Unfilled and Unfiltered

Bee stung. Pillow plump. Rosebud. Those are the top three adjectives I can think about whenever I see lips plumped to perfection whether it’s naturally occurring or perfectly injected by a doctor. Given that full lips are the beauty standard du jour all over the world, I have to consider myself lucky that my pout has some volume to it. However, I have always been contemplating about doing lip fillers.

Growing up, I envied my big sister. Naturally blessed with doll-like eyes, long eyelashes, symmetrical eyebrows, a nose with a higher bridge, a V-shaped face and Angelina Jolie-esque plump lips, she checks off every box for the ideal face. As for myself, I liked that my cute lil’ round face, almond eyes, button nose and naturally occurring double eyelids checked off the box. But when it came to my lips, it had always been small, but not as big as my sister’s. Since my preteen years, I always applied lip makeup from gloss to lipstick as I felt that it gave my face a lil’ pop in photos.

Apart from makeup, I never forgot about poring through copies of People, Us Weekly and InTouch to read stories about who did what to their faces and bodies. I also remembered seeing snippets of Dr.90210 on my aunt’s TV when I was 10. As a child, I never understood why anyone would want to resort to it nor did I have the awareness as to why people would choose to perform surgery on those who ask for modifications. Even though a little quick fix could give a dose of happiness after one trip under the knife, I never thought that it would be an option until I read about Kylie Jenner getting lip fillers five years ago.

While I felt insecure about my lips, I was simultaneously scared about going under the needle with a jab of Restylane as I feared having a permanent trout pout. Not in the mood to cough up money to take a trip to the surgeon, I went to the MAC store just to grab two lip liners in Whirl, a blue-based mauve, and Spice, a toasty cinnamon brown. With two colors that match close to my natural lip shade, I felt that I could mimic the plumped effect whether I applied on its own or topped with either lipstick or glittery lip gloss. If simulating lip fillers with lip liners wasn’t enough, I would wear lip products that contained temporary filling effects. I could go on an and on about Dior’s Lip Maximizer, Huda Beauty’s Demi Matte Cream Lipstick, etc. If I felt too lazy to put on lipstick, I’d count on cute filters to help me fake fuller lips on Instagram.

Anytime I took pictures, I needed to make sure that my lips *looked* big. That meant not baring a row of my pearly white teeth since it made my lips look too thin (to me). If I had to fake fuller lips, I pursed my lips forward and parted them. I either tilted my head or my hand to get the perfect angle to fake fuller lips just to mimic what I saw on Instagram. Once I felt like my lips looked great, I was ready to post. No photoshop needed. Ditto with all my selfies on dating apps because I had to make myself look presentable to cute boys.

Although I have yet to receive a single shot of filler (as of now), I still desire the perfectly even Bratz doll lips of my sister in spite of liking the evenness of my lips. Although I will not do lip fillers (for the present), it’s something I am open to in the future as I want to maintain the volume and size given that the loss of collagen occurs during aging. Not that I hate my lips, it’s just that I don’t like the feeling of having something “missing” as I get older.

Now that fillers are as common as white bread, there is nothing wrong about choosing to get them done. It’s still an unspoken taboo to speak about it as we (myself included) feel embarrassed to admit that we have insecurities with our features. Heck, I used to think that it was wrong to get plastic surgery done until I realized that people choose to see a doctor to boost their self confidence for themselves. What’s worse is the fact that social media is a cesspool for folks to bash public figures for choosing to get plastic surgery while the trolls themselves are equally infused with self-hate. If anything, we fear being judged – especially by our own friends and family – if we choose to get plastic surgery. Even if I myself ever actually get it done, I’d rather avoid cyber bullying by staying quiet than to be open about getting my lips injected as I don’t want to be demonized for my choices.

As humans, the most important thing is that we are beautiful inside and out regardless of whether one has surgery or not. Having to construct a healthy relationship with our own beauty is hard because as a woman, I’ve been conditioned to not acknowledge my beauty on my own terms. I was taught to believe that I needed someone to tell me that I’m pretty, which to me is BS. Being told that I don’t need to “fix” my features is not the validation that I am seeking. Being told that I’m beautiful as if I don’t know that I’m pretty is also not the validation I need to hear even though I’m flattered. The only validation I ever need is to *feel* comfortable within myself and assure myself I’m beautiful inside and out regardless of how I look whether I choose to remain all natural or get a little bit of fillers done.

