Not Your Typical Makeup Tutorial

Spoken word video by Theanne Liu: for those who refuse to be silenced.

This video starts off like one of the ubiquitous makeup tutorials that populate YouTube... but then it becomes something different. Theanne Liu created this thoughtful spoken word piece to share about her personal experiences within Asian America -- "through learning about our history, understanding how we are racialized subjects, being in the diaspora, to dealing with various forms of racism and ethnosexualization."

Created for her Asian American Studies class on Race, Gender, and Sexuality at Northwestern University, the video is produced in the style of a makeup tutorial as a nod to the hypervisibility of Asian women on YouTube in the realm of beauty and fashion, while remaining underrepresented in other non-beauty-related video content.

Take a look:

Theanne admits that she herself is an avid subscriber to many Asian American beauty vloggers, but she was inspired to create a video that explored a more nuanced representation of typical Asian American femininity.

Here's the text from her piece:

RED LIPS EVENING MAKEUP TUTORIAL: for those who refuse to be silenced

step 1: primer

start off with a primer which provides a base-

history of why these Chinese and Taiwanese features

are only read as “Asian”

faces foreign, facing racism

caricatures of 20th century immigrant bodies

excluded, massacred, detained

until we were considered desirable for our brains

intellect weaponized

to uphold the model minority myth

as the basis

of how Asian America

is supposed to appear

step 2: foundation

when you choose a foundation

so you forget about how your darker predecessors

fought for your place in America

and still how they die because this world sees brownness and blackness

as threat, thug, terrorist, illegal

these communities of color ignored by

upper-middle class east Asian America

because it’s easier to look out for our own

yellow skin

step 3: eyebrows

in class this white boy made a music video

centering himself in a rap about overcoming ignorance

only to set it to some stereotypical-as-fuck Chinese tune


I could only raise my eyebrows

when he claimed he felt “heart”

in this soundtrack to Hollywood’s mystical orient

step 4: eye makeup

make sure you use waterproof eyeliner

so it doesn’t melt off when you return to the fatherland

of Taiwanese humidity and feelings of humility

when you can’t understand the dialect

slowly erased by the Mandarin of the mainland

your own eroding Mandarin once inherent

now in Chinglish

can’t even express to your family

the longing you feel for their acceptance

because you are two parts too many

Shanghainese and American

step 5: lips

these red lips now speak

to counter the era which silenced you, wàigōng

for political dissent from CPC policy

cultural revolutionary separation of family

96 years you lived

but too many spent in isolation

now resting in peace

but never living in power

these words I say today

are a privilege you never had

step 6: reflection

finally look at the result in your mirror

and wonder

when will your reflection show

that who you are inside

is a girl worth self-love

a girl worth more than the number of hearts you captured

and worth no less because of your power to destroy

the heart of that boy who loved you—

no, who loved the idea of you:

exotic, china doll nymphomania;


reflected back onto

the face of the next Asian girl he’ll conquer

love yourself because

this disease of racist desire

known as yellow fever

will never love you

Very nicely done.

More here: Red Lips Evening Makeup Tutorial: for those who refuse to be silenced


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