This Is Asia-Diaspora: Natural Hair with Rosie Chuong
In the first story of our “This Is Asia-Diaspora” series, we meet Rosie Chuong, an incredible voice promoting body positivity and natural hair – in a perspective that for many, is completely new.
Hey Rosie! First things first - please introduce yourself.
I’m Rosie Chuong, and in my full-time profession, I’m a marketing and communications specialist with an expertise in strategy and implementation for nonprofits and small businesses. As a side project, I manage a lifestyle blog and vlog focused on beauty, relationships and culture inspiring readers to lead a more thoughtful, well-rounded life inside and out. I particularly love to write and I publish a poetry series called “You In Haiku” creating haikus revolving around people and relationships.
I would love to hear your experience as an Asian woman within the natural hair movement – as a Caribbean-American woman with natural hair, I'm limited to mostly black experiences. Has the Asian community felt the same pressures for Euro-centric straight hair as well?
Oh, absolutely. From my understanding, the desire to have straight hair has long been an expectation within the Asian and Asian American communities. Not only is straight hair a genetic normalcy, but it’s a social standard strictly reinforced within the realm of Asian beauty. I have very little access to history and research on this, but through my interactions with Asian-American communities in the United States, and Asians during a trip to Cambodia, I’m finding that while society perpetuates the external pressure, there also hasn’t been a strong inclination to learn how to care for curly hair. So the only option left is to maintain naturally textured hair as if it was straight.
When my relatives in Cambodia saw my hair, they asked me why I didn’t just straighten my hair. They literally didn’t know what to do with my curly hair or how to maintain it. Making it straight was the only solution they could think of. So far, I’ve learned that soap nuts and fermented rice water, both of which are known to be traditional Asian practices, are beneficial to curly hair routines. However, these practices have only been recognized as curly friendly on the internet where access to information on the natural hair movement is more prevalent.
How has your concept of beauty changed through your natural hair journey?
Growing up, I’ve always been very conscious of how the perception of my beauty and its differences were never a fit for typical beauty standards. I have a golden olive complexion, my hair is no longer stick straight (my hair became curly when I started college), and I have curves. For a long time, I focused on associating my “different” traits with what I’m not and what I don’t have. Because of my natural hair journey, I now realize that I was also part of the problem in not celebrating and honoring these traits by identifying them, not just as different because the word “different” doesn’t do it justice, but as unique and worthy. When I think about my traits now, they’re seen in a more positive light and I focus on what I truly am and what I do have.
That shift in thinking and how I associated my differences has been crucial to my awareness. Through my natural hair journey, I’m so much more aware of beauty standards and beauty portrayals in the media. I feel impassioned and responsible for creating dialogue around this so that others can be aware and so that more people can share their voices in the community.
Within the hair community in America, there have been interactions between black and Korean communities - most notably within the cultural trend of Korean-owned black beauty shops. but I think we can do better in working together, rather than capitalizing on hair products and investments. How can different minority cultures come together and respect each other's beauty?
There needs to be advocates on both sides who are willing to address these issues head on. Beauty is so much more than just a price tag. Beauty is a cultural lifestyle, a mindset and an emotional connection. The gaps have been identified and now it’s time to convert them into opportunities.
In the context of wholesale and distribution industries, I believe companies have a responsibility over this ecosystem. Companies should be conscious and culturally sensitive about who their clients are and the population their clients serve. This includes more initiatives on creating audience awareness and educating shop owners on demographics, lifestyle, behavior and culture.
But I also believe that companies alone can’t improve the ecosystem without looking to consumers to express the value of diversity and inclusion, and the need for cultural sensitivity. I’d love to see more avenues or initiatives for consumers to become educated on how their purchases may perpetuate monopolies that affects the advancement of their own communities.
The article you shared [hyperlinked above] is a start to exposing how communities are being capitalized on through a one-way street. Until there are impassioned advocates who are willing to create a space that respects the beauty and culture of our affected communities, these issues will stand no matter what.
What are your go-to curly hair products right now?
For product buildup and clarifying, Kinky Curly Come Clean
For a great lightweight protein and moisture treatment, Pacifica Pineapple Curls Hair Nourishing Mask
For an intense hydration treatment, Kinky Curly Stellar Strands
For game-changing hold and definition, DevaCurl Ultra Defining Gel and Styling Cream