Our next NODcast episode goes to Sable Yong, a beauty editor and the founder of Liner Notes Mag, a new publication that focuses on beauty in the music community.
Here’s what she had to say about working in the beauty industry, what beauty really is, and the importance of being unapologetic.
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Jenna: Your Instagram has been really fun lately.
Sable: Has it?
Sable: Did you see all my weird lube? Okay, there was like one subtenant that was in our office that moved out at the beginning of this month… I think they did music licensing. I think, I’m not positive. They had I guess had press connections to Doc Johnson, which is a sex toy company. They would just get sent a bunch of sex accessories. I was walking past the freight elevators where people put all their big trash to be thrown out. And there was a box of lube. It wasn’t even like normal lube. It novelty lube. It was weird.
Jenna: What’s novelty lube?
Sable: I don’t know. It was called “Nut Butter.” I was like “K.” There was also a penis plumping cream, which I’m like “I don’t think that is what people want but I guess that’s why it’s in the throw out box?” [Laughs]
So naturally, I had to Instagram it.
Jenna: Would that fall in the beauty category?
Sable: No, it’s very off-brand for me.
Jenna: What’s on-brand?
Sable: You know what’s weird is I’ve discovered that selfies are a huge currency. At least for me and I’m sure for many many other people. And I’ll notice this. Any spontaneous selfie will get over 100 likes. I’m like, “Why is this?” Then I’ll post, “I’m watching this band I really like,” and… 30 likes. I’m like, “Okay, I see. I see why you’re tuning in.”
Jenna: Your selfies get 200 likes or 300?
Sable: I would say average 100 to 130, depending on the visage of the day.
Jenna: Okay. Describe. What’s a visage of the day.
Sable: Okay. Anything that’s makeup-centric like, “I did this intricate eye makeup look,” or like, “Check out this cool lip color I just found.” Stuff like that.
Jenna: Who would you say your audience is, that’s doing the liking?
Sable: Definitely beauty junkies.
Jenna: Beauty junkies? There’s beauty junkies?
Sable: It is a thing man. It is a huge thing. It goes real deep and it scares me sometimes when I think about it.
There’s a huge community of people who are obsessed with beauty. When I say “beauty” I mean people who love to discover new products, they want to know what beauty trends are, how to do them. They just want to see… If you hear about here’s a really cool new eyeliner formula you can Instagram hashtag search that, and find all these people who have selfies wearing that. Instagram is a huge beauty tool whether it wants to be or not.
Jenna: Is it like Pinterest or would you put them in 2 different categories? You have the Pinterest people and then you have the Instagram people, or?
Sable: Pinterest, it’s like a digital mood board. You are not creating that content necessarily. You’re basically mining content for things you like and then it gets shared. I feel like Pinterest is a really dumbed down version of Tumblr… which is fine, because I feel like that’s all people really want anyway. They just want to look at photos. Instagram is just content you create. I guess you could reblog too, but meh…
Jenna: When I was back in your home office in February you, and you actually posted a photo of this on your Instagram recently, of… samples upon samples upon samples…
Sable: So many samples.
Jenna: Hundreds and hundreds of samples that you get from either the pieces you’re writing or direct from manufacturer. What’s your process for going through the samples and deciding which are good and which are worthy of blogging about?
Sable: Some of them are sent, unsolicited, from PR companies because they’re like, “Here’s a new thing that a client I’m repping has just released. Let me know your thoughts.” Some of it are things I call in because I’m like, “Hey! I heard about this cool thing, wanted to try it. If you have a sample, send it over, thanks.” Those ones, anything I call in I generally already have an idea that I’m going to like it. So it’s like, “Cool, a new thing I get to use. Hooray.” Unsolicited stuff, it’s real hit or miss. The truth is, if you don’t like something you just don’t write about it. It’s that simple. There’s no point writing a negative review, unless you are a consumer, in which case you’ll see them on reviews on Ulta or Sephora.com. People say “This foundation didn’t work for me because,” such and such reason. That’s really important information for people who want to know where to put their money.
For someone like me, who’s on the editorial side, I feel like it’s considered really rude to write a bad review. Also, you burn bridges with PR companies that way.
