Faces of Australia is a weekly column highlighting BIPOC creatives to bring you their stories. Creators are asked to collaborate on a makeup look that empowers, holds meaning, or describes their experience as it relates to Australian beauty standards and the Australian beauty industry. Faces of Australia is written and produced by Ruchi Page, with a mission to show the beauty industry how accessible BIPOC talent is across this diverse nation.
Episode 4: Cass Wong
The Brief? Blooming identities. Introducing creative whizz, Cass Wong.
I spoke with freelance creator Cass Wong about personal experiences surrounding racism and how she was able to blossom into an identity that carries strength. Cass was born in Australia and has lived in this country her entire life, therefore choosing to mainly identify as an Australian. The social media manager revealed she only recently started identifying as Chinese-Australian in the last 12 months. It was a challenging journey to discover acceptance and love for her culture as resentment was the core emotion attached to it for most of her life.
Let’s rewind to what has shaped the beauty-obsessed creator. Cass and I both reflected on our passion for makeup and the comfort it brought in times of need. I delved into what these moments looked like for her, and though she’s come to find beauty in herself despite Australia’s obsession with Euro-centric features, Cass has faced many challenges along the way.
“I have small Asian eyes, sparse brows, and short lashes. I remember when I was younger trying to do my makeup like any other non-Asian person, rather than doing it to suit my face and eye shape,” she tells me. As an adult, Cass has found self-expression through exploring colour, textures, and shapes. For Cass, the art of makeup is about having fun rather than concealing her ethnicity.
But sadly, celebrating her Asian ethnicity also comes with fear. With the influx of violent hate crimes against the Asian community in recent months, I wanted to touch base with Cass to ask how these reports are affecting her daily life here in Australia. “Weird,” she says. “That is honestly the first word that came to mind. The second being, exhausted.”
The conversation continued in power, as Cass explains these recent attacks are not novel. “Do people really think Asian hate crimes started because of COVID? They’ve been going on for far too long and they’re only now being spoken about,” she says. Cass recognises that whilst it’s fantastic that Asian voices are finally being heard, this is long overdue. She emphasised that these violent, racially-fuelled hate crimes are incredibly terrifying, heartbreaking, and a serious step backward in any type of progression.
“Knowing that these people were attacked solely for how they looked and their race and knowing I look like that too had me questioning, what is stopping these hate crimes happening to me?”
Cass shares that her exhaustion is based on the struggle of constantly living with racism and seeing these experiences reflected in her social media feed. “For the longest time, Asians have been silent. We endure pain silently; we keep our heads down, mind our own business and stay in our lane,” she explains. “We’ve always tried to assimilate, fit in and contribute as law-abiding citizens and yet, we have never been welcomed.”
Whilst Cass feels mixed emotions about the timing of media attention, she remains positive and grateful that the Asian community is finally getting the support they have always deserved.
Speaking on racism, I asked Cass if she felt comfortable discussing some of her own racist encounters. She agreed and whilst the beauty creator hasn’t experienced COVID-19 related racism, her childhood and teenage years were filled with physical and verbal abuse.
Cass courageously revisits her trauma; from being forced to move schools, to coming home with a new bruise, cut, or mark from severe bullying, the racial taunts continued to haunt Cass up until the present day.
“I remember I would be teased so much for my eye shape to the point where I would put eyelid tape on my eyes every day so I could have double eyelids instead of my monolid,” she recalls. “I felt so ugly.”
In disbelief, Cass relays inhumane acts of racism that eventually became the ‘norm’ in her life. “I got the usual stuff as a kid…’chopstick eyes’, people chanting ‘ching-chong’ at me. Someone even asked me if I could only see half the world because my eyes were half the size of everyone else’s. People would make fun of my last name calling me the ‘wrong’ girl instead of Wong. At my high school reunion, they printed my name tag and my last name had been autocorrected to ‘Won’t’ and they didn’t bother changing it. I still get that today. From questioning my English skills, to consistent racial assumptions and stereotypes.”
Cass feels whilst she was born and raised in Australia, her sense of belonging is lacking.
I concluded our chat with the question that inspired our makeup. Our brief was everything floral.
How have you bloomed into the woman you are today after combatting exclusion your entire life?
“My friends are truly responsible for how I’ve turned out as a woman. Without them I would never have felt accepted or loved and I’d like to say it was them who raised me and made the woman I am today. My journey has been rough, but I have loved many parts of it. Even though it’s taken almost 23 years to start accepting and appreciating my culture, I’m proud that I was able to do it in my own time and learn to love everything about it. It’s a part of who I am.”
– Cass Wong, social media manager and content creator