The definition of beauty is ever-changing—be it Cleopatra of ancient Egypt, Yang Guifei of the Tang Dynasty, or Marilyn Monroe of ’60s Hollywood, these women were considered the epitome of beauty in the era they belonged to. Fast forward to present day and, thanks to the increasingly inclusive representation of beauty, icons now span all ages, shapes and ethnicities, empowering women across the world. But before these inspirational visions, a girl’s first beauty icon is often her mother: From the earliest memories of watching her mother getting primped and prepped, to stealing a swipe of lipstick or a spritz of perfume off the vanity, these are the moments that set the foundation for the beauty rituals that she cultivates through her life. For many, it marks the start of the myriad life lessons a daughter learns from her mother. To celebrate Mother’s Day, Harper’s BAZAAR delves into the precious bonds that reinforce what it means to be truly beautiful through the decades. And remember, mummy always knows best.
On their relationship… Nada actually “mums” me. She looks after me, tells me when I do the wrong things; and basically keeps me in check and up-to-date on the latest trends in technology, beauty, politics and food.
On her earliest memory of skincare… When I was growing up, we’d use gram flour and fresh cream to wash our face and keep our skin moist and supple. It was certainly a much simpler time.
On beauty habits… Natural products and good eating habits are so important because good nutrition will nurture from within.
On shifting perceptions… We had a very conventional perception of beauty when I was growing up in India: Long hair, big eyes and an hourglass figure. Then, it was about being a size zero. Now, all unique facets of beauty are being celebrated and embraced—from features, to size, and even quirks—and I think that’s truly empowering.
On life lessons for her daughter… I hope I’ve taught her to be kind and to have good ethics, to keep good friends, and to never judge a book by its cover because everyone has something to bring to the table.
On her beauty icon… Sophia Loren is classic but never conventional and [she has] a lot of oomph.
On learning from previous generations… The accessibility of medical enhancements has, in a way, led to a lot of people feeling the need or desire to change themselves to fit a certain image. Previous generations didn’t have such accessibility to technology, so you had to make the best out of what you have, and that’s exactly what we need to re-learn.
On turning into her mother… I knew I was turning into my mother when I started nagging at my father, and when I realised my choices were more influenced by her than by trends or friends.
On their shared traits… My mum is very sociable, and so am I. I like to go out and I get energy from being around people, organising events and doing charity work.
On gratitude… Being beautiful radiates from being thankful and confident. My mum always told me that there’s always going to be someone better off, or less fortunate than you, and the most important thing is to be happy and grateful for what you have.
On beauty habits… It’s vital to keep your skin hydrated on all fronts. So drink lots of water and use good moisturisers regularly. Face steaming helps, too.
By Dana Koh and Joyce Cheo
Photographer: Darren Gabriel Leow
Stylist: Windy Aulia
Hair: Manisa Tan/PaletteINC using Keune Haircosmetics
Makeup: Larry Yeo using Chanel
Photography assistant: Eric Tan
Assistant stylist: Gracia Phang
Editorial assistant: Adriel Chiun
Stylist’s assistant: Kimberly Ong