On 25, Womanism and Pink Leather Jackets

I turned 25 last November and am already at the halfway mark. So far, it's been wild and emotional with growing pains and professional milestones. I have a feeling I still have many surprises coming my way - and these pink babes have been taking me into new adventures and discoveries.

Here are unshared moments from #pieanaturns25 celebration day! Documented by my artist friend Lydia:

I don't know about you, but I'm feelin' 2 5

 

In April, I cranked out these babes again - but before I take you there, I must rewind to 11 years ago.

Back in 2006, I had a life-changing auditory revelation. My first listen of Corinne Bailey Rae introduced me to a world I always longed for, but didn't yet have the context to materialize into a real-life expression. My newfound love for R&B, jazz and pop music transitioned me out of K-pop all day. This also sparked at a time when my intuitive, quiet adolescent self finally found ways to articulate externally. This evolution eventually took the shape of the rambunctious, loud, present energy that largely defines my personality and expression today.

Over a decade later, I can proudly say that the beats and lyrics of "Put Your Records On" have stood steadfast and true through tumultuous and beautiful years of blooming in creativity and confidence. 

Lookin' like my favorite song #pieana

 

Girl, put your records on,
tell me your favorite song
You go ahead, let your hair down
Sapphire and faded jeans,
I hope you get your dreams,
Just go ahead, let your hair down.

You're gonna find yourself somewhere, somehow.
 

I shared this selfie from the same day. Two weeks later, I discovered another Corinne. Korean artist IU!

Look at this cute clip of her fangirling over Corinne Bailey Rae (begins around 00:30:00). Her love for Corinne led her to these lyrics on her new song "Palette."

Strangely, I like simple things nowadays. 
But I still love Corinne's music.

On April 21st, I came home from an inspiring event hosted by Magazine B - and listened to IU's rendition of her 25 years of living. I immediately burst into tears. The lyrics talk about how she's just beginning to find her true self. She ends started the song with the words: "I'm truly found." This is what it's about! When I see her, I see someone just doing what she loves - and though it may be getting a whole lot of attention, she is unphased. She will continue on this way and be an inspiration for so many. She really is an artist bridging gaps of generations while staying in trend. 

In her early years, I dismissed her legitimacy for her cute, typical K-pop poster girl image, but my eyes opened since her album remake of old Korean classics in 2014 called the "Flower Bookmarks." I wrote about my growing interest for IU back in Fall 2015 after a trip from Korea. 

Both her title song and album is called "Palette," and she shared during an interview: "As a child, in art class, I loved the palette more than drawing itself. The palette is a tool, but can be an art form on its own. The different colors and genres in this album and my current self resembles a palette. Rather than drawing a perfect picture, I wanted to share my own palette."

Funny thing - in 2015, I started sharing my world of colors through an ongoing project called #pieanapalettes on Instagram - and on blog in form of fashion, food, and beyond.

The song inspired me so much that the following Monday, I went to work in this particular ensemble. Blazer working woman to shed some light into an otherwise hectic, stressful May issue deadline day.

#월요병 

뭐예요?

We finished up our May issue today, so I decided to bring the weekend party into the office. Ain't nobody got time for Monday gloom!

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GET IT GURL 

Coincidental or not, the new Netflix series "Girlboss" released on April 21 as well. It is "loosely" based on the life events of clothing brand Nasty Gal's founder Sophia Amoruso. Her killer taste for fashion, unapologetic attitude, and incredible drive for her business sparked fading reminders and promises back to life. In 2015, I read her book #Girlboss, and was completely inspired to live out my dreams.

I believe these connecting dots are not coincidental. They're a reflection of a movement reverberating across the world right now. I'm talking about a collective movement of women rising up to take their place while being their truest selves. True womanhood doesn't sound controlling or authoritative - or try to force itself into unfitting suits. It sounds like kindness, looks like authenticity, and carries love. 

For awhile, I've been developing my personal narrative of womanhood in both individual and community levels. I see how ideas I've been cultivating and talking about are bleeding into mainstream entertainment and media scenes. Contrary to what people may say, I believe women are more united than ever - and thus more powerful than ever!

A movement focusing on the dignity and true essence of a woman over external factors that will equate her to a man.

I want to continue to explore this, especially the happenings in my current city Seoul. Stay tuned!
 

Hall of Delight

In 2013, I dreamt of a digital platform featuring the stories of wonderful people in my life. Meanwhile, I navigated through the uncertainty, joy and vulnerability of friendships with women. In following months, I entered a journey of intentionally getting to know and loving myself. Since then, I shared bits and pieces about my expanding awareness about womanhood. (Read my most recent post "Strangers, Sisters."

Four years later, I'm still knee-deep in the journey of cultivating self-identity in the context of community. The more I learned to embrace my unique identity, the more I'm able to see and speak out the gold in other women.