Real Girls Talk: Wine 101 with Janisaa Pradja

Got a bad case of Black Friday anxiety? Pour a glass. Ready to celebrate that job promotion over turkey, pumpkin pie and stuffing? Break out the bubble. Dying to catch up with your long distance friends on Zoom? Raid your fridge.

Nothing else screams “holiday mood” more than a glass of wine. As a wino, I always like to wind down with a glass of moscato after dinner or whenever I’m Netflixing to Emily in Paris or any comedy, I like to sit down with a glass of red wine. Sometimes, I drink white wine if I don’t feel like having a strong glass of red. Recently, I like to have a small shot glass of bokbunjae (Korean wine) to awaken the creative spirit. Though I’ve tried different kinds of booze (from sake to which also includes arak, a moonshine-type drink from the Middle East), I always head back to wine.

Given that it’s something that I newly appreciate, I hit up Janisaa Pradja, a Bali-based sommelier who’s a friend of mine, to talk about wine. At 25, she’s already got a WSET tucked deep inside her cellar and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Enology (wine studies ICYMI). (I mean, wouldn’t we all KILL to walk out of school with that kinda degree and jump start on our dream job?) Through e-mail, both of us chit chatted about cooking with wine, the art of alcohol appreciation, the science behind the price behind the world’s most expensive vino and why pricier bottles don’t always equate to being better than cheap wines.

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Scents and Scentsability: A Story of Womanhood

Perfume is personal. Spraying it on is like a ritual. Collecting a bottle is like collecting artwork. Certain scents are attached to a memory, an event, a moment, a phase and a person. Growing up, my first perfume were Barbie scents that came in teeny tiny bottles: Aventura, Summer Fun, Princess and Supermodel. I wore them, but not very much because I was scared of finishing them all up. Yet, I hated the thought of throwing away the bottle because the graphics were so dang cute. Then, I went for J.Lo’s Miami Glow, which smelled of coconut and vanilla. Being the typical Gemini, I went for Mary-Kate and Ashley’s Coast to Coast perfumes, which were inspired by LA and NYC.

After wearing all of my fave celebrity perfumes down to the bottom of the bottle, middle school me went for Victoria’s Secret Sexy Little Things, which I purchased on my summer trip to the States when I was 13. I guessed Alessandra Ambrosio’s kissy face made me believe that 13-year-old me could be as sexy as her even though I was far too young to be feeling that way with its sugary sweet scent. From then on, my mind craved for more sweeter scents that were not as annoying as Love Spell.

While I was searching for my signature scent, I returned to the all too familiar route of wearing celebrity fragrances. If I was feeling coquettish, I’d spray Paris Hilton’s namesake perfume, a fruity floral creation that made me feel innocent. But if I wanted more spice, I went for Britney Spears’ Midnight Fantasy, which a teacher commented smelled like “apple shisha”. Heck, I even wore Pink Sugar, Donna Karan’s Red Delicious, Vera Wang’s Princess, Fragonard’s Juste Un Baiser, every single Harajuku Lovers scent and Marc Jacobs’ Daisy. But, I briefly experimented with Serge Lutens’ Datura Noir, a heady vanilla-based scent that was a tad too grown up for me. Even though I was an angsty teen that went to church and studied hard, the sweet smell of perfume comforted me in ways I never knew.

When I moved to LA to start college, my tastes in perfume changed. Desperate to break away from my past as the anti-social wholesome girl from high school, I felt like it was time to stop wearing fruity scents. To accelerate my newfound metamorphosis, I started shopping vintage, dyed my hair in shades of rainbow, wore sluttier outfits, went to house parties, partied with musicians, listened to Bangerz hardcore, skipped church or academic obligations for USC football games and sneakily puffed on e-cigs (an on-off vice I did for years until two years ago). If I was going through a wild child phase, why not I go for something a little more dangerous, a little more grown up or a little more badass? During that phase, the only comforts I swore by were Elizabeth and James’ Nirvana Black and Fresh’s Cannabis Santal. The former was woodsier whereas the latter was a bit more earthier. However, I did continue to wear Nirvana Black post-college, too. Though I was only in the wild child phase for a few years, my taste in perfume continued to level up when I moved to NYC.

