Editor’s Note: Eliza Romero is a Baltimore-based, Filipino-American fashion photographer and style blogger behind the website Aesthetic Distance, a blog critical of pop culture. The views expressed in this piece are solely her own.
When it comes to dyeing your hair as an Asian girl, blonde is the most controversial color of all. There are the accusations of being ashamed of your race and propagating white beauty standards. I’ve been accused of both, especially after one of my recent blog posts went viral. I get it and all of the accusations got me thinking. If you’re a person of color in this country, you’ve been inundated with images of whiteness since you were a child. You probably grew up playing with white dolls that had blonde hair and blue eyes. All the magazines you read featured tall, thin white women with light hair and light eyes. All the shows and movies you watched were nothing but white people. Even the children’s books you read were all white kids.
I’m not trying to look white. I want to look like an Asian girl with blonde hair and that’s that. I also had pink hair at one point. Was I trying to look like a unicorn because I had pastel hair? No, I was trying to look like an Asian girl with pink hair because pink hair is fun. Do I care if my blonde hair doesn’t look natural? No. Since when we were all obsessed with looking natural as if it equals being moral and good?
My argument is and has always been this: If white girls can color their hair every color of the rainbow without being accused of self-hatred and shame, why can’t I? White people don’t own blonde hair the same way Asian people don’t own dark hair. You can’t force Asian girls to conform to a very limited range of aesthetics just because we were born with dark hair. My muses for my current hair color have never been white girls. When I showed up at the salon, I didn’t bring pictures of blonde white women as the inspiration for my hair color. It was all the pretty Asian girls with colored hair like Chrissy Tiegen, Fernanda Ly and Soo Joo Park. All of their ethnicities were fully intact and not one person would ever look at them and confuse them for a white girl.
Like any person of color, I’ve had to deal with the harmful effects of colonialism. There are areas in which we—myself included—can all improve and evolve our understanding of these dynamics. But after years of self-reflection, I can say with confidence that my current hair color is not a symptom of indoctrinated self-hate. I can see very clearly how someone might assign that meaning, of course, but I dye my hair whatever color I feel like because I think it looks cool. Cool and Asian.
This post originally appeared on Aesthetic Distance.