Marcel Proust once said (thanks Kinfolk!):

 
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
 

I believe that you're only able to love others in the extent you love yourself. As I share truths and adventures, laugh and cry, or just simply sit and reflect with other women, I get a clearer perspective of my fearfully and wonderfully crafted DNA. 

At the brink of 2017, this photo project became a reality:

hall of delight

People ask me about #pieana. I always knew that its vision was bigger than myself and that its destination will be in community. 

I remember being in a room full of women few years ago where I felt that every woman inside the room, whether or not I knew her, believed in me - and something sparked.

The world tells us to find our spotlight by dismissing each other. But the incredible amount of healing I received from friends, sisters and mothers over the years attest that we need each other. 

As 2016 is coming to a close, I want to honor and celebrate #women. They inspire me everyday to dream big and love well. #bettertogether

Months later, I'm standing in the midst of another wave of revelation about womanhood. This is only the tip of the iceberg - of many other stories and projects to come. 


I present to you, Hall of Delight -

There are so many amazing, courageous women around me. They might not be a Michelle Obama or Oprah Winfey, or even Beyonce (yet) but their character and lives are definitely worthy of spotlight. Even in a humble platform like pieana. Here are many women who say yes everyday and let their true selves shine. Here are women whose stories are worthy to be shared and celebrated. 
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"So elegant and beautiful you are! Thank you for lavishing me with love & good times this weekend."

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"동갑친구s hayyy! My heart wells up with thanks whenever I think about our friendship. She carries wisdom and maturity beyond her years and loves so well. I learn a lot from you and cherish our times together."

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LYDIA

"Woven beautiful with wild & tender, 
keepin' it real since 2009 #growingtogether"

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JESS 

 

 

"My dear friend, she's beautiful inside and out! We share so many memories from our post-work adventures around Seoul. She gets me and loves me well through my wacky moments. Thank you for speaking truth & life into me. Keep it up #girlboss"

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                                       Truly one-of-a-kind! You've been                                          such a joy to be around from the                                          beginning. You ooze childlike                                               wonder that creates space for                                              people to be themselves.

 

To let loose, receive love and love wildly in return.

I learn a lot from your humility and wisdom. Keep sharing that light with the world."

 

"I'm so blessed by your deep care and compassion for people. So thankful we got to grow together in cg this past season! My ultimate shopping buddy & fellow editor #onlythebeginning sis!"

Bottled Roses

South Korea's beauty industry is rapidly growing as the pioneer of innovative products going beyond textbook routines and beauty basics.

So why are women worldwide flocking to the world of K-Beauty for the newest makeup trend or skincare tips? Mix top quality and drugstore prices together, jampacked with functions and benefits to last 10-step routines, wrapped with genius packaging - and you get the babies of K-Beauty empire.

Did I mention the exotic ingredients? Koreans aren't afraid to put benefits found in foods and animals to multiple uses, including their diets and skincare. Ever heard of creams made out of snail slime? Sounds strange, but heard the stuff works! Its regenerating and firming properties make it a top-selling skincare ingredient on the Korean market. 

Before I get to horse oils and bee venom serums though, let me introduce you to a K-Beauty product with a universally loved beauty ingredient: roses.

#1. Mamonde Rose Water Toner 

A lovely rose toner you can use in 3 different ways!

1. Toner
After cleansing, apply on your face with cotton pads to prep for skincare.

2. Mist
Keep in a mist bottle for a daytime refresher. 

3. Mask
Drench 4-5 cotton pads and apply on your face as a brightening mask. After 10-20 minutes, or when the pads start drying, remove and gently pat the face to absorb the nutrients. Proceed with lotion.

 

My favorite use is the mist! I keep the bottle in my bag and spray throughout the day. It immediately refreshes and hydrates - and takes me to an imaginary rose garden for a moment. 

Benefits
Killer scent and super hydration. Contains 90.89 rose water. Loaded up with nutrients that smells good and works wonders on summer skin. Great for calming and hydrating. 

This just might be your next alternative for your favorite rose toner.

#2. Mamonder First Energy Serum 

Koreans are all about fermented products. This serum contains 60-day fermented flowers, or "flower vinegar." It has anti-aging and brightening benefits. It sets the face for skincare, with an extra dosage of nutrients. (Y'know, fermented superpowers!) Read more about benefits of fermented beauty products here.

This serum is a unique product that I haven't found likes of in the States. Instead of a typical sticky liquid you associate with serums, the formula is non-sticky and clear with a lotion-like texture. You apply it as the first step in your skincare (even before toner) not to wipe away excess dirt, but to boost the skin before thicker lotions and creams. You can use a cotton pad or apply directly and pat to absorb.

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When I first saw these products in Korea, I fell in love with their packaging. During the holiday season, Korean beauty brands release redesigned versions of their best-selling products, often with more product and same price. These limited "special edition" babies sell out immediately once they hit the market.      

I happened to be one of the lucky ones when I scored these two items. Holiday or not, both products continue to fly off the shelves of a well-known Korean beauty brand, Mamonde. 