Long gone were the Cannabis Santal and the Nirvana Black. Instead, I relished myself in wearing BYREDO’s Rose of No Man’s Land, a perfume that my sister and brother-in-law bought for me when I graduated college. Named for the selflessness and compassion of the nurses who saved the lives of soldiers during WWII, this rose-based scent was a new favourite that slowly grew on me. Like the Venom to Spiderman, it clung to me, feeding into my blossoming sensuality as a strong, level-headed young career woman. I wore it almost every day anytime I went out to the point where I finished the entire bottle. Feeling naked and in need of a new bottle, a life-changing scent suddenly came along.

On a cold blustery December 2016, my dad and I were surrounded by more than footlong thick pile of snow. Walking on sleet wasn’t sexy, but if there was one place where we needed to step inside to escape the snow, we went to Barney’s. Say what you’d like about Barney’s, but a small bottle caught our eye. Without a title slapped on the body, the light citrine liquid was calling me to smell it. A saleslady opened the round little black cap, sprayed it on us and mentioned that it was by BYREDO, the same brand that made my graduation scent. Amused at the thought that it was a nameless scent, she explained that we could call the perfume anything we’d like. We walked out with three bottles of BYREDO’s Unnamed – one for me, another one for my mom and another bottle for my sister. Rather than another random title, I put down “MISSY”, my childhood nickname. Fresh like the forest, powdery like Daisy and comforting as a bucket of popcorn, MISSY became my new fragrance that I’ve continually wore for years until today.

Since 2016, I hadn’t purchased any new bottles until I was at the Charles-de-Gaulle Airport, where I was taking my flight home from Paris to Singapore. Since airports were great for last minute beauty buys, I was always fascinated by taking a little souvenir home. Given that it was cheaper to buy French beauty products in Paris, I didn’t want to lose the opportunity to indulge. From the corner of my eyes, I spied two perfumes that caught my attention: YSL’s Libre and Paco Rabanne’s Pure XS. One was a lavender-citrus based scent and the other smelled of candy. Unable to choose, a saleslady advised me that I was better off getting both. From that moment, it was an epiphany that no matter who I grew into, I could always bridge my past with my present through the journey of scent.

Sitting on my computer as I am typing this, I realize that whether we’re going out responsibly with our friends/family or staying at home during this pandemic, a bottle of perfume will always be there by my side. No matter if I’m happy or sad, a bottle is just one sniff away.

Quarantine Health Food Purchases I Never Regretted Buying

Staying indoors has nearly driven me stir crazy. Without access to a swimming pool and shopping mall for two months, there wasn’t much entertainment apart from binging on trashy dating reality TV shows on Netflix, enlightening Sunday sermons from my pastor, a marathon of takeouts with the family and countless video calls/texts from friends all around the world.

If there was one thing that kept me sane, it’s health food shopping. Although I look like the kind of girl that would splurge on Alo Yoga sets, most of my spending has been allocated to food. More specifically, health food.

For the past five years, I’ve been more consistent with upgrading my health; however, my journey started with a scare. In July 2015, my mom took me to see Dr. Rachel West for an allergy test. My skin was breaking out, I gained weight and although I looked healthy, I was always feeling sleepy after a meal. After I took the allergy test, it turned out that the highest allergens were gluten, dairy and eggs. On top of that, I had high mercury and yeast levels from consuming too much bread, fish and macaroons when I vacationed at the South of France, Milan and Paris that summer. While I was being treated with IV drips to remove the mercury and yeast, I decided that it was time for me to go vegan and gluten-free temporarily.

With the vegan and gluten-free experiment, I found out that my body felt lighter, I had more energy and there was minimal bloating on my stomach. In addition to eliminating the allergens, I’ve also decided to ramp up my diet by snacking clean, too. Flash forward to 2020, I am still that health nut from 2015, but I’ve made improvements since then.

Rather than relying on an all or nothing mentality (a trait I’m working to unlearn), I’ve came to realize that indulging healthy doesn’t mean that it’s boring! With more vegan substitutes of pantry classics (think Nutella), it’s beginning to open my mind that something healthy can enlighten your meal without making sacrifices.

If healthy eating is completely foreign to you, it’s never too late to try out different kinds of meals!

