Very often, all those little things that you hate about yourself can turn out to be the things that define you.
Within the local entertainment industry, Lau is often praised for her distinct, oriental beauty. When you meet her in person, her features are arresting — she has a sharp and dimensional almond-shaped face, a small and raised nose seated gracefully between a pair of perfectly almond-shaped eyes with some gently lifted single eyelids.
Yet, Lau is quite like any other woman out there on the streets. She doesn’t see what everyone else sees — her own beauty.
When I met Lau, she was resting in a suite in So Sofitel Singapore. Between coffee, snacks, Instagram stories, and her mischievous frolicking around the room, Lau unknowingly peppered her sentences with phrases like “my eyes are small” and “I have single eyelids”.
These are some deep-seated sentiments, which stem from her childhood.
”When I was much younger, I was quite insecure because of the names people would call me,” she explains. “I actually had this talk with my friend — whatever you go through in primary school actually shapes you in a certain way.”
This was what happened back in her childhood: In primary school, Lau’s mother fixed her hair for school every morning. “She will always pull my hair back,” Lau recalls fondly. Yet, when Lau stepped into school, she found herself the butt of her classmates’ jokes. “They will always make fun of my forehead, saying it’s a Luo Han Yu [flowerhorn fish] and everything.” Lau would wound up crying in school and her father would come to her rescue.
“Kids, they can be so harsh — they don’t know how it actually affects a person,” Lau continues.
The constant taunting eventually got into her head. Lau admits that it affected her on a personal level. Like it or not, it blemished her sense of self-esteem — and more importantly, her capacity for self-acceptance.
At a very tender age, she began to see faults in herself.
For years, Lau would approach her mother, asking for haircuts so she could get a fringe. “I wanted to have side parting so that I could cover it up. I really hated my forehead. It’s not even dislike, I hated it,” says Lau. “I didn’t look like everyone else. I had this huge forehead, it was protruding. What’s more — I had single eyelids when everyone had double eyelids.”
She spent her teenage years devising ways to cover and hide her features. But when she turned 18, Lau began modelling. Being in front of the camera amplified these problems that she had with herself.
“People started telling me that my forehead was nice, but I didn’t believe,” she recalls. None of these praises were getting through to her.
Yet, all these eventually came to a halt when she had a talk with her father.
“My dad and I are very close. So whenever I have problems, I always go to him,” says Lau. “I just told him, ‘Daddy, a lot of people say that my forehead is very ugly, very big, look like Luo Han Yu.’”
Her father’s piece of advice was as simple as can be: “You can either listen to what other people say or you can have your own mindset and just appreciate whatever God gave you. And if you cannot accept who you are, then people cannot accept you,” Lau continues.
To pursue her dreams of modelling and acting, self-acceptance was, perhaps, the one crucial thing she needed to have.
“That made me realise that if I want to be comfortable doing what I want to do — which is to be in the media, then I have to be comfortable in my own skin,” she adds. “Because people will look up to you, right? People look up to what you do and if you are not comfortable with how you look, then you can’t be a role model at all.”
To Lau, self-acceptance and body positivity is part of her job.
Yet, this is not a realisation that comes easily for most of us — Lau herself struggled it this for years.
When you’re stuck in a personal obstacle, you may never see past it. So, either time will correct you, or an older and wiser person will step in to correct your perspective on life. “I think it comes with age and life experience,” says Lau. “That’s why you need someone older to come in and tell you,” she adds.
This year, Lau turns 28. It’s been nine years since she had the revelation. Over the years, she slowly eased herself into self-acceptance. “It’s a matter of how comfortable you are with you in your own skin,” says Lau.
I gestured at her hairstyle and asked, “Today you have your hair up?”
“Actually, almost every day I have my hair up,” she beams into a smile and replies proudly. “I am totally comfortable with it.”
Lau quickly adds that while she is now at ease with baring her forehead, she wouldn’t say that she is entirely confident in her own skin just yet. She still has qualms about her features — the single eyelids and her yellow skin undertone. “I think I’m still not comfortable walking out bare-faced,” she adds.
What’s more important is the fact that Lau knows she will continue to learn to accept herself in the years ahead. “Everything — everything in life is a work in progress,” she concludes.