Sable: It’s like, “Message received,” if it doesn’t get written about.
Jenna: What makes a lipstick or an eye shadow or an eyeliner or a foundation, good? I know there’s going to be different categories for success for each one. On the whole, do you notice similarities within either quality or a brand’s story or the types of people that are repping them?
Sable: Sure. Sure. Makeup is so personal that something somebody loves might be something else that somebody hates. It all depends on the kind of look that you want for yourself. Ultimately, if a product delivers what it promises, that’s a good product. It sounds really simple but you would be surprised by how many don’t.
Sable: Examples, okay. There is a brand-I-will-not-name that released this new, innovative, gel eyeliner that was hyped up. It’s this new formula and it’s in this totally really cool applicator. It makes doing a cat eye so easy and you can’t mess it up. And it gets released and all these people buy it because they’re like, “Oh my God it looks so great.” This brand did really good PR for it and they did really good tutorials. It did look really easy. I got my hands on one and I was like, “Yo. This is real fucked up.”
Jenna: You were like, “I am not getting a cat eye from this.”
Sable: It took me 20 minutes to do 1 eye and I messed up several times. By that time my eye was so red from removing and restarting, that I was like, “Fuck this.” [Laughs] And I talked to some people, some of my colleagues, and they were like, “Yeah, what the fuck is up with that? This eyeliner sucks. I don’t get it.” Still, there were tons of people who were like, “Oh my God, It’s the best thing ever. I love this, it’s so easy.” And I’m like, “Guys, am I doing this wrong? What am I doing?” It made me doubt myself. That’s a good example of something that did not deliver what it promised for everybody.
Jenna: For the type of content that you’re putting out, would you say that a lot of it is personal preference or are you also examining certain trends and figuring out what you like from those trends and what’s worth it?
Sable: A lot of what I put out… obviously I work for a website that has its own voice, so it’s like I’m one of those voices. A lot of it is reporting on new trends because we want to be up to date with what’s going on. Talking about anything that’s really awesome that we are really loving. That’s a good thing.
I tend to be drawn more towards the back end of the beauty industry. Anything to do with cosmetic chemistry, I’m obsessed with. I think it’s really cool to know how your products are made, what’s in them, to know what the ingredients are. I mean this is stuff you’re putting on your body every single day. A lot of our audience is… actually I don’t know if they’re into that but it gets read or passed around either way. If you’re like, “This ingredient that’s in everything, you should know about it and what it does.” Everyone’s like, “Oh my God I didn’t know it did that,” or, “I don’t know if that’s good for you or not.”
I’m super into the myth-busting aspect of beauty.
Jenna: Interesting. As someone that’s in the beauty industry and makeup industry, and you know obviously this is a lot of your time everyday. I’m sure that you’ve heard many women say things like, “I don’t really wear makeup, I’m all natural,” or, “I just put on my favorite mascara and lip gloss and call it a day.” Then, there’s the other camp which, it’s a lot of people that really care about it and will to stick to certain brands. Like, “I only wear Chanel mascara and I only use this product or this lipstick over another.” So you’re seeing a spectrum of that and you’re writing or taking photos on Instagram for a certain audience. Whether it’s in a magazine or a blog nowadays, more likely a blog, you’ll see people say things like, “This is for the average woman, or this is for every day use.” Those personas are a little tricky because who are you talking about? Who’s the every day wearer or makeup? And because it’s tricky, I’m going to ask you to define it. What would you say is the middle of the spectrum, the average woman, and what the average woman is wearing?
Sable: Oh boy. What age demographic are we talking about?
Sable: Okay. Oh man, millennials. You know what I’ve noticed is that millennials, or to be more specific, late high school, college age, and maybe just out of college age, they are really after the perfectly imperfect look.
Jenna: Perfectly imperfect?
Sable: Which is this effortless sense of… It’s basically how Beyonce says, “I woke up like this.” They want to be that Beyonce video. Which is funny because a lot of effort goes into that. It’s funny because I’ve written stories like that. It’s like, “How do you make a messy bun?” In my head I’m like, “Yo, you just put your hair on your head real messy-like. It’s that simple guys.” There’s like, “No, people need to know exactly a technique on how to do that.” Which, blows my mind. Those stories, that’s what people want to read… is how to look really good, but also look like you weren’t trying.
