The Allure Podcast: Phillip Lim and Prabal Gurung Talk Beauty, Representation, and the Asian-American Experience As Only Fashion Icons Can

Whether you grow up in Southern California as Phillip Lim did, Nepal like Prabal Gurung, or Connecticut à la Allure editor in chief Michelle Lee, feeling “other” is a uniquely shared experience. In a new episode of the Allure Podcast, the two designers chat with Lee about finding a community within the beauty and fashion industries, and lifting each other up so it boosts representation as a whole. “The beauty of it is, what I realized when I came to America, was I can choose my own family. I can choose my own safe space,” Gurung tells Lee. “And that’s what I feel like we’ve created.”

The three feel that supporting and lifting each other up, as well as other members of the Asian-American community and people of color, creates space for everyone and makes a better world for future generations. If you think the fashion world can be cliquey, well, it’s worse when there are so few minorities in the game. “You’re pitted against each other from a space of scarcity, from a space where it’s almost like you are put into an arena and everyone’s telling you, ‘You’re so lucky. You’re so lucky.’ And that’s all you’re left with, but then there’s no community,” explains Lim. “You belong to a community, but it’s quite a divided and isolated community. I talk about it like we’re racehorses…put into separate stables. You don’t co-mingle and it is very lonely.”

The three good friends found they shared the feeling of growing up without seeing themselves represented in media. “Magazines and everything that’s been celebrated as, let’s say, what’s hot, what’s sexy, what’s desirable and it didn’t look like me. It didn’t look like us,” says Gurung. “I had to define my own worth. I realized nobody is going to give me my worth. So I was like, ‘You know what? I am hot. I am sexy. The world just needs to catch up to me.'”

The world is finally catching up, albeit very slowly. There was the massive success of last year’s Crazy Rich Asians, a rom-com all three believe was a step in the right direction. And just this year at the Oscars, South Korean director Bong Joon-ho won big for his movie, Parasite, nabbing four awards including Best Picture. It was the first time a non-English speaking movie won the top award in the history of the Oscars. But with every step forward, there’s a step back. In the excitement surrounding Parasite‘s win and what it means for Korean cinema, there was still the question of why none of the movie’s actors were nominated. And that’s not even mentioning Chinese-American actress Awkwafina’s Oscars snub right after she won Best Actress at the Golden Globes for Lulu Wang’s beautiful film, The Farewell.

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