Surviving the 80s and 90s: The Filipina-American Version

The Author’s Daughter and her mad make-up skills. This is NOT how the author looked at this age. Photo by CJH.


My daughter has no idea how easy she has it.

She walks into a Sephora and finds a plethora of make-up that will suit whatever kind of looks she wants to portray on her face on any given day.

Smoky-eye with a wing eyeliner: available!

Foundation color that suits her olive/peachy complexion: over 100 brands with even more broad selections!

Eye-lash curler that suits her eye shape: Shiseido has several types! Lipstick, eyeshadow, contour, blushes: all there.

She has not had to worry about looking for a shampoo brand that’s suitable for her hair.

Today, it is make-up company suicide when a brand does not offer a variety of products that suits and compliments every skin tone. Just ask Tarte Cosmetics when they rolled out their foundation with limited skin tones, and the backlash they received for being tone deaf when it comes to being inclusive. The beauty bloggers came out for blood with their make-up brushes in full effect.

My sister Jackie and I, on the other hand, back in the very late 80s and the 90s had a different experience: we had friggin’ Maybelline, and Cover Girl. In the 80s, they had maybe 2-3 colors that ranged from Snow White Pale, to Cinderella Peachy. Oh wait, but they were innovative at times y’all–they had foundation in classic ebony. I remember my best friend in middle school (who had flawless gorgeous skin tone) tell me, “that’s bullshit. Black girls aren’t all the same skin color. My skin color isn’t ebony! It’s mochalicious and they can’t get their shit right. I don’t know why you support the make-up industry when they don’t even think of you as a customer.” That girl was smart even way back then. But as always, I didn’t listen–I wanted to have flawless skin, and if I had to mix three different colors to get that perfect match—hell yeah, I was going to do it! Watch me!!

Of course, the foundation looked like words that cannot be expressed on my face. But, it was nothing that a permed hair couldn’t conceal, and boy did I have permed hair.

“Oh, foundation all patchy on the right cheek?” Not a problem! Gonna sweep up the hair on the left side, and make the extra right one puffy Cyndi Lauper style!

“Oh no, forehead section too dark from the sun and can’t quite get the right foundation color concoction?” No worries, gurl! Just gonna tease and poof up them bangs with a spray here and there with Aquanet will cover it up in no time.

There were times when Jackie, my friends and I used to walk to the Army Post/Base Exchange when we lived in Germany. Jackie and I would stop at the make-up section, and fawn over the variations of blue and frosty blue and electric blue eye shadows, and frosty pink to fairy princess pink lipsticks. We’d take it home, and slather that goodness like we were about to take the town that night!

Of course, you put blue and pink on olive and yellow undertones and it’s a disaster like no other. We were going for that princess angel look, and instead we looked like Asian angels casts out of heaven. We didn’t care though. We rocked it! In our minds anyway–and you know sometimes that’s all that matters.

The girls who grew up in these times often said to one another, “beauty takes pain… and there are some of us who are gonna suffer for a while!” This truth is no longer applicable in today’s world. The only pain that you’ll suffer from is the one that takes a hit to your bank account after spending five minutes at stores such as Sephora, Ulta, and the Nordstroms’ make-up counter.

Today, Jackie and I wouldn’t think about giving ourselves a perm. We didn’t blink at the thought of doing a perm at home back in the day. Not anymore! That’s why we go to our hair stylist and leave it up to them to care of the hot mess that comes in droves of gray hairs.

The truth is: in the 80s and 90s, there was one ideal beauty and we all know it wasn’t the Filipina-American or any Asian for that matter. The cosmetics business catered to those that we often saw on Vogue, Cosmo, or even Seventeen. My daughter will never understand a day where there was no one that looked like her featured in anything or anywhere. You can say those who of us who survived the lack of make-up selections paved the way when –gasp–the make-up brands and companies soon realized that there was more than one skin tone that existed.

And, I’m not throwing foundation shade. I’m quite appreciative of this new found realization. Just ask Sephora, Ulta, and my wallet. I’ve become a prime member.

So, here’s to those young girls who had to suffer in pain throughout the 80s and 90s. And, who have now become comfortable in their own skin. I see you.. in fact, I see you shopping right next to me at Sephora–your make-up foundation and them brows looks good on you, girl! But, you knew you’ve always been beautiful inside and out.

And, if all else fails–we now have photo filters.


The author and her sister in 1986. Yep, hot mess.


Because prom and perm go together. Ca, 1991. Fairfield, CA. Photo by: Felicia Ruby


Jackie in her home made Jorts. Fairfield, CA. 1990. Photo by Felicia Ruby.


The Author’s Daughter who clearly has the ability to do make-up. Photo by CJH.


80s-90s survivor. Jackie in the now. Photo by JDD.


Post Maybelline and Cover Girl. The author in the now. Filter and all. No shame in that.




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