Jen Chae, known by many as From Head to Toe on YouTube, has become a household name in the beauty industry. She began her career as a blogger/youtuber in 2008 and has since grown a community of over 1.2 million subscribers. From the start, Jen has used her channel to be an amazing advocate for the Asian American community, pushing for more inclusive beauty standards and products. We had the pleasure of chatting with Jen and hearing about her journey. Check out her feature below!
Q: How have you been able to embrace your own identity as a Korean American woman, while working in the beauty industry?
Jen: “I think I learned from pretty early on in my career that the most important thing was being myself. And just existing on camera was impact. Especially for myself, I never saw anyone looking like me growing up. And I think that the fact that we can put ourselves out there, means that somebody else can feel like they belong.”
Q: What does the word "beauty" mean to you?
Jen: “Something that I say all the time is that everyone deserves to feel beautiful. And I think that the important thing there is to note that feeling beautiful doesn’t have anything to do with what the outside world considers to be beautiful, it has everything to do with how you feel. So beauty for me isn’t so much about everybody looking one specific way. It’s about really feeling your best, and being the best version of yourself. And I think that we really all do deserve that.”
Q: How has your perspective of beauty changed over time?
Jen: “I think a lot of the specifics of my personal ideas about beauty changing over time has a lot to do with makeup trends. But also I started my YouTube channel when I was so young, and I’ve grown a lot since then. It’s been 13 years, so I think when I first started it was a lot more about being creative and really artistic. Playing with it, with a lot of different colors, and really just experimenting with everything. But now I think it’s a lot more about just enhancing my natural features, and I have to say as a mom of 2 I also gravitate towards things that I can do quickly that still make me feel really great when I’m passing by a mirror.”
Q: Do you have an all-time favorite video that you've ever created on your channel?
Jen: “I have a few different favorites, but I have to say the one that really comes to mind is, I did a one second a day video for an entire year and that year happened to be while I was pregnant, gave birth and the first few months of my daughter’s life. She was my first-born, and when I look back at that I think it was such a beautiful, special, magical time. Even though it felt so difficult going through it.. even trying to capture one second a day felt really difficult. But now looking back on it, it just hits me in the feels.”
Q: What do you root your identity in?
Jen: “Honestly I think at this point in my life, I almost find it a fallacy to root your identity in anything outside of just yourself. People always say there’s only one of you, and that’s your superpower. I really think that’s true. You just have to embrace who you really are, separate from everyone else. Because that’s your only identity, and if you attach yourself to anything else too much, then it’s almost a false representation of who you really are. I think that’s also a big struggle when people feel like they lose themselves once they give birth and become a mother, or if they feel like they don’t quite fit into one group of people. Sometimes we strive so hard to find ourselves by attaching ourselves to something else, but as we get older hopefully we become more comfortable with our true selves and get to know ourselves better. And I think that’s the most beautiful attachment you can have, is the relationship you have with yourself.”
Q: Who are women who inspire you?
Jen: “Obviously it’s super cliché, but my mom inspires me so much. She is so giving, so talented and creative with her hands. She used to hand sew me and my sister matching outfits, so every time we went to an amusement park or on a vacation, if one of us wandered off people would always know that we were a family together because we had these matching outfits she made by hand.
My mother-in-law also inspires me so much. She’s not only been a second mother to me, but she’s also been a really dear friend. I feel like we have so much in common, which is probably unusual for a daughter-in-law and a mother-in-law, but I do really consider her a very dear friend. She is the hostess with the mostest, I aspire to be the kind of entertainer and homekeeper that she is. She just has the biggest heart.”
Q: What has being a mother taught you about yourself?Jen: “Being a mother has taught me that I am so much more capable, mentally and physically, than I ever thought possible. There are so many things that I just look back on and I’m like, ‘I cannot believe I did that.’ And it makes me really appreciate my body especially, and what it can handle. To respect myself in a new way. Before I had kids, I thought I knew what it meant to be empathetic, patient, to apologize, to be thankful. I really learned that my definition for those things barely scratched the surface of what it really means to dig deeply into those emotions. Mainly the empathy thing, I think is so important. That you really learn to feel what somebody else feels, and love them through the process.”
Q: What has been the most rewarding part of sharing your life journey online?
Jen: “The most rewarding has to be the community. When I was growing up very much isolated from other Asian Americans in Kansas, I never really felt like I fit in anywhere. I was never Korean enough for the other Koreans, and I was never American enough for all of my white friends and the majority of the very little diverse community that I grew up in. It always became an internal conflict because I never really found my footing. But once I started posting things online, this whole world opened up to me of people who felt very similar to me. Even now, that very direct line of communication to all of these people means so much to me. I’m always spending time in my DM’s talking to my followers and having very personal conversations about these experiences they’ve had in their lives. I wouldn’t trade that for anything, it’s really incredible.”
Q: And most challenging?
Jen: “Trolls are very difficult, especially in seasons where I’ve been very vulnerable. It’s hard reading comments that are excessively racist, or sexist, or downright cruel that people will choose to send to you directly. It’s shocking to me, because it’s not something that I would ever do to someone else. But it’s also tough because I think that when you’re in a position where a lot of people follow you, people also stop seeing you as just being like a regular human being and they just think they can say whatever and it won’t affect you. But everybody has hard days, and everybody has self-doubt. And on those days where it’s really a struggle, even reading some of those comments can really put you on a bad path. It’s hard because I do try to give a lot of personal feedback and interaction as much as possible, but that also means I read all of my comments and DM’s, and not all of them are nice.”
Q: Where do you hope to see yourself in the next decade?
Jen: “It’s hard to be specific because looking back at the 10 years that just passed, I would never have been able to see what was going to happen, even from one year to the next. So in 10 years, all I can say is I hope I’m still putting out some kind of content that makes people feel good about themselves. I hope I’m still having a positive impact on others, and I hope I’m still making those connections that make people feel seen.”
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?
Jen: “All of the things that you think are not good enough, don’t matter. They just don’t make any difference. The things that you think are going to hold you back are not important. What’s way more important than all those bits of self-doubt is knowing that you’re capable, you’re smart enough, and strong enough. And you can reach more people by being imperfect than you can by being someone else.”
Q: What advice would you give to people who are struggling to become comfortable in their own skin?
Jen: “I know it’s not easy, but I think it’s really important to realize that a lot of the things we see as problems within ourselves other people can’t see. I think that people remember how you make them feel. And even a lot of the things we see as problems, like zits, a bad hair day, cellulite, stretch marks - other people don’t see those things. Let yourself not have those burdens anymore, you don’t need to carry all of that weight and you deserve not to.”
Photography by Jen Chae & MAUBY Official