I refuse to hide who I am and I won't encourage others to do so • Karen
Don't let the Instagram pseudonym fool you, it's literally the only thing that's not real about Karen Chiang's life on Instagram. Here, she shares her views about 'social media realness,' resisting toxic messaging and saying NOPE to body image BS.
LUÜNA: Let's be real. How much of your online persona is a reflection of your true identity?
Karen: All of it. There's no pretence on my social media - I can't be fucked. Sure, I wanted to be a "blogger" initially, but as I started to see into the industry, I became acutely aware of what "success" would require.
I spent my teenage years trying to conform to certain standards, constantly adapting who I was to fit in. But over the years, this need to 'fit in' has faded away and i'm not going to succumb to it again in my adult life.
Now, staying true to who I am in all realms of life is essential to my mental health and overall happiness. That's way more valuable than sponsorships or freebies.
"There's no pretence on my social media. I can't be fucked."
LUÜNA: What influences made you feel you had to hide yourself as a teenager?
Karen: After primary school in Hong Kong, I was sent to boarding school in the U.K. Looking back, I wasn't programmed to be aware of casual racism and thought it was normal that the other students would make fun of the Asian kids. I saw it as my 'duty' to fit in as a foreigner rather than stay true to my Asian heritage.
Body image was also an issue for me. While being chubby wasn’t an issue in U.K. because body shapes were varied, when I moved to Singapore for my final years at school, I found all the girls were very very skinny. This had a hugely negative impact on the way I felt about myself.
I felt that if I was skinny then I would have more friends, be more popular and be happier.
LUÜNA: This is pretty much what modern women are led to believe about their bodies by today's media, do you agree?
Karen: Definitely. Which is why I fundamentally refuse to depict myself in a false way online. It took me a long time to value my body in the way I do now, appreciating its strength and innate power rather than constantly shitting on it all the time for not looking a certain way. There's no way i'm going to be responsible for other women feeling that way about theirs.
LUÜNA: So what changed for you about the way you value your body?
Karen: Two things; my girlfriend and exercise. My girlfriend played a huge role in my learning to love my body. It helped me realise that I can be loved when i'm not hiding who I really am. Then, when I discovered exercise, I came to place a higher value on my body, instead of determining how I feel about it based on how it looks.
Now, weight is off the table. I work out because I want to work out and because it's essential for my mental health.
LUÜNA: But the toxic messages about women's bodies permeate our everyday existence. Have you transcended them, do you think?
Karen: No one can fully transcend them. I have toxic conversations with myself all the time still, like "wow, you're so fat! Why can't you be skinnier? Then you'd look better in that dress." But they are fleeting because i deeply know that being on a diet which would make me look that way would make me so unhappy.
I have people that love me. I'm fulfilled in my work. I'm healthy. I don't need that shit. But yeah, you can't fully escape it.
LUÜNA: What are the biggest challenges faced by modern women today?
Karen: In Hong Kong, I see a lot of my local friends finding it difficult to navigate the ambitions of modern society with the obligations of traditional culture. In work, they see themselves thriving but then they feel guilty about it because of these traditional pressures, thinking "where's my house, when should I have children, or find a husband." In Asia, this timeline is so ingrained in us.
It's our collective responsibility as women to overcome it; to support each other in feeling comfortable enough to pursue what we really love and what makes us happy.
LUÜNA: Did you feel the conflicts of traditional Asian culture with regards to being bi-sexual?
Karen: People ask me this and I always say, 'I don't have a 'coming out' story. I never hid the fact that I had a same sex partner or that I was bi-sexual - I just assumed people would be ok with it. Being at boarding school, I never had an authority figure to tell me how to live my life, so I wasn't going to let anyone dictate my life choices as an adult.
LUÜNA: But sexuality can be a sensitive subject for many traditional families. What advice would you give someone struggling with coming out to their loved ones?
Karen: Be patient. It's a two-way street and it's our job to educate those we love. It can be hard, of course, but we must acknowledge that different life experiences means people approach things in different ways.
Don't feel hurt if they can't accept you, take the time to show them why living your life authentically is a powerful and positive thing.
LUÜNA: What's the worst advice you've ever received?
Karen: Lose 10 pounds and you’ll be happier.
LUÜNA: Describe your relationship with your period in 3 words.
Karen: Ugh, why, fine.
LUÜNA: Recommended reading / listening?
Read 'What If' by Randall Munroe and listen to 'Reply All' (a podcast). Both fun and casual ways to learn things you never knew you needed.
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