"...That’s why we have fashion designers and makeup artists and animators, because all these “frivolous” occupations, whether we want to admit it or not, add value to life in a way science and math cannot imitate."
Meet Liz. She’s a first-generation Malaysian-Australian freelance designer and photographer based on Boorloo Land, Perth, working with for-purpose organisations to elevate their brands and media presence.
Liz’s passion for illustration, design, fashion, and animation was apparent in her childhood years. Starting out with freelance work in high school and expanding this alongside completing her degree in marketing, Liz is leveraging the power of democratised media platforms to uplift social causes.
“Instagram is a free-for-all, anyone can start an account,” she says, “I realised I have the privilege of access to a platform like this… so I thought, if I can take up space then I’m gonna take up that space.”
Tackling the monolithic representation of Asian beauty in mainstream media has been the subject of one Liz’s latest projects
“Being Southeast asian [Malaysian-Chinese], I feel like I’m at a junction that offers a unique perspective”, she said. "[O]n one hand I can see how having slightly lighter skin, straight hair, and more East Asian-like features puts me in a more privileged category back home, but on the other hand, I’m not really considered the real thing."
“This project is kind of a semi love letter to Asians who don't really fit both the Western or Asian standards of beauty, and feel like they're the kind of face the media will never value or showcase. Your faces are beautiful. Beauty standards are white-centric and manufactured to steal your money anyways, so be proud of how you look.”
Liz’s work is not political, but rather aims to explore the intricacies within identities of Asian-Australians growing up between cultures. “I don't want to make Asian immigrant kids feel guilty for somehow “whitewashing’ themselves, but I want to let those that do wonder about the country and culture their family is from know that there is a whole other world for you to explore and learn about in your DNA, beyond what the West has deemed palatable”.
“This is also a bit of a comfort project to me. I’ve been away from Malaysia for so long, and every year I am here I feel more isolated, even with Asian friends. I just need to see some non-white faces in cultural drip.”
Liz’s work continues to grow through freelance projects and collaborations, all while she manages work, study, and life. Reflecting on the experience of young people trying to ‘make it’ as artists and creators in the world, Liz points out that opportunities often don’t fall into people’s laps.
“Not everyone is gonna know an aunty, an uncle or a friend that is gonna get you an internship... you have to make opportunities for yourself.”
“I have the privilege of having my phone, and my camera, and being alive and able, and I can still make a route for myself,” she said.
Liz will be officially releasing the images from her ‘For the Culture’ project near the end of this year on her Instagram, @yongnot.ong.