Jenna: It’s a metaphor for many things besides beauty, right?
Sable: It is. It’s very contradictory. I have weird feelings about it because… I feel like behind it there’s a sense of vanity shaming. Like it’s bad to want to look good. I’m like, “No, it’s not. Everybody wants to look good.”
Everybody wants to look good but nobody wants to look egotistical or vain. And I think there’s a strange separation between that line of thinking and then the line of thinking that’s just taking pride in your appearance and in your health and in your body. It’s cool to approach it from that angle. It’s not considered cool to be like, “Hey. I’m flawless. I’m a hot bitch. Look at me.” It’s weird. I see this too, on social media. Cyber bullying is a huge thing. Lots of pretty girls get cyber bullied because they’re like, “Oh you’re so full of yourself.” I’m like, “What? She looks hot. She’s allowed to think she looks hot.” It’s weird.
Jenna: These cyber bullies are also the same people that a lot of these, and I hate the term but I’m using it, millennials, encounter a lot, right?
Jenna: If you’re in late high school, if you post anything on social media you’re going to be exposed to that in some capacity.
Sable: Totally, yeah.
Jenna: Does that change the way that you’re posting or does that make you more resolute in what you’re putting out?
Sable: I have been lucky enough that I haven’t experienced a ton of that, of negative feedback. The beautiful thing about social media is there’s a block feature on everything. The very few individuals who have felt the need to take time out of their day to say nasty things to me on Twitter or Instagram, I’m just like, “Cool, block.” Taken care of. That simple. Me, I don’t take it personally because I’m like, “Here’s a complete stranger who knows absolutely nothing about me who’s just saying weird mean stuff. Your opinion means literally nothing to me. Okay? Bye!” If it was someone really close to me who was insulting me I’d be like, “Yo. That’s not cool.”
Jenna: Right. It’s always someone you don’t know.
Sable: Yeah, of course. The mask, anonymity, that the internet allows, people get real weird.
Jenna: They’re getting really weird about something that’s personal. Beauty is personal.
Jenna: How do you balance that line? Where, for instance, wearing a cat eye, you would wear a cat eye.
Sable: Totally, yeah.
Jenna: Other people wouldn’t.
Jenna: Similar to you, different types of, shades of makeup, like bright purple might not be appealing to those people that want to do the more, “I woke up like this.”
Sable: Yeah. [Laughs]
Jenna: So you’re allowing some personal preference to get into your work.
Jenna: And certain people are following you for that personal preference because they’re either into the beauty aspect of it or the product aspect of it, or…
Sable: I think people are into individuals.
I think if people wanted to see cool beauty shit they would just follow beauty brands, which they probably do. Because there are cool shit on their feeds. I’ll do this too where I’ll scroll and find myself in a portal of clicking through Instagram profiles through Instagram profiles through tags and see a girl and I’m like, “Wow, she’s really cute. I really like her style.” And I’ll follow her because I’m like, “Yeah. I find your style inspiring and I would like to scroll past it regularly on my feed.” I feel like it’s more like that. If a stranger would follow me on Instagram I feel like they’d probably do it for the same reasons I do that.
Jenna: What is inspiring or what is beautiful to you? If you’re looking through, and I chance that you are, thousands of Instagram profiles through day, and various different products and product tutorials and this mascara versus that mascara. I’m sure that you have an idea or a concept of beauty for yourself that you either apply to your own work or you know, what you look for. What does that look like?
Sable: For me, I’m pretty experimental. I don’t feel like I’ve nailed down a signature look as it were for myself. That, in itself, is a really fun process. Part of me is like, “I hope I never find a signature look because this is really fun.” For other people, I think what I’m drawn to are people who have really individual, unapologetic styles. And it doesn’t even have to be one thing. It’s not like all girls with blunt bangs I’ll follow. I follow probably a lot of girls with blunt bangs. I feel like anyone who’s super confident in their look and style and voice is somebody who I want to hear from. Is that even your question?