Here are my top go-tos:

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When Out Is In: How to Make The Most of Old Fashion Trends

A bad tattoo can be lasered off or covered up, but a piece of clothing you wore many moons ago is a permanent reminder of an embarrassing phase in your life that the mind does not forget. As much as it’s tempting to give away half your closet to a younger cousin or older sibling, perhaps we need to be open to giving our old clothes a second chance.

As much as we hate being quarantined, the silver lining of staying in your city is being able to rewear the things you haven’t worn in your closet. While this article has been six months in the making, I realized that with this quarantine, it’s led me to become more adventurous by dipping back into the things I used to wear while I was in high school, college or a few years ago. Even though I secretly fear being “uncool”, the truth is that I’m more comfortable with wearing what I’ve kept regardless of how “out” a trend is.

Rather than let the rest of my clothes decay in the closet, here are some of my favorite “out” trends that I happily rewore again:

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ATH-YOUR-LEISURE!

These days, I swear by loungewear. With our home as the new office and party destination, it seems like we’re leaning into simple comforts. By switching our jeans for sweatpants, it’s a sign that it’s bound to be our uniform for the rest of the year.

Not only are sweatpants THE new jeans, bike shorts are replacing high-waisted cutoff shorts. Stretchy, but figure-flattering, bike shorts give you the freedom to not feel constricted after a meal, which is why I like to wear them around the luxury of my own couch.

Speaking of tops, I’ve ditched my going out tops for a baggy sweatshirt, which was one of my previous college girl staples. Warm, but breathable, the long-sleeved baggy tee has been so kind to me when I indulge in açaí bowls, oat milk latte and a hearty Indonesian lunch. Also, the sweatshirt has been my latest excuse to cover my cold bare legs inside its bagginess whenever I blast the AC while watching trashy reality TV shows on Netflix.

Last but not least, my trusted Juicy Couture hoodie from 2009 is like an ex you’ve decided to rekindle your relationship with. Although Juicy Couture is more of a nostalgia brand nowadays, its cultural cachet will never die out regardless of the amount of times that fashion has tried to find the next new brand to obsess over. Since I literally grew up to Juicy, I’ve collected a number of hoodies. Out of all of them, my personal fave is the cheetah print velour hoodie, a gift from my parents that I received after they visited my sister in NYC during her college years.

Now that I’ve been so accustomed to staying in, I took the time to make this tutorial for you!

Real Girls Talk: Getting Started In Style With Taylor Burrell

A few years ago, I was still riding new on the whole influencer/blog scene. I was trying to make a space for myself, but I honestly was nervous about going near people who worked in the same field as I as I assumed that I had to keep to myself without getting too involved with competitors who had more followers than me. However, my perception changed when I networked with other fellow influencers on an app called Muses, the LinkedIn for influencers.

Inside the app, I discovered this really cool girl and I thought her style was impeccable. That girl today is Taylor Burrell, the fashionista behind @trendliketaylor. At 26, the New Jersey based fashion stylist is the reincarnation of Aaliyah. Like the singer, Burrell gravitates towards crop tops and sporty aesthetics, but unlike the mononymed diva, she will take more risks with flirty cutouts, chunky hardware and/or change it up a bit with trying out brighter hues like a Scorpio (FYI: this sign is no stranger to reinvention as every Scorpio female I know likes to take risks with their style!).

Although both of us live in different parts of the globe, our love of fashion unifies us. Today, we talk about the influence of the Teen Vogue Handbook, the realities of being a fashion stylist, how the pandemic has affected her, why BLM matters and how you can continue to support it.

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The 5 Crazy YouTube Workout Videos You Must Try

Anything that’s hyped on Instagram and YouTube isn’t always gonna win my trust as I am the type of person that has to research the background of a person who made the workout or look into the person’s understanding of the topic before I give the follow button. As much as I’ve had my dalliance with YouTube earlier this spring, I mainly like to hop on it for one thing: exercise videos.

Not only is it free, I like that doing workout videos can give me the luxury of convenience as I don’t have to line up in front of a newly reopened gym or be surrounded by people I don’t wanna run into at the park. More than anything, I like that I can have quicker access to the shower right after I sweat buckets.

