By: Cheryl Chiew

From the time I was little, I already knew my nose was not beautiful.

As a child, I remember my mom telling me how people of the past would pinch the bridge and tip of their noses to mold the cartilage into a sharper, sleeker shape. “You should start young”, she said, “Children have a better chance of successfully creating small noses and you must be diligent with your pinching.” 

Maybe my sister took her advice to heart because she has a smaller, bulb-shaped nose while I have a wide, flat nose. Still, my nose worked fine and I didn’t care. My sister could be the pretty one adults cooed over; I was happy to be introduced as “the older sister”.

Then, I morphed into a painfully awkward, gangly teenager. One afternoon, I was having a mid-afternoon snack in the kitchen with my mother. She looked me in the eye and said, “Cheryl, you’re actually not a bad looking girl but your nose is quite big. Do you want mummy to give you money to fix your nose with surgery?” 

My 13-year-old self replied with a deadpan “No, my nose is proportionate to my face.” I suppose all mothers want their children to be beautiful, but that comment seemed a bit much.

Suddenly, Instagram and selfies became a thing. I could now compare my nose against everyone else’s. Kim Kardashian sparked a contouring trend and everyone started shading their faces to look like they had sharp Caucasian features. The message seemed to be there was only one set way to be pretty and my nose was not it.

I began angling my phone slightly downward or tilting my head in pictures to create the illusion of a smaller, tapered nose. Each morning I woke up looking like my pictures and envied other girls with the ‘correct’ nose. I didn’t believe the Caucasian guy I went on a date with when he complimented my nose.

In my early twenties was when that I started to become more accepting of how I looked. Social media had evolved to embrace diversity and there was more representation of Asian women in foreign movies and TV. There were online communities discussing how global beauty ideals have become increasingly homogenised and have culminated into ‘Instagram face’.

But a significant moment that changed how I felt about my nose came as I discovered pictures of my grandmothers when they were around my age. They are both glamorous, poised, and beautiful. They are the type of women I tried to copy and hoped to become. And they both did not have tiny noses.

Something clicked when I was looking at their pictures: I have my maternal grandmother’s face and my paternal grandmother’s lips and nose. It didn’t matter that they didn’t have ‘sharp’ noses. For my grandmothers, what made them beautiful was how their strong attitude and confidence translated across the black-and-white photos. 

And really, that was all that mattered.


  1. This was an empowering article. We women of color don’t always look across the spectrum of color and cultures to see that our culture is not the only one being discriminated against or are being psychologically abused by the stereotypes of :”what beauty is suppose to look like”. Each culture has many stereotypes of within its culture, be it noses, hair, shade of skin, height, weight, bust size, hip size, waist size, social class or education. And unfortunately most of those stereotypes are projected toward the “beauty or lack of sterotypical beauty” of a woman. I am sure men stereotypes too but this article and this publication is not focusing on them right now, is it… So thank you for your open honest and empowering story of your life. I appreciate it. I was browner than the rest of my family, the word “blackie” and “black gal” and told not to marry anyone darker than me because my children would be dark. Like that would be a bad thing… hmm things people say and don’t realize they are piercing you inside like little pins like in a pin cushion. Thank God for other women who empower one another. Thank you….

  2. I thought this article was wonderful. I am also a young adult Asian female, and to me this meant a lot. I am sorry about what your mom said, you were right that was pretty extreme. But your grandmother’s photos looked totally graceful and it’s because they owned their faces. It’s good to be proud of who we are. No one else will ever be like you and that’s beautiful! My friend once told me that you have to be happy in order to be beautiful. Thank you for writing this it means a lot.

  3. Hi, just want to share my story. My nose is more flat than yours. Because of my flat nose, i lose my confidence. My family, relatives, friends, co-workers, all made fun of me. I hard to find true friends as they prefer someone beautiful. I never had a boyfriend because boy say i’m ugly, and even they do not say it, they show it through their attitude. During my school and collegue, my teacher and lecturer tend to focus on beautiful people rather than ugly people. This happen also during my working time. The treatment i get from management and senior worker completely different with my beautiful friends. The beauty standard killing my life. Sometimes i accept my face, but with the harsh words i get and their unfair treatment, makes me hurt so much. I am very grateful with what i have, but it do hurt my feeling with all the negativity that i received. It really affected me. I wish i can find someone who can truly accept me and borrow their shoulder.

    1. Hi Noone,
      I just want to say firstly, that I’m so sorry that you have to go through this, and I’m so sorry and so angry that people make fun of you and tell you are ugly – it’s so immature and insensitive of them.

      Secondly, I know what it feels like not to meet beauty standards – they make us feel like we look wrong. Like we should go and get nose jobs or use skin lightening cream – like we won’t be beautiful and accepted if we look like ourselves.
      We need to remember that WE DON’T LOOK WRONG. We are beautiful creatures of nature, and if people won’t accept us because of how we look they are shallow and immature (and possibly racist, too…).


      Noone, there is nothing wrong with your nose.
      Noone, your nose is beautiful.
      You are beautiful.

      Please accept your nose and maybe even begin to love it.

      (you could literally change the world by just accepting your nose – you could be be a proud representative for all flat-nosed people and maybe some other people with flat noses will see you being confident and proud and they will decide to accept their noses, too.)

      All the best, Noone.

      Also, maybe tell those people off if they comment on how you look again?

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