Jenna: So confidence is beauty?
Sable: Yeah. Okay, yeah. Confidence and individuality. Totally. Yeah.
Jenna: Cool. By that standard, you could say that many different bloggers from a variety of different styles, even if you don’t like them…
Sable: Totally, yeah.
Jenna: You’ll appreciate their confidence and individuality?
Sable: Absolutely. Confidence, individuality, if you have a sense of humor that’s always a plus.
Jenna: Sense of humor with your beauty?
Sable: With anything. One of my good… is she a good… we kind of lost touch a little bit but on her Instagram and her SnapChat she does these really funny and weird spoofs, a lot of which have to do with beauty. I think she did one where she globbed lipstick all over her mouth and she was making kissy faces. It was the weirdest shit but it was like, “This is hilarious. And this girl is so funny.” It’s just a joy to see that.
Jenna: Someone just making fun of the whole thing?
Sable: Totally, who has a sense of humor with their look. Doesn’t take themselves too seriously but also is super confident.
Jenna: If you look for that and you find that to be something that shows true beauty, what’s the dark side of that? What’s the reverse? What’s the anti-beauty?
Sable: The anti-beauty? I feel like… “the anti-beauty…”
Sable: Ugly. [Laughs] The “U word.”
Ugliness would probably be any form of self hatred. Self hatred is a very complex thing.
It’s something that in varying degrees, a lot of people struggle with, whether they’re self aware or not. Negative body image. That’s ugly, but hey that’s a real part of life. At one point, everyone might feel that about themselves. And it probably feels really awesome to come out of it but sometimes it’s not that easy for everybody. At the same time, the same system that reinforces negativity about oneself, that’s super ugly to me. This happens a lot with anonymous trolls where they’ll say, “Hey. That thing looks really ugly that you did.” I’m like, “Yo. Here’s a person you don’t know, why the fuck would you say something mean to them for no fucking reason when they’re feeling good about themselves!? What do you gain out of telling someone the thing that makes them feel good is stupid and ugly.”
That, to me, is gross. Block.
Jenna: Is that the moral of the story here, that really you just have to do you, and by doing you that’s inherently beautiful?
Sable: Pretty much. God, if you really think about it, if you do something that you’re like, “Hey, here’s a thing I really believe in and I’m super passionate about,” and even if it doesn’t work out, you’re like, “Well, went down that avenue, tried that,” isn’t that a lot better than if you do something that someone else told you to do or they’re like, “Hey, here’s a thing I think you should do and here’s how you should do it”? Then you do it and it doesn’t work out, and then you get blamed for it. Then you’re like, “Fuck, this wasn’t even my idea. This sucks.”
Jenna: But isn’t a lot of the beauty industry looking at something that you like or looking at something that someone’s doing, like a celebrity or a trend, and then recreating that trend for yourself? Isn’t there a lot of mimicry?
Sable: Oh, totally, yeah. I think, sure, there are people who are like, “Hey, here’s exactly how to do this thing,” like, “Here’s exactly how to do a smokey eye or how to wear lip liner.” It’s true, there are people who do want to be told how to do something. They’re like, “I want to execute this look exactly how it is here, because I want to look like this look.” And there’s other people who are like, “Mmmm maybe this doesn’t work for me, so I’m just going to tweak it and make it work for me,” which is brilliant. You should do that, if nothing else just to know that you can.
Jenna: To make anything work for you.
Sable: Oh, yeah. Isn’t that empowering to know that nothing’s closed off to you because you’re like, “Hey, I can make that work”? It doesn’t matter if someone tells me, like, “Hey, maybe you shouldn’t wear orange lipstick because you’re a redhead,” which I feel like redheads get a lot of finger-wagging and tutting about what works for them and what doesn’t work for them. I’m like, “Redheads, you do you. Wear orange lipstick. Who the fuck cares?”
Jenna: A lot of what you’re saying and what you’ve been saying is really… I think a healthy outlook on how women should be themselves, or anyone that’s putting on makeup, how they should view themselves, which is: “Do what you want. You can make it work for you. It doesn’t really matter if you look a certain way or you act a certain way, just be you.”