Tried and tested by yours truly, I have tried out some super fun YouTube workout videos that are worth the hype:

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Sustainability For Beginners: A Tried and True Guide To Shopping Smart

Stacks of shoes greeted me from floor to ceiling as I sauntered past the hallway in my apartment. Though I’ve had great city views of Marina del Rey, I was accustomed to the familiar sight, an array of funky footwear that I bought from Dolls Kill and Nasty Gal, coupled with a few from Miista, Doc Martens and secondhand vintage footwear from Depop. While my early 20s identity crisis was at its peak, I was constantly shopping to help myself fight against teenage body shaming.

My closet was filled with racks of Reformation dresses, Nasty Gal crop tops and leggings, a handful of cute trendy pleather overalls by LF, Rag & Bone skinny jeans and at least 50 percent of dope vintage purchases from Etsy. A few stacks of Uniqlo sweaters sat inside my closet, too. Ditto with a few cool unique vintage purchases from Tunnel Vision, a cult vintage boutique that also stores under-the-radar LA-based designers. At 22 on the brink of 23, how was it possible that a soon-to-be college graduate could accumulate *this* many things?

Now with the apparel business at a 50 percent slump since Miss Rona took over the world, it’s made me wonder if any of my past shopping habits truly changed. While it’s great that I am taking accountability for my own habits, I am beginning to realize that when it comes to sustainability, I haven’t shopped smarter. Although I still want to have fun with fashion, it doesn’t mean that I have to give it up altogether. Given that we still need to shop for essential apparel, we can do our part to still be supportive of the business, but be more responsible on where are contributions are going.

Here are the top 10 lessons I’ve learned about shopping sustainably:

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Real Girls Talk: Keeping Up With Faith In Chaos

At the beginning of the year, I had high hopes that 2020 would be my year of more optimism and adventures. I also had hopes that I’d be able to get more dough, land a stable job (in the office) and get a boyfriend. But, the radical shifts that were suddenly introduced shook up my life.

Thanks to Miss Rona, I had to work from home, abandon grand travel plans and celebrate a quarantine birthday. Though the effects sounded negative, the most surprising things always came out to be more positive than I expected. I became more active in doing household chores, got creative, sewn face masks out of fabric scraps for charity, set deadlines, continuously kept in touch with the friends I truly connected with, spent more time with my parents and reached out to cousins I haven’t talked to in AGES. While I appreciate the special moments from creating magical memories whenever I was outside, I realized that when I went out on a near daily basis, it has made me become selfish, irresponsible and lazy. By being plugged into my phone, I also realized that the majority of the time I spent was mainly for the ‘gram, getting money on Vestiaire Collective, WhatsApps, e-mails and/or dating apps. I wasn’t aware that I sought SO much validation by burning my energy on it until I saw my screen time. But if there was one thing that continuously lifted me up on the bad days and taught me gratitude for the good days, it was my faith.

Raised as a Baptist at 8-years-old, my relationship with God wasn’t always the strongest. Getting to know my spirituality felt so foreign to me as I was told to go to Sunday school and youth classes, which I heavily disliked because of being around other kids (except for my best friend). I only read Bible stories for the sake of pleasure during my childhood. Instead of meditating on the Bible, I used free time to read Perez Hilton as the way, the truth and the life to escape the reality of being a socially awkward misfit in high school. Though I did attend church throughout my teens, I really didn’t feel *that* connected to The Word as I saw church as a weekend ritual with my family.

One day, I met a really cool gal in church when I was in LA. She asked me to hang out with her. Little did I know that God sent in an angel into my life to walk me though faith and humble myself. We’d read the Scriptures at each other’s apartments, have deep conversations about Jesus and hang out for HOURS over coffee, did our homework together, etc. From there, she introduced me to Jessica Tanoesoebibjo, a mutual friend/fellow Biola babe who has a Master’s degree in theology.

Fervently passionate about her faith on her blog, Jess inspired me to be open about keeping in touch with our spirituality since the day we met four to five years ago. Now that we are coping with the world’s weariness over social injustice, a global pandemic, crippled economy and lack of job security, I feel that nothing is more important than wanting to build your faith. Whether you’re a believer or non-believer, you have the freedom to choose what you wish to believe.

Here, we catch up about how faith has uplifted her, what it means to have faith, the struggle to balance faith vs. life, why we shall fear God and how you can encourage your friends to build up on their spirituality.

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