by Alexandra Nicole Nuralam

Model Sandra Zhang on Diversity, Asian Representation & Beauty

Chinese-American model Sandra Zhang talks about modelling, diversity and Asian representation in the industry, and beauty.

Model Sandra Zhang (@thesandrazhang) believes that we need to break out of society’s beauty standards in order to better express ourselves. The Chinese-American is also very vocal about the lack of Asian representation in the fashion and modelling industries and aspires to continue the conversation of diversity and representation through her online platform.

Here, BEAUBIT chats with Sandra about her pursuits, pushing for representation in the modelling scene, and the skincare snacks for her clear, glowy skin. 

What’s your story?

I was born and raised in Queens, New York. As a first-generation Chinese-American, I grew up in a conservative family with very particular expectations and specific ideas of success. I was always extremely shy and reserved until the end of high school when I realised that the standard of beauty and lack of Asian representation was part of why I had never felt confident in myself. Funny enough, this was when I started to get into modelling unexpectedly!

I’m currently pursuing the field of social work while modelling. I’ve been modelling for about 4 years on and off but most recently, I’ve taken the chance to focus more on my modelling career ever since the pandemic put a pause on my pursuit of education. Although I love social work and aim to continue that career path—I saw an opportunity to reflect on my passion, to live out my dreams, and remember the reason why I wanted to model, which was to continue the conversation of diversity and representation.

What keeps you busy every day?

Every day is a surprise for me, but most days I’m working on finding ways to improve myself. Life has been a little interesting since the pandemic occurred but it’s also a blessing in disguise because it allowed me to self-reflect, make changes in my daily routine like starting to read and planning creative photoshoots with talented friends!

What do you find the most rewarding in the industry that you are in, and what is the most challenging?

There are so many rewarding moments of modelling beyond pretty dresses and aesthetic photos. But the most rewarding part of modelling is the excitement of creatives coming together to create a vision and seeing that vision come to life.

Growing up, I’ve always struggled with finding my identity as an Asian-American with the lack of Asian representation in the media, which is also prevalent in the modelling industry. Because my features do not adhere to the typical beauty standard, it is often categorised and type-casted as the Asian model. This is still the most challenging part because although the industry is slowly changing, it feels far from diverse or inclusive; models who don’t possess Eurocentric features are often times trendy or just for surface-level diversity. 

How does the city where you live, in addition to your cultural heritage, influence your personal style?

New York City is absolutely magical for seeking fashion inspiration because everyone is not afraid to express their style and I’ve definitely learned to break boundaries of fashion rules from watching other people express themselves. I’ve always had a strong interest in my own culture and it has made me appreciate the range of colours, patterns, and even the history behind details in fashion pieces. Currently, I’m embracing the beauty of just being able to explore so many fashion icons in both Western and Asian cultures, I have yet to stick to one because I really love them all.

What does beauty mean to you?

“Beauty means appreciating your true self without all the accessories, judgements, expectations, and comparisons.”

It means being kind to yourself and feeling the most confident version of yourself when no one is looking. You are beauty, and beauty is you.

Talk us through your typical skincare ritual and your favourite products. 

My skincare ritual is very minimal! I have sensitive skin so I try to use as little products as possible. I wash my face with warm water when I wake up. Then I use Hada Labo’s Hydrating Milk and moisturize with La Roche Posay’s Toleriane Ultra Soothing Repair Moisturizer or their Lipikar Balm AP+ Intense Repair Moisturizer Cream (for dry winter days). And most importantly, I always apply a generous amount of SPF — I’m currently alternating between Sonrei’s Sea Clearly SPF 50 and Supergoop’s Glowscreen SPF 40.

At night, I double cleanse with the DHC Deep Cleansing Oil, followed by the La Roche Posay Gentle Hydrating Cleanser. I go in with Good Molecules’ Hyaluronic Acid Serum, and then a heavy moisturizer like La Roche Posay’s Lipikar Balm. Finally, I’ll use my personalised Curology formula and a heavy lip mask from Henné Organics!

Sandra’s Beauty Picks
Celimax The Real Noni Energy Ampoule, SGD29
Hada Labo Gokujyun Hydrating Milk, SGD26
La Roche Posay Toleriane Ultra Soothing Repair Moisturizer, SGD42.90
La Roche Posay Lipikar Balm AP+ Intense Repair Moisturizer Cream, SGD56.90
Sonrei Sea Clearly SPF 50, SGD40
Supergoop Glowscreen SPF 40, SGD55
DHC Deep Cleansing Oil, SGD29
La Roche Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser, SGD33.90
Good Molecules Hyaluronic Acid Serum, SGD15.90
Henné Organics Lip Mask, SGD54

What is your favourite beauty activity to indulge yourself in?

I love to indulge with a good face or eye mask when I have a self-care day. I also have been enjoying treating myself to an acupuncture session; taking care of your body is also a part of beauty!

What is most important to you: comfort, beauty, or innovation?

Definitely comfort! Without feeling comfortable in our own skin and accepting ourselves even on our worst days, we can’t appreciate beauty or innovation. Everything else should enhance what we already own!

What are your hopes for the year ahead?

I’m looking forward to future opportunities in the creative field and working toward my master’s degree! I hope that my platform continues to grow and that I’m inspiring others to pursue their passion. I’m also hoping for progress, health, and self-acceptance—we need more love in the world right now!