During the pandemic, we’ve all been living through our screens, absorbing what society perceives to be beautiful, and in turn, sharing the version of ourselves that we think is beautiful. But our relationship with beauty and how we choose to express it is much more complex: It's a connection to your culture, a coping mechanism, a lifestyle, or a work of art. In our first season of Beauty Out There, in partnership with Ulta Beauty, we’re meeting four LA locals whose looks and rituals are as personal as they are powerful, proving that beauty can be a conduit to the most authentic and confident version of yourself.
As creatures of comfort, it’s easy to simply ride the inertia that charts the course of our lives. It takes something great — an event or a breaking point — for us to consider doing something differently. For Los Angeles-based educator Jacqui Whang, it was burnout, from pushing herself beyond her limits at work, that made her stop and re-evaluate her lifestyle choices, priorities, and routines, as well as their considerable impact on her well-being.
She started by examining her upbringing as the daughter of Korean immigrants, unearthing the self-care rituals that her mother practiced. She was taught, from a young age, the significance of skin care, as she watched her mother concoct a blend of Korean grains and yogurt to create face masks. (To this day, her mother still creates her own essences made from natural ingredients).
“There are a lot of things I can’t control in my life, but I can control my own time and my own routines,” says Whang, who practices holistic beauty, which she defines as an outlook that begins within ourselves and extends to our life’s purpose, our relationships, and their connection to the greater good of humanity. “My daily self-care rituals are not something I do, but somewhere I go — a place between now and where I want to be. Even something as simple as skin care has become a way to connect with myself.”
For her, skin care and all that it encompasses, like the natural ingredients she seeks out and the intention behind the steps she takes (cleansing, applying serums, and moisturizing) have become more than a daily practice — it’s a self-affirming lifestyle that allows her to care for herself.
But her relationship with beauty wasn’t always so seamless or positive; it was marked by pressures of unrealistic Korean beauty standards (a slimmer nose, double eyelids, bigger eyes), a byproduct of a culture that heavily endorses plastic surgery. “I always felt as if there was something wrong with me," Whang says. “When I was a girl, I was a tomboy, and I felt beautiful when I felt strong, but it seemed like all that mattered was how I looked. That made me feel invisible.”
Make no mistake: Whang says she's a proud Korean American woman, and she's learned — through age and her mother's self-care rituals — that beauty is not something to attain, but something we all hold. And now, by listening to her body’s needs, coupled with her profound understanding of holistic healing, she’s begun to take better care of herself on every level — in what she wears, what she eats, what she does. She practices yoga three times a day, often doing poses and centering herself before logging on to teach. And during bouts of anxiety, she also journals, gardens, and paints.
“Basically everything is done with the intention of making beautiful things manifest,” Whang says. “Holistic beauty is all-encompassing. It’s about knowing your own self-worth and feeling confident. It’s a journey, not a destination.”
Watch the video, above, to learn more about Jacqui Whang's approach to holistic beauty.