Sable: Be the best version of what you believe you can be.
… Ugh, that sounded so like “Join the army,” but there’s a nugget of truth there.
I think people are happiest when they feel the most comfortable in their skin. Even if someone is like, “I feel happiest when I wear ten pounds of makeup,” I’m like, “Okay, cool, then do that.” Or people who are like, “I feel happiest when I don’t wear anything at all,” then that’s great for you too. I think the fact is that when you know that… Sometimes it can be tricky finding what you do love about yourself and running with it.
When you do find what you love about yourself and when you give yourself the permission to run with it and not apologize for it, I think that’s when people look and feel and just have this aura of beauty.
Those are the people that people want to be around, because it’s like you have this secret that you found out, and everyone’s like, “Yo, how’d you find that out? I want to know.”
Jenna: The secret is just running with it?
Sable: Yeah, running with what makes you feel the best about yourself. It seems really simple, but it’s one of those “easier said than done” things.
There’s a lot of societal pressure and cultural pressure and lots of things that you think you should be doing or you shouldn’t be doing, and that can totally eat at you being you.
Jenna: This sounds really contrary to what you see online in either headlines or what you hear from the beauty industry, which is, “Your eyelashes aren’t good enough already, so put this mascara on and it’ll be better.”
Sable: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Guys, just don’t, don’t believe ads. They’re beautiful and they’re airbrushed. And the main point being is that they’re aspirational.
Keep in mind that the beauty industry is trying to sell you things, and the beauty industry is run generally by lots of old white men. Whether it appears to be or not, it’s still firmly entrenched in the patriarchy. I’m not going to go off on a feminist rant, but that’s something that I always keep in the back of my head.
Ads, certain ads, can be damaging to people who are susceptible to them and who haven’t figured themselves out and who do feel like they are lacking. Because, hey, here’s a beautiful celebrity with beautiful eyelashes, that, P.S., are totally Photoshopped on, and telling you, like, “Hey, buy this mascara, because you already feel like your lashes suck, so this will totally solve that problem for you.” Which, hey, if that’s a great mascara and it actually does it for you, that’s awesome, but inherently that’s not.. I feel like it’s like putting a Band-Aid on a gash, a little bit.
Jenna: Why did they feel like their lashes sucked in the first place?
Sable: I think beauty ideals. There’s lots of beauty ideals that inherently do sort of fetishize youth and the vitality of youth, which involves long lashes, clear, glowing skin, naturally rosy cheeks, and long, shiny hair. It could be short shiny hair. I feel like short hair is having a moment now… But in general, youthful beauty is definitely idolized, which long lashes go into that. It’s weird. Whatever the trend du jour is, somehow it’s marketed towards you in a way that, generally, it’s aspirational. It’s not like the ads in the ’50s where they’re like, “You’re too skinny, eat a hamburger,” or something like that.
Jenna: They had ads like that?
Sable: Oh, yeah, absolutely. It’s funny, because in the ’50s being skinny was not ideal. Women were told you have to be curvy and voluptuous. It’s weird.
Jenna: Wow, that recent?
Sable: Yeah, in the ’50s. If you look for them, there are ads that are like, “Oh, are you too skinny? Go to Denny’s and get a healthier frame.” These are also people who would eat steak and milk for dinner, so I don’t think they were the bastions of excellent health. It just goes to show you how wacky body ideals can change very quickly. The ’50s were not super long ago.
Jenna: It seems like you have a lot of body confidence for someone that’s in the beauty industry.
Sable: Yes and no.
Jenna: There’s a lot of people like you that feel like “look the way you want to look”?
Sable: I hope people feel comfortable in their bodies. It’s a lot easier than hating your body, for sure. There’s a lot of energy that goes into self-hatred. It would definitely be better spent elsewhere.
I think for me I’m comfortable in my body at the moment, as it is now, mostly because I have all of my body parts, which is awesome. I’m a generally pretty healthy person. I don’t have any family history of medical ailments. I’m really lucky in that sense. I’ve never felt like the way I looked or my body shape or type necessarily held me back from things I wanted. Okay, I’m never going to be a runway model, because I’m 5’2″ so it’s just not going to happen, but I guess it’s great that I don’t want to be a runway model, then. It’s realistic goals. I feel like I didn’t really answer your question.
