the “what are you” question all damn day and I’m in the Bay Area, CA which has been diverse but sadly it starting to get homogenized by the day. As a young girl, I was proud to blurt out my mix but as a jaded girl about town I knew it was more of a lame pick opening for obnoxious drunk guys. Then I would make them guess. My husband is Irish-Italian and we have two lovely little girls. I still get that question casually from folks on the street but I’m no longer upset because I’m teaching about their melting pot heritage and also the question is now phrased as “what is your husband?”

  • Well, one of my biggest deception in life is not the be mixed. I’m half Canadian half Swiss, lived all my life so far in the second. Both my parents are from the french speaking regions of those country so my double nationality didn’t even brought me a second language. As a kid, my biggest pride came from a Native American great great great grand father (an origin you can easily spot in my blonde hair, blue eyes and very fair skin) (though I’ve always thought my very thick and straight hair may be inherited from him).
    J’ai grandis dans une partie de Suisse à la population très mélangeé, et la fille la plus cool de ma classe était celle qui pouvait revendiquer 6 origines, 2 langues et 3 pays de résidence à 10 ans.
    I’ve been very curious since I read this article, what are Neada’s origins if that’s ok to ask ? It hadn’t occurred to me that she was metisse.

  • Of course you can ask! My mother is Spanish/Filipino and my father is Anglo-Saxon but with some French/Italian heritage. I am a real mix, and I love to feel as though I have relationships with all countries of my heritage. It has always inspired me to travel more, in a way.

  • I still get a lot of the “what are you?” stuff. Is not as often since I moved back to my home state. Lived in Minneapolis for a few years and even though there is a lot of diversity and mixing I still didn’t ever see anyone who really looked like me. I’m Native American on one side and first generation American on the other side, that side immigrated from Germany. I came out exactly between my parents in most respects. Not as dark as the Native side not as light on the German side in skin tone, hair color, eye color. So I don’t look European as my facial features look more Native, but I’m not dark enough to fit the perceived idea of what Native is supposed to look like. Had if I don’t straighten my hair it isn’t curly or straight but sorta wavy curly. Get that from both sides. Back in my home state there is a high Native population so most people assume thats what i am and dont ask, but when i travel out of state or lived out of state it was a constant question because i dont dit the “box” in peoples heads. As for makeup, thats always been a tough one. I’m in the light to almost fair category, but with yellow undertones and until recently that was almost impossible to find. It all had a pink undertone or was more high end department store brands so I habe spent most of my life struggling to find concealer and skipping anything like a concealer. It’s still a problem today of trial and error, but isn’t that everyone’s problem?

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