Shade Diversity: Michelle Sutanto

From The Infinite Wardrobe: ON THE GO BOILER SUIT by GHOSPELL

There’s always someone who’s envious of your skin colour, so love your skin!

Diversity comes in many forms and is unique to your experiences and environment. In a nutshell, what is diversity to you? 

For me diversity is understanding the differences in people, and accepting that each of us is unique, physically or mentally, whether it is about age, skin colour, body size, religion, race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, etc. 

You’ve lived in two different cities, Jakarta and Singapore. Do you notice any differences in each society when it comes to diversity?

Back in my hometown, Jakarta, I wasn’t very much exposed to different cultures, and I tended to be quite conservative. But after I moved to Singapore to study, I met different people from different backgrounds, and it opened my mind and widened my knowledge on so many different things. 

Singapore is where you reside in now. Would you say it’s your second home? What do you do when you’re homesick? 

After living in Singapore for 6 years, I guess it is safe to say yes, I do feel that Singapore is my home. Honestly I don’t normally get homesick, but if I do, family is just a WhatsApp call away. 

We want to celebrate you. What are your thoughts on fair skin being deemed as a standard of beauty?

Growing up in an Asian-Chinese family, it is normal to see your mom or aunties buying skin whitening products, even though we are already very fair. Sometimes I’d ask myself, why though? Then, I found out that for a long time in history, fair skin was associated with social prestige. Yet, this doesn’t apply to western society where everyone would go full nude on a hot sunny day just to get tanned. So again, it is all about diversity. People’s perceptions are different too, whether it was culturally adopted, or continuously evolving as we learn something new. 

Have you always been naturally fair? How have you come to embrace your fair skin tone? 

Yes. In fact, I have always been the fairest amongst the people around me. I’m not gonna lie, but I wasn’t very happy with my skin tone. Whenever there was a group photo, I would look the palest, and I thought it looked unhealthy. I tried sun-bathing twice a week, each time for 1 to 2 hours, just to get a darker skin tone, but it didn’t work. After a few days my skin literally went back to its original fair-pale state. So I stopped and just told myself, this is what you are made of naturally, just love your skin and be happy. 

How do you dress to flatter your skin colour? 

I do feel that dark coloured clothes suit me best. The contrasting colour brightens up my skin tone!

You also dabble with makeup. Brands like Fenty and more are including more shades in their range. What is it like to shop in the beauty aisle for fair skinned products?

Living in an asian country, it’s easy to get products in shades for the fair skinned. I would definitely go for the fairest or second fairest shades – those 2 are the safest options, especially when it comes to buying makeup online. 

What’s your take on the term “natural colours”? 

It is something that you’re born with, and you should love yourself for it.

What are some advice or tips you could share with someone who is currently in the journey of embracing their natural colours? 

I was there once. I didn’t like my skin colour and tried to change it, but random people would go up to me and say “I wish I had your skin colour”. There, I realised there is always someone out there wishing to have my skin colour, just like how I wanted to be more tanned.

Finding your career could take multiple trying-and-failing, and for some, they find success early into their career years. How did you get started on being a visual merchandiser/stylist?

I’ve been in the fashion field for almost 5 years – from studying fashion design to working as a visual merchandiser now. I started my career as an assistant for a fashion stylist. We worked with many fashion brands, from Uniqlo to Salvatore Ferragamo, and it really taught me what it’s like to work in the fashion industry, and the ways different companies work.  

Being in your 20s, what are some challenges you face in your career? 

As one of the youngest in my work team, I would sometimes feel self-conscious for not being experienced or heard enough, especially when you are working with teams of professionals. Then, I remind myself that the willingness to learn is much more important than being a stubborn know-it-all brat. 

How is styling for yourself different from styling for others? 

It is easier to style for myself because I know exactly what I like, and I know my body well. Styling others is harder as we have a short time to get familiar and acquainted with their individualistic styles and preferences.

What is your personal quote that you live by?

“If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?” – Mama Ru (Rupaul) 

What are some things you would want to achieve in your 20s? 

To get physically fit and healthy, and give up bad habits, like eating unhealthy snacks!

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Lady Lady #merahputih

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Beat the stereotypes and embraces the differences. Find out more about our celebration about diversity in our community from our interview series:

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