Jenna: No, you did. I liked it.
What are some of your earliest beauty memories, whether it’s with a certain product or with a group of friends or with a family member? And then, how do you look back on those today as someone that’s in the beauty industry?
Sable: When I was little I actually wasn’t allowed to wear makeup until I was sixteen, so that definitely put a kibosh on a lot of that stuff. It didn’t stop me completely. I still would buy tinted lip balm at the drug store and feel really bad ass, and then wipe it off before my mom came home.
The town I grew up in was super suburban and residential. Not a whole lot going on in terms of culture. The only consistent establishments in that town were churches, bars, and nail salons, so a lot of my friends when I was growing up, they would get their nails done. They would get acrylics put on, which I thought was super cool when I was twelve, but now I’m like, “Wow, that’s really ridiculous that someone as young as twelve would have tiny surf boards glued to their nails.”
That’s what their mothers did, and that’s what all of the women in their lives did, so that’s what they did. I get that now. And I wanted them, of course, when I was twelve. My mom was like, “Absolutely not. That’s ridiculous. You’re twelve.” And she was right. She was totally right. I cannot even fault her on that.
Jenna: Acrylic surf boards were the hit in your town.
Jenna: Whereas somewhere across the ocean it might be something completely different.
Sable: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I think maybe tiny surfboards on your nails is a very Long Island thing.
Jenna: So. There’s these different poles of beauty, right? In South Korea you might have a certain concept of beauty that’s very different than the concept of beauty that’s in America, that’s the concept of beauty somewhere else.
Jenna: Based on what you said earlier about self-confidence being beautiful, would you say that that is the foundation of an international standard of beauty? Would you see self-confidence being something that works across the board, or is it just something that we’re thinking of in a different way as Americans?
Sable: I think it’s definitely different in America. I think self-confidence in the beauty realm on a global level is a very modern thing, because not every culture celebrates individuality. In fact, many cultures celebrate homogony. Like Asia is a very homogeneous culture. We… Asians, they have very similar features. In one way it’s great, because it’s like, “Oh, if we all have these similar features we can all figure out what works for us,” but that’s also a way of ignoring individuality where individuality may want to thrive.
I think a lot of Eastern cultures, for the longest time it was considered a beauty ideal to mimic Western cultures, whether that be the shape of your eyes, whether that be your skin tone. You’ll find tons of whitening skin products in India and in Africa and in Asia. To them, a beauty ideal is having pale skin.
That isn’t just a “we want to be more white” kind of thing, that also is a cultural thing, or at least my mother told me this, that pale skin was prized because it meant that you were a higher class. You weren’t a peasant who worked in a field, so there’s that cultural stigma holding on to that too.
Yeah when it comes into the realm of trying to mimic Caucasians, then that, to me at least, I think it’s really sad, and I think it’s damaging. And that’s not a reason to have pale skin. You should have pale skin because the sun is evil and damages your skin, so you should stay out of the sun. You should not have pale skin because you want to fulfill some Western ideal of beauty.
Jenna: I don’t know, there’s a lot of fake tanners out there who would disagree with you.
Sable: That is so funny to me, that in America being tan is a sign of class, a higher class because it means you can afford to vacation. That to me… I just find it so funny and weird.
Jenna: Yeah, it is funny and weird. That person that’s tanning in a tanning bed three times a week…
Sable: Oh, God. Don’t do that.
Jenna: Please don’t ever do that.
Sable: You will get skin cancer for sure.
Jenna: Those people learned that beauty habit from someone else or they saw it and they thought that it looked good.
Sable: Yeah. In American culture, I feel like one of the most prevalent all-American things is the California girl. She’s on a beach, she’s sporty, she’s athletic, she has tan skin and muscular limbs and really white teeth and is smiling all the time. I’m thinking of Baywatch, basically, and Beach Boys songs. Yeah, I feel like that’s a super American… at this point I guess a classic beauty look. Tan skin in that realm is considered a sign of health and of vitality, and, like, “Oh, look how sporty I am playing tennis outside,” and stuff like that.
