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More than skin deep: Jessie Gurunathan on self-love

15 April 2021

The founder of skincare brand Two Birds Beauty talks self-love and finding her place in the world.

WORDS BY Fashion Quarterly New Zealand

Growing up as a mixed-race brown kid meant I never quite knew where I fit in

Being Eurasian has meant I’ve found myself in many social situations where I have either been too brown or too white according to those around me.

I never felt represented in beauty and fashion as a young woman in New Zealand because I never saw anyone who looked like me in magazines or on TV.

I spent a lot of time staying out of the sun and trying to be as fair-skinned as possible. I would dye my hair lighter and I wore coloured contact lenses in an attempt to appear less ‘ethnic’, I suppose. 

I wish I could tell my younger self that the things I felt ashamed of were my superpowers 

I’ve done a huge amount of work to heal that deep sense of rejection that came with feeling like I never fit in anywhere. I had a lot of internalised racism I needed to dismantle because it was preventing me from embracing everything that makes me unique.

But being different isn’t a bad thing — it’s badass! To me, these days beauty is more of a state of mind than anything else, because how you feel about yourself is ultimately the only thing that really matters.

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My endometriosis and clinical depression have had a huge impact on the way I see myself

It’s been a very long journey to learn to accept the limitations my body has and understand my body needs more care than the average healthy person.

A big part of my self-acceptance journey has been shifting my mindset away from feeling sorry for myself, and approaching my health struggles with a level of accountability. It has given me the ability to pay attention to what my body is telling me.

There’s a silver lining when it comes to living with chronic pain and health problems, which is, out of necessity, you learn to embrace a slower, more mindful approach to life.

I think there is so much beauty to be discovered when we all slow down and learn to be more present with ourselves and the world around us.

Diversity and inclusion are two very different things

When there is diversity it means people from different walks of life — with different religious beliefs, cultural backgrounds, and ages — are respected for their different life experiences and perspectives.

When you understand this, you begin to notice the lack of diversity in the world around you — this is the first step. Inclusion goes one step further, and all people are given equal opportunity to be their true selves. A person’s ability to contribute to society is not determined by their race, gender, or social status.

I have experienced first-hand what it feels like to have my cultural identity tokenised, and have been made to feel like the ‘ethnic tick box’. It’s not right. It doesn’t feel good when you’re the only brown person at the table and your voice is never heard because nobody notices you are the minority.

I wanted to create a brand culture that gives everyone a seat at the table

I find much of the beauty industry can give off a ‘you can’t sit with us’ vibe, which can be so intimidating!

Beauty should be accessible and fun. It was so important to me to create a conscious brand that wasn’t just about celebrating diversity, but was about normalising it.

It’s this warm, friendly, inclusive space where, no matter your gender, your age, what you earn, or where you’re from, you can feel beautiful and have access to sustainable, safe, efficacious products.

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