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Changing Beauty Standards? Sara Malakul Lane Leads the Way with Kindness

Ep 21: Changing Beauty Standards? Kindness is the Way

Conscious Beauty with Sara Malakul Lane

In this episode, Dr. Teo Wan Lin chats with Sara Malakul Lane, the supermodel-turned actress who is featured in Conscious Beauty- a coffee table book that chronicles different perspectives on beauty. From being in front of the camera from an early age as a top model in Asia, to her career switch to acting, hear about Sara’s unique perspective on beauty standards and why she thinks true beauty is about being kind and serving others.

Dr. TWL: Hello guys! This is Dr. Teo Wan Lin and in this series of Dermatologist talks-Science of Beauty, I will be chatting with my dear friends, who are featured in my latest book Conscious Beauty- a coffee table book that chronicles different perspectives on beauty. Conscious beauty is available on Amazon Kindle and our website, where 100% of proceeds go to our nominated charities Action for AIDS Singapore and the United Nations World Food Program. 

Introducing our first guest of the Conscious Beauty series, Sara Malakul Lane

Today, I have with me my first guest in the series Sara Malakul Lane , the gorgeous supermodel-turned actress who’s been on multiple magazine covers and has also starred in various movies most notably as the female lead in the Kickboxer remake & the psychological thriller Sunchoke which has played at the Stanley Film Festival. Sara is currently taking a break from acting and is now the proud mother of toddler Zander, who’s growing up really fast! 

Thank you for taking the time to be with us! How is everything? 

Sara: Hi, my pleasure, I’m so excited to be chatting with you! You’re so busy, I feel like we never get to talk these days 

Dr. TWL: Well, not as busy as you for sure!

Sara: Everything’s good, we’re just getting ready for Zander’s first Christmas. We’re super excited, my parents have been able to come and visit. So they’re going to meet him for the first time. So we’re really excited about that. 

Dr. TWL: Well that’s lovely! For our listeners, in conjunction with the launch of this book, Conscious Beauty,  this podcast series also aims to shed light on how different individuals in the beauty industry perceive beauty  – and interpret the term conscious beauty. 

Starting with Sara herself- who is literally one of the most beautiful women I know, both inside and out. Sara you started modelling really early at age 12 in Thailand and Asia.

Do you think that being in front of the camera from such an early age affected your perspectives on beauty standards? 

Sara: Yes, absolutely. I think that as such a young age, when you’re in your formative years, your brain hasn’t really fully formed. Your whole life is about looking a certain way because you’re in front of the camera. Beauty standards become a very conscious thing in your head. You’re very aware of how you look and how it’s perceived. For me, it was kind of how much power and prestige it offers you. Which is a very dangerous thing for such a young mind to navigate.

So I don’t recommend being in the camera at such a young age. But for me, it took a while to understand it. I had to do a lot of work on myself to realise that beauty, at the end of the day, is important for awhile, but it’s actually not that important. I’m talking about external beauty and beauty standards. 

Beauty standards portrayed in the media

Dr. TWL: Well, that’s absolutely true. One of the things I find in my dermatology practice, and it’s the same for most dermatologists because we are dealing with individuals with visible imperfections of their skin and their hair. So a lot of the time, we’re dealing with psychosocial issues. Being in the media, you probably have seen the direct impact of how beauty and beauty standards, as an idea, really influences the psyche of ordinary men and women in the street. So I think, it’s something that you have to become so much more aware of. Simply because you are part of the industry yourself. 

Do you think there was ever a point that caused you to make a decision that changed the perspective you had, that was contrary to what was put on you? As you mentioned, alot of it is an imposed idea of beauty, from beauty standards associated with materialism, power, and prestige.

Was there a turning point where you have had a change in mindset in regards to beauty?

Sara: I mean I just went through a phase – and I think a lot of women can relate to this – where everyday you’re doing something for your appearance. Like a hair treatment, a haircut, a facial, clothes, working out everyday at the gym. This whole thing becomes exhausting after a while, and if you think about why you do what you do; every single day of your life you’re doing something for the sake of your appearance. After a while it becomes really exhausting. I remember I was sitting in a cafe somewhere. I noticed this woman, she was sitting across from me reading a book.

Clearly, she hadn’t done her hair or her makeup, and she was just doing her own thing. I looked at her and I’m thinking: this woman is so beautiful. There was something about her -I wanted to be like her. She was just engrossed in her book. I don’t think she was worrying about when her next hair appointment was, or if she needed to wax her brows. I’ve never forgotten that moment. When I get caught up in my own madness of all this, I always try to remember her – and remember her simple beauty.

All of this external stuff that we force ourselves to do to fit in to the ‘ideal’ beauty standards, is so unnecessary at the end of the day. I mean I do believe in good health, in working out for your health, and seeing a good dermatologist. Because, taking care of your skin, not from an aesthetic perspective, but just from a health point of view is very important. 

