In an episode of MMTG, a YouTube series hosted by creator JaeJae, One The Woman lead actress Honey Lee (also known as Lee Ha Nee) shared the nonsensical hate she used to receive when she competed in the Miss Korea and Miss Universe beauty pageants.
While discussing her healthy lifestyle which has been inspiring for her fans, Lee Honey revealed that it hasn’t always been easy to survive in the industry with the sun-kissed, super-healthy, “lean, mean, toned-machine” aesthetic that she is now known and loved for.
Back in 2006, when I competed in Miss Korea, I didn’t see a lot of contestants who worked out. A lot of them had that pale, almost translucent skin tones…
— Lee Honey
According to Lee Honey, most of her fellow contestants came to the stage with their pale-white, paper skinny bodies as per the Korean “beauty standard” back then. She, on the other hand, brought a combination of darker skin and a more muscular figure. And, Lee Honey claimed, the visual she offered didn’t quite fit in with what the pageant expected.
Lee Honey: You know how we have to curtsy and say hello… I went on stage, with my tanned skin, and did that. My thigh muscle showed, straight down, like this.
JaeJae: Oh, that must have been so cool.
Lee Honey: Well, now that’s considered cool. But back then…
JaeJae: They didn’t like it?
Lee Honey: No. They were like, “Oh, what’s wrong with her thighs?”
JaeJae: You mean like, “Why is she so… bulgy?”
Lee Honey: Right.
Moreover, Lee Honey exposed, the pageant found her can-do attitude to be “over the top” as well. She had been instructed to walk with less conviction — and to show less of her actual beaming-with-confidence personality.
미스 유니버스 이하늬 개쩐다구,, pic.twitter.com/arqW0UMuJM
— 독노 (@1059ii) October 14, 2021
Some of them even told me that I shouldn’t walk with so much conviction… like they wanted me to walk ‘more elegantly’ or whatever.
— Lee Honey
Having experienced this in her 20s, Lee Honey admitted that she felt helpless about her future. In fact, as she pursued a career in acting, she continued to face unreasonable criticism about her looks. Because in Korea, dimples had been considered “flaws” for a long time, Lee Honey even had suggestions to get them surgically “corrected.”
I’ve lived my whole life considering my confidence to be my biggest asset. So back when I was in my 20s, I thought I simply wouldn’t fit into the world.
I mean, I even heard that I’m straight-up ‘too big’ to be an actress. They said I’m too large of a person to be on camera. And they would always point out my dimples. They wanted me to get rid of them. I’ve had plastic surgeons reach out to me saying that they can help me get rid of my upper cheek dimple.
— Lee Honey
At one point, Lee Honey added, she “didn’t think [she] would have a chance to make it big” in the entertainment industry because of these non-inclusive beauty standards. Fortunately, the world has changed for the better since 2006!
I had been pretty doubtful that I would have a chance to make it big as an actress. I always thought in the back of my head that I might have to give up on this career path altogether [because of these standards]. But things turned around so quickly. Just in the past decade, the world changed completely and it became more accepting of different characters. And I think a lot about how inclusive the world has come to be since 10-15 years ago.
— Lee Honey
Following the MMTG episode, Lee Honey’s fans flooded her with endless support and positivity. Cheers to smashing standards and inspiring the world to be confident!
We do come from a society that simply could not accept women who are active and healthy. Korean standards have long equated femininity and beauty with the pale, soft, vulnerable, and almost sickly. It’s no wonder Lee Honey came off as dangerously different back then. Glad the world has evolved since and we now get to praise Lee Honey for the goddess that she is!
You can watch the full episode here.