But in reality, you’re like, “Whoa, dude, you are damaging your skin.” A tan is like a cry for help from your skin. It’s your skin basically closing the blinds from the sun… because the sun is bad.
Jenna: I’m going to throw on gobs of sunscreen now, just like your friend with the lipstick.
Sable: Seriously, guys, wear sunscreen.
Jenna: For someone that is growing up in the United States, they’re being inundated with all these click-bait headlines of “Ten things to do that makes your skin look better,” or, “Ten ways to get that tan,” or, “Why you should… ” or, “Why you shouldn’t … ” all those things. And that’s got to be really overwhelming for anyone that’s growing up and trying to establish their own self-identity.
For instance, the first stage that you go through in your life is a stage of mimicry of others, and then you get into individualization.
For someone that is growing up in that atmosphere… and I think you out of most people would understand what that is after poring through hundreds of Instagram accounts per day and running your own, complete with many selfies. … You see a lot of that.
What would someone that is sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, what would be something that would be good for them to keep in mind regardless of whether or not they’re interested in beauty or fashion as they’re looking at this stuff? What’s something that you think is important for them to know?
Sable: The one thing I’m jealous of with millennials, as they’re called…
Jenna: [Gasps] The word.
Sable: … the millennial generation, someone who’s like seventeen, eighteen now, is that they have so much more access to everything that I never had when I was seventeen or eighteen. There was no Instagram. I don’t think there was even Facebook then, which is so weird to think about.
Information is the most important thing in terms of finding either people like you, things you might enjoy, things you never knew about. Opening yourself up to what’s out there I think is super important in terms of finding yourself. Because… how do people find themselves? They experiment. They tried stuff out, and, like, “Oh, that didn’t work, I’ll try something else,” or, “Oh, I really like this, so I’m going to go further into this direction.” Younger people have so much access to the world that they have the ability to form the world to their liking.
Conversely, it’s just so much material. And it’s overwhelming. The human brain is not a computer that can process that and organize that in a categorical manner. That’s what Pinterest is for, but… [Laughs].
Yeah, it’s a strange balance now, where, because we’re so tech-dependent, it’s like, okay, mine what’s useful from tech, from social media, but then you need to go away and process it on your own, and figure out what it means to you.
I have to stop myself and do that too sometimes, because you get into this habit of just looking and looking and scrolling and looking at feeds, but none of it really resonates with you. If you actually stop and consider what is meaningful for you, it’s a lot easier to process that information in an impactful way for yourself.
Jenna: What does it mean when it’s impactful? What do you mean by that?
Sable: Impactful, like something that either can make you think differently about something or even introduce you to something you never knew about. Or that just makes you feel less alone in the world, honestly. I think that’s what a lot of people are looking for, too.
Jenna: Why is that an important concept for beauty? It seems like those things are oftentimes at odds.
Sable: They are at odds, but I feel like, and this is probably a very strange, contradictory thing with beauty, is that when you think about how beauty is determined, you think about what does everyone think is beautiful in terms of what do you think is beautiful? There’s a lot of warring between accepting or rejecting what people think is beautiful or what people do not think is beautiful, and compiling that around yourself and your persona. Does that make sense?
Jenna: Yeah. So it’s all about what you choose to associate yourself with.
Jenna: Then whether or not that reflects your true personality or it makes you feel self-confident or makes you feel weak.
Sable: Yeah. Self-representation I think is super important, and I think a person who feels like they can represent themselves in an authentic manner does feel much more solid on the ground and confident and into themselves, as opposed to somebody who has no idea who they are, what they want, and the like.
Jenna: It’s interesting, because people like Beyoncé, for instance, embody certain concepts of beauty. People say that Beyoncé is like, “Yeah, I woke up like this,” but then there’s other people that are trying to mimic her look and look like her. She’s beautiful. There’s also many other ideas of what beauty is now.
Jenna: Would you say that it’s important that people that are still trying to find their own style, because I think that is a process, is it important for them to recognize that Beyoncé is only one standard of beauty?
