Harold Arka’ji: Do you feel you have a sense for today’s idea of beauty?

Kristopher Louie: I’d say so. I spend a lot of my time submerged in media as a communication designer. A lot of what I consider fun is looking through media and dissecting the messages, and more times than not, commenting on whatever it might be.

I think we’re in a weird place with the idea of beauty. When it comes to mainstream media [in America], we’re fixated on these skinny toned bodies. The other day I was laughing because I feel like less than a decade ago the only models with facial hair were advertisements for an older demographic, and now there’s a good chance of seeing facial hair on every other model. I think what’s disheartening though is that I still see a majority of campaigns featuring White models, almost exclusively. Every once and a while I’ll see someone of color and I consider that a huge triumph but we’re still nowhere close to where we should be. And I don’t want to single our advertisers, but I guess in a way I am, but I think it’s more beneficial to a company’s potential sales if they were to show models that just weren’t White.

HA: You were saying that you think we’re in a weird place with beauty, could you elaborate?

KL: Oh, right. See what I mean by getting so easily off-track? [laugh] I say we’re in a weird state of beauty because if you take even half a step away from what’s mainstream, you’ll see what I think beauty should be. Your everyday person. I mean, look to the photographers that aren’t working for big-name companies, really, no company at all— just those taking pictures. You’ll see moments of people experiencing life, and I think that’s so much more beautiful than these posed photoshop’d pictures.

For a long time I longed to look like those models you’ll see for mens ads where they’re shirtless and really, at that point just selling sex. But I’ve been up close with a guy that was a model, okay, yes, I see the way you’re looking at me. We fooled around. When I took off his shirt though, I was immediately overcome with anxiety because I knew I’d have to take off my shirt—

HA: What? You’re an attractive guy and you’re pretty skinny from what I can tell.

KL: Oh no, I don’t think I’m fat. Gosh, I might joke around with it and my friends will tease me too but I definitely know I’m not fat. I just know that it’s been a while since I’ve had my soccer/track and field body. I’m not as toned as I used to be and hell, there’s a bit of flub. It’s just that it was the first time seeing pecs and an EIGHT pack, that wasn’t photoshop’d, unless my eyes are really good at that now…it felt too unreal and that made me think he was expecting the same standard.

He was a really sweet guy though, we’re still friends actually haha. I know he was trying to be considerate/sensitive but he said something, that helped me at the time but kind of pissed me off afterwards. He told me that he didn’t want to sleep around with other models because he, like me, felt that it wasn’t real and that he preferred guys that were “normal”. What pissed me off was the fact that my body is considered normal, or average, or what I call everyday and that just doesn’t make me feel pretty when put like that.

So going back on subject. I think we shouldn’t consider mainstream media to be the idea of beauty. We should look in the mirror and those around us. The people and things we see every day should be our idea of beauty.