Written By: Rose Fong
Video artist Bonnie loves skateboarding. When she feels stressed, the breeze revives her, and when she feels like celebrating, it dances with her.
It’s no surprise that Bonnie finds life in rebellious, restless Los Angeles skateboarding culture -- back in Korea, women’s beauty standards are restrictive to the point of cruelty.
“Growing up as a kid in Korea, I never went out. I stayed home and didn’t make many friends, I never felt beautiful or worthy enough to.”
In Korea, it’s fashionable to be waifish and girlishly slight. Bonnie felt overweight and ugly all the time in Korea, “fat with a capital F,” she explains. Even in her own home, Bonnie’s mother could only dream for her daughter to be as beautiful as other Korean girls, slim and petite. Her mother’s urging drew a rift between the two women.
“When I go to see my family, they would always say, ‘You should really lose your weight.’ I guess they said that because they cared about me.”
Like a lot of families, their highest hopes for Bonnie was that she would find someone to settle down with. In an effort to secure a blind date -- a big deal in Korean dating culture -- Bonnie worked very hard to lose eight kilos (almost 18 pounds). Finally, maybe Bonnie would be worthy enough, ‘beautiful’ enough.
Her confidence was high, and she went to the movies with her blind date, a friend of a friend. In the middle of the movie, the date got up and walked out on her. He told their mutual friend that Bonnie was too fat for him to date. Bonnie spiraled into fad diets and gained ten kilos from stress. “It made me feel so awful and worthless. I hated myself every day, and every morning I started my day, wash my face, and say, ‘Today, I’m gonna be on diet,’ but by the end of the day, I failed. I failed miserably, and always ate and it made me feel better.”
After high school, Bonnie decided to move to Melbourne, Australia.
“I needed to leave Korea because they didn't encourage me instead they put me down. They have a different beauty standard that i didn't believe in and obviously didn't fit in.” Her new Aussie friends didn’t seem to care about her weight, saying, “You’re not fat!” to her, but she thought that’s simply what friends are supposed to do.
It didn’t click with her until she moved to Los Angeles
that her family’s rigid beauty standards were horribly - even if they think lovingly - wrong. Strangers and other filmmakers in LA would approach her as a model, and Bonnie reacted in pure disbelief, still trapped in her family’s words.
One day, a music artist left her with his manager’s business card - he desperately wanted beautiful Bonnie to be on the cover of his upcoming album. That was when she really began to question her ideas of beauty -- what if he was right? She let herself notice when people approached her and called her beautiful. It built her confidence. Three weeks later, she was on the phone with him -- yes, she’ll shoot his album cover.
Confidence became a contagion -- Bonnie now dives headfirst into the Hollywood dream, hoping to work with celebrity artists and one day be on a billboard like she deserves to be.
“And how can I forget my butt, my booty is big for an Asian girl. Asian girls especially Korea girls are not meant to have big butt, but I am different.” Today, Bonnie celebrates her unique body, “I am curvy with a big butt, and I love it! But I won't lie, a big part of me still hates it! In America, they love my body and my butt, but in Korea I'm still fat in their eyes. But I have learned that I am not just a body or a big butt, I am more than that. I am a talented, loving, free-spirited woman with dreams. That gives me courage and confidence to pursue my dreams.”
“There is so much more in this world. You don't see right now, but you have to go out and explore. Don't listen to the people that put you down for not following their beauty standards. Love yourself and be yourself. Listen to people who love you and encourage you. Everywhere around the world Beauty standards are different, and, somewhere, somebody will love you for who you are, and it starts with yourself!”
To see more of Bonnie and her journey please follow her @triplebonnie