Sable: Absolutely. Beyoncé’s been huge for a minute now, and everyone’s like, “Oh, my God. Look, here’s a woman of color, who works really hard, she’s an amazingly successful entertainer, and she has this huge booty and big old thighs, and it’s okay to have a big booty and big thighs because Beyoncé is like a queen and she has that.”
And that’s great and that’s amazing, and I hope people celebrate their big booty and thighs, but on the other hand I’m like, “Okay, that’s great, here’s another woman who’s considered beautiful by all societal standards, but at the same time here’s another woman who is again imposing another beauty standard on people who, yes, is definitely not a reaction to… obviously not, because she’s a human, but an inverse to the whole skinny, straight-bodied model type.”
I didn’t say this, actually, Tina Fey pointed this out, but it’s like, “Hey, here’s another beauty ideal that we’re supposed to be that’s impossible.” What if there’s a girl out there who’s really scrawny and she’s like, “Fuck, I’m never going to have Beyoncé’s thighs, I’m never going to have a big booty, I’m always going to be flat-chested.” She might feel really shitty about herself, because she’s like, “Oh, I’m not going to look like that.” Meanwhile, somebody else is like, “Are you kidding? I would kill to be as skinny as you and shapeless as you!” That sounded really mean, but it didn’t mean to be.
Yeah, it’s just proving that, hey, there’s another impossible beauty standard for some people, but at the same time it’s like, “Guys, can we just accept that women come in tons of different shapes, and it’s okay to look different from one another?! It’s okay. This is beautiful too, not just this one type.”
Jenna: In a perfect world according to Sable, what would be different about the beauty industry and your day-to-day than now?
Sable: Than now? Gosh. In a perfect world I would never have to write about the Kardashians again. [Laughs] I mean God bless ‘em, but… I think in a perfect world, personally for me … I feel like this is like you’re asking me what my ideal position in the beauty industry would be.
It would be an ability to empower people and write about the types of things that celebrate beauty and celebrate individuality and confidence and all the things that make people feel great about themselves, in a completely inclusive manner. And at the same time I guess really kill it in an editorial way, if that makes any sense.
I think it would be super cool to do all that and have an appeal that speaks… that doesn’t shut out a certain type because it’s like, “Oh, this isn’t my vibe.” Like, “Oh, is your vibe not feeling awesome about yourself? Because I’m pretty sure that’s a lot of people’s vibes. Just saying.” Oh, and to discard with any prescriptive, like, “Ways to be more this,” or, like, “How to lose this.” Guys, it’s fine. You don’t have to be more anything. Just be cool.
Jenna: It’s anti-perfectionism?
Sable: Sure, yeah. I’m pretty much a self-proclaimed imperfectionist, which is to say I do celebrate imperfections. At the same time, I’m not… I’m definitely not a Type A, which sucks in the sense that when you’re in the working world and you tell people you’re not a Type A, that’s very scary, because that means you’re unreliable, you’re not detail-orientated, you’re not going to get shit done.
That’s a huge… it’s a weirdly pervasive thing that I feel like girls my age are expected to be, especially in New York City, in any big thriving city where you’re joining the workforce. You’ve got to be on point, you’ve got to kill it, you’ve got to crush it, and… I don’t know, all those other slang terms for doing a good job.
At the same time, it’s like, “Think about what you’re doing. Think about whether you want to be crushing this.”
I think that’s an important factor. Think about the impact you want to have. And not just punch walls for the sake of punching them.
For me it can be considered a setback, but I think it’s important, just personally to not go insane, that I have to check in with myself and be like, “Do I believe in what I’m doing?
Am I cool with this?
Can I be proud of this?
Can I walk away from this and be like, ‘I did all right.’ as opposed to just making sure I check all my boxes and ticked all the x’s… blah, blah, blah…”
Thanks for listening to Notes on Doing episode 004 with Sable Yong.
Check out her work on her Instagram at /sabletoothtigre and her new company linernotesmag.com, and listen to her play bass in a band named Decorum.
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Until next time. In the meantime, always do.