Gemma Chan Sees Strength & Beauty In Vulnerability

Photo: courtesy of L'Oreal Paris.
"Beauty, to me, is about truth," Gemma Chan shares to me over the phone. "It's about [...] integrity, purpose, as well as artistry, creativity and everything else." The actress and L'Oréal Paris ambassador will be helping to shine a spotlight on ten brave women working to solve some of modern society's most pressing issues in this year’s L'Oréal Paris Women of Worth special, which returns to NBC for the second time on Thursday the 16th of December. Chan took the time to talk to me about the special, when she feels her most beautiful, and, of course, everything beauty she loves. 
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Every year, L’Oréal Paris' Women of Worth shines a spotlight on ten women, all from different backgrounds, who work to uplift their communities at a grassroots level. This year, Chan traveled to Paris to meet with the honourees. “On a personal level for me, I found it so inspiring because I think, on a daily basis, there's such an onslaught of bad news coming our way. It can feel quite overwhelming and it can be very easy to feel a sense of hopelessness or helplessness even,” Chan explains. “But I think the fact that we're putting a spotlight on these women looking outwards, I’m always reminded of that Mr. Rogers's quote, ‘Look for the helpers,’ and that's what often keeps me going.” 
Even over the phone, you can hear Chan’s deep awe and admiration for the women involved in the special. “These women are shining examples of women — when they've seen a problem or they've become aware of an issue, they have gone ahead and done something about it. And they may have started small, but the impact has been huge.”
Michelle Tran, co-founder of Soar Over Hate
Briana Daniel, founder of Street Team Movement, Inc.
Thursday’s special features Chan sitting down with Women of Worth honourees Michelle Tran, co-founder of Soar Over Hate, a New York-based non-profit working to combat anti-Asian hate and xenophobia by equipping Asian Americans with personal safety devices, need-based scholarships, and culturally competent therapy; as well as Briana Daniel, the founder of Street Team Movement, Inc, working to helped unhoused people by by providing them with clean laundry, showers and various other forms of remedial aid distributed through vending machines. 
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As a beauty writer, my main focus is always the “why and the how," focusing more on the emotions behind why we do beautiful things and make ourselves beautiful in the process. This is especially true during the holidays, when we’re full of nostalgia and familiar love and warmth. It’s a beautiful time, and a particular time to celebrate the beauty of giving back, which is what L'Oréal and Chan are looking to accomplish with Women of Worth. “My idea of beauty is about so much more than the exterior: It's about the inside as much as the outside, and each of these women absolutely personify that.”
“They are women who have such integrity and intelligence. I think that they encompass everything — beauty to me is about truth. It's about those things — integrity, purpose as well as artistry, creativity and everything else.” Chan shares. And even more so, Women of Worth is a celebration of love, joy, success, and most importantly, confidence. Even when your life is far from a fairy tale, confidence has a big hand in overcoming a lot of obstacles. “What I found when they were sharing their stories and I was listening on the day that we were filming in Paris, was actually, there was such vulnerability as well as confidence,” Chan tells me. “And I found that it was really inspiring that they were able to be vulnerable — like some of the stories were incredibly moving as to why these women got involved with the causes that they have, and some of that is painful. It's not always a fairy tale.” 
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"There's also strength in vulnerability in what they were able to share with each other, and with us.”

Even if things are more like Grimm's traditional fairy tales than the Disneyfied versions we’re used to, both Chan and I agree that that's also something that we can celebrate, as well. “We can celebrate things being messy. We can celebrate women coming through and surviving things that may have been not great at all, but actually coming through the other side and still being able to look beyond what they've been through and to give back. And I find that so inspiring.”
Fun Fact: Gemma Chan thinks vulnerability is very cool, and vulnerability might be the key to building inner strength and confidence. "[In the special,] there's some strength there, but there's also strength in vulnerability in what they were able to share with each other. And with us.” Gemma Chan literally says, "We are allowed to be vulnerable. It's okay not to be okay," and encourages us all to lean into vulnerability. Yes, I wrote that on a Post-It I stuck to my wall next to advice from my therapist. 
Physical beauty aside, Chan told me that she is at her happiest and most beautiful when she’s surrounded by people that she values and value her in return. “What I've learned is that confidence comes over time, and you may not start out feeling confident. And whether that's in terms of your work, or where you are in your personal life, your perception of yourself may have something to do with representation, or what you've seen growing up, and whether you feel that you are seen.” She is preaching to the choir – I, personally, can attribute a growth in my confidence to seeing more Black women, and particularly Black women with personalities similar to my own, in all differing forms of media. (Shoutout to Shalita Grant, who is brilliant on the most recent season of You, but stellar on Search Party, if you can even imagine.) I know that all those things have shifted for me over time. I'm really hopeful for the future in terms of us going in the right direction.”
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And of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t have The Great Glowing Gemma in front of me (and by in front of me, I mean through the wires and tubes and whatnot that make phones work, I am not a telephone expert) about what makeup and skin-care products she uses and loves.  Chan keeps it simple, using advice from her mother  — cleanse, tone, moisturise, and generally look after your skin. Take off your makeup before going to bed, all of the things me and my colleagues regularly yell at you about.

"Your perception of yourself may have something to do with representation, or what you've seen growing up, and whether you feel that you are seen.”

Chan pairs L'Oréal Revitalift Derm Intensives Night Serum with 0.3% Pure Retinol with L'Oreal Paris Revitalift 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum during the day. “That just really plumps my skin, moisturizes it and preps it for whatever's to come.” She’s also loving the brand’s Revitalift Derm Intensives Hyaluronic Acid and Caffeine Eye Serum, which she would absolutely recommend for anyone with puffy eyes. Chan seems to be an expert in de-puffing, particularly in the eye area. “I have a face roller, which I use every day just to kind of encourage drainage; I also have what I call an ‘eyebrator’, but that's actually not its name, it's made by Foreo.” And of course, she loves a red lip — particularly around the festive season — and her favourite is L'Oréal Paris Colour Riche Reds of Worth Lipstick in Successful Red, a true classic red with a satin finish. 
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When it comes to body care, Chan keeps it surprisingly simple: “I swear by Vaseline Intensive Care™ Cocoa Radiant Lotion, Especially during the winter months when my skin gets really dry.” You hear that, readers? Gemma Chan uses Vaseline. Gemma CHAN. Uses Vaseline. When you slug — or slather your face in a thick layer of Vaseline or Aquaphor in order to seal in moisture, you are kind of being Gemma Chan.
Wow. I am Gemma Chan, You are Gemma Chan. We! Are! All! Gemma! Chan!
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