Being yourself

Dr. TWL: That’s really insightful, and I’m very impacted by what you just said. In my perspective when I first met you, what really struck me was that you were very naturally yourself. I’m not sure if there is a more sophisticated way to put this, but sometimes when we form a certain judgement of a person, we wonder if it’s because of our own personal biases, that we are assessing the individual. My work as a doctor requires me to meet lots of people, and I have to say that I do make up my mind about individuals quite quickly. But not in the way that’s sort of judgemental, but it’s a natural human reaction.

One of the things that I noticed about you, and you’re clearly a big star with so much under your belt, is that you’re so humble. So it’s really amazing that you’re saying this. All I can say is that you’re certainly practicing what you’re preaching. 

We know that you also went on to become an actress in LA. Did it feel like a dramatic switch from modelling, and how did it affect you? 

I actually really enjoyed the transition. Especially moving from an Asian market which was in Thailand where I started my career. Moving to America where you’re kind of a much smaller fish in a huge ocean, as opposed to being a big fish in a small pond which was what I was when I was working in Thailand. So I really enjoyed being the small fish in this huge ecosystem. I felt like I could learn so much from so many people, and I felt anonymous, which I enjoyed. I felt a lot of freedom to be able to be myself.

Acting vs modelling

I feel like acting, yes, you have to be aesthetically pleasing in a certain way. Or your face has to have some sort of character to be appealing to be on TV or in the movies. But you don’t necessarily have to be conventionally beautiful. There isn’t this obsession with youth, and being ultra skinny like it is in the fashion industry where it’s all about showing off clothes and projecting an image. Acting is about telling a story and creating a character around that story. It’s really a completely different art form and more liberating. 

Dr. TWL: I feel like it is something our listeners would appreciate, because it is one of the problems I see in today’s society. At least, with my experience working with a lot of young people, is that we often feel like we are forced to follow a certain mold, or follow a certain beauty standard. If we do not obtain a certain ideal, which may be in the form of status or an aesthetic, it gets people feeling frustrated or depressed. But at the end of the day, as you said, acting is an art form. Primarily because it allows you to express a character and that’s much more than your appearance. It’s got to do with your thoughts, emotions, and really just the ability to impact and influence another person through this art form. 

You know Sara, something you wrote in your book really resonated with me.

You mentioned that being kind and serving others shows a lot of inner beauty.

To me, that’s 100% true, and overlooked in today’s society. I really want to hear more about this from you.

Random acts of kindness, serving others

Sara: I really try to wake up every morning, and complete 2 things in my day. 1 random act of kindness, and 1 way I can serve another person, or serve others in general. At the end of the day, if I completed those 2 things – which I don’t end up doing everyday,  but at least I strive for that – it takes you out of yourself. A Lot of the world today creates very self conscious people. We’re constantly filtering ourselves on social media, constantly telling our own fabricated stories so that we can post it on Instagram stories so that other people can be envious of our lives.

I’m guilty of it too, but if I just stop and think about these 2 things, at least I feel like I’m not so caught up in the madness of what goes on in the world of today. It can really be anything, a random act of kindness could just be opening the door for someone who is clearly struggling; serving someone else can simply be bringing a glass of water to your husband. Some days it’s just that, and some days it’s massive acts. I just try to get that done every single day. Like I said, quite a few days I fail, but the next day I wake up and have another chance again. 

Dr. TWL: That’s such a refreshing perspective, it’s simple, honest, and totally doable. I started this podcast to shed light on the science of beauty, starting with skin health from the perspective of a dermatologist.

Genuine smiles

But on this note,  I also want to share that what you mentioned- about being kind and serving others reflecting beauty— is exactly what psychology research shows —- for example it has been well established that individuals are able to distinguish between genuine smiles what we call Duchenne smiles. Posed, fake smiles, and these genuine smiles elicit different reactions in the viewers. Additionally, you don’t get a genuine smile without smiling from the eyes. The ability to elicit a positive emotional reaction is one of the proposed concepts of beauty, as opposed to ugliness as a concept, which generally provokes feelings of disgust.

Now as a dermatologist, and privately as an individual, I do want to state that I feel no amount of Botox can erase cruelty in a person’s face — anyway, something I have entertained privately for a long time is that the way we age is heavily influenced by our predominant facial expression, on top of our general skin health. Well more on that in another episode, but we are so glad to have had Sara today. 

Sara: Thank you so much, it’s so nice to hear your voice and talk to you. We definitely have to meet up soon. 

Conscious Beauty Book

And we will, for our listeners, you may follow Sara on her Instagram @saramalakul where she has a huge fanbase of over 400K followers and for updates on her beautiful family.

Conscious Beauty- Coffee Table Book

Sara appears on the cover of the Conscious Beauty book with myself and Sukki, which is available on amazon kindle and the Dr TWL Dermaceuticals webstore which comes with a complimentary sunscreen – 100% of proceeds goes to our nominated charities. Thank you for joining us Sara  and that’s it for today’s podcast on Dermatologist Talks- Science of Beauty. 

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