I'm just as in love with these two items as the first day I laid eyes on them - and it doesn't look like my affections will run out anytime soon. 

What are some of your favorite K-Beauty products? 

An Ode to K-Beauty

"Cleanse, tone, moisturize...Repeat.

The skincare mantra widely used by girls and women of America. 
The three-step process tested and approved by skincare experts for decades.

During my teen years, I adopted theses steps into my routine, as well as weekly exfoliators and face masks. The major players of my beauty collection were from drugstores, with the exception of occasional splurge in back-then beauty hub of wonder, Sephora. I recall the glee when I purchased my first Purity Made Simple cleanser. I proudly grabbed the 16oz bottle and milked that thing for months. 

While I sometimes abandoned weekly "luxury" treatments from laziness, I remained faithful to the three-step routine for years. Then, during my visit to Korea last summer, the growing empire of K-Beauty flipped my world upside down - and my beauty routine has never been the same. 

Long before my visit, I had access to K-Beauty products through relatives who brought back five-step skincare sets from recent trips. The problem was my naivety that gladly abandoned its tediousness to the good old three-step skincare. I thought, "why use an essence (Korean toner) AND emulsion (Korean lotion) AND cream when I can just slap on do-it-all lotion?!". Blasphemy. 

In recent years, K-Beauty inventions like BB and CC creams rose to fame in American beauty circles. The once exotic beauty experiments from Asia quickly became the most-coveted beauty trend. Makeup brands produced imitation products left and right while mainstream brands like Sephora and Urban Outfitters endorsed and sold K-Beauty items. 

I knew Korean beauty lingos and tried few essences and BB creams. I thought I was somewhat familiar with K-Beauty, but my first-hand experience in Korea presented a whole new world to me: 

Beauty stores, known as "road shops", line up in every main and local street corner - as accessible as Starbucks or 7-Eleven in the States. The overly friendly and enthusiastic saleswoman who knows exactly the cure to your skin problems. In her hand, the golden solution to your skin, among an overwhelming collection of products of various names and colors with functions for just about every skin need. A handful of skincare and makeup samples stuffed in the bag with your purchases. Echoing reminders about membership deals and discounts on your way out. Advertisements on subway stations, grocery markets, fliers and TV screens enticing your wallets open to get your hands on the newest product endorsed by an A-list celebrity...  

I returned home, overwhelmed and enlightened, with a suitcase full of K-Beauty products. South Korea proved worthy of the buzz in the beauty department - and drastically changed my perspective on beauty. As K-Beauty continue to climb the ladders of the international beauty scene, I don't doubt it will quickly alongside the thriving global markets of music and technology in Korea.

Stay tuned for posts covering K-beauty tips and products!

Dainty and Lovely Things (And Creative Process)

I stumbled upon a Tweet I wrote at the end of 2014.

I recall something took me away from my normal pattern - and I recorded the epiphany in 140 words. 

A floating thought solidified into something tangible.

If I did not express, I wouldn't have been able to return to this moment of revelation:

Creativity is giving yourself permission to suffer until something gives out through expression.

Recently, I've been pondering about the relationship between creative production and self contentment.

As a creative being, I find myself in a constant cycle of up's and down's. There are days when my creative flow feels inactive. There are other days when I produce like crazy, usually without the plan or intention of doing so. By crazy, I'm talking about explosive amounts of expression colliding with adrenaline, energy, and joy. These are moments when I feel like I'm flying even though my feet are still. After a long thread of mundane, I find myself in my prime element. 

Like that Katy Perry moment when she rises from fear and roars the whole forest to silence.

Source:  Buzzfeed

Source: Buzzfeed

If I don't act on the rising sparks of creativity, the potential for something remains stagnant and collects dust in an enclosed box. As long I try to ignore its existence, the creative juices hidden somewhere beneath the box beckons me to take a look. 

I woke up that afternoon feeling nothing less or more than normal. I had some flowers lying around. Next thing I know I'm standing by a window in a million poses to get the perfect lighting. Three hours later, I have 500 pictures. Exhausted and overwhelmed, I leave the images - until they haunt me back to themselves. Again, the beckoning of something - the responsibility of an artist, my perfectionist mindset, OCD?! - that tells me to take a peek and while I am at it, maybe share it with the world.

Regardless of the what, I produced and now I present. 

These images are not trying to say something or hold a deeper meaning beneath the surface. They are simply a reflection of who I am and where I am as a person and an artist. They are a process, not a completion. They are steps towards a destination, but not the destination itself. 

I realize this process applies to every aspect of life. 

Thoughts pass by and realizations evoke us constantly. But only an active choice to sit, reflect, and apply the passing moment provides the opportunity for growth. When we lose focus from daily distractions, the to-be revelation will return over and over again - until we give it the time and attention it needs to soak and absorb into our being.

Into a better, maturing version of you, renewing day by day, unseen now, but to be seen in the near future. 

To solidify a thought, I must act on it. 

As an artist, my action for the passing realizations manifests through creative expression.