I’m originally from Los Angeles but now I live in Brooklyn, New York. I think it’s my mom who has shaped me most. Her, along with the rest of my family that I grew up with. When you are raised in an Asian household, it’s usually multi-generational. So, I had my aunt and grandma there to take care of me, too. All of the women in my family are very independent. They created their careers, their lives without relying on anyone else. They always taught me to be my own person, showed me how to build a life where I could be independent, too.
When I was younger, I never thought I would be a model. I really wanted to be one because I watched America’s Next Top Model— I learned to smize and walk, and everything. I always thought it would be so fun. But, as a career, I never thought it would be for me. I was going to go to school for political science and work at a nonprofit or become a teacher. So, having modeling fall into my lap has been such a blessing. It’s something I love so much and want to continue to grow with, and see where my career takes me.
Especially in this industry, representation totally matters. Not only with the models and those in front of the camera, but also with people who are behind the scenes; art directors, photographers, hairstylists, stylists. There have been so many moments where I and other curve models have felt like there’s only three wardrobe options for us— being literally naked, wearing leggings, or in a big coat. When you have representation from within a team, you get stylists who diversify what plus talent can wear— and you feel a change. I would love to see more of it in the industry, for both editorial and campaigns.
I believe beauty is found within, and then it radiates throughout the world. It comes down to you and how you see yourself. Beauty is also found in things that make you happy and bring you joy. It has evolved, I think, through media and what I consume. I stopped consuming the typical Eurocentric beauty standards that have been pushed on us, and found beauty within myself and also within my culture.
I’m glad that beauty standards are changing because I’m half Jewish, so there’s been times when I have literally wanted to abandon my Asian sense of self and embrace all of my white self. I dyed my hair blonde, thinking it would make my eyes look a little bit more green and accentuate my freckles— or wanted double eyelid surgery to make my eyes bigger. There’s so many other Asian woman what have probably felt the same things, like wanting to get a nose job or reshaping their jaw. It’s so normalized, which is so damaging especially to our youth because I was a 15 or 16-year old thinking this. It is great how it’s evolved because, now, it’s all about finding what you think is beautiful within yourself and in your community, and not looking outside for those answers.
I feel most beautiful when I’m in water, but also most vulnerable. I grew up close to the water and, whenever I’m in any body of water, whether it’s a river or the ocean; I always feel so beautiful because I feel the most like myself. I feel the waves embrace me but also a sense of danger. I have to check myself and evaluate and appreciate how my body will take care of my with something kind of treacherous like the ocean. I also just feel beautiful when I’m simply vulnerable and myself. Even on set, I feel pretty beautiful if I have really great creatives around me. It’s an energy. I think beauty is an energy.
My favorite beauty ritual is probably taking a shower— I love to immerse myself in water! Or just doing my skincare routine— just washing my face feels like a restart to my day. I love using my BIOACTIVE MASQUE. I always feel like it takes the impurities out of my skin. I’ll use that and feel super refreshed. I’ve also been taking the REGENERATION MIST around with me, in my purse throughout New York because it’s so hot. That’s been really nice to help refresh throughout the day.
Right now, I’m working on letting go of ego and pride. I’m calling in love and abundance and prosperity and success. Things that I want not just for my professional life, but also for my love life and for my friendships. Things I want not just for myself, but also for my friends. Ten years from now, I hope to be a very successful model; to be established in my career and still living in New York, or maybe LA— who knows. Hopefully with my boyfriend, and we would be established together.
For humanity, my hope over the coming decade is that the climate crisis gets better. I really hope that we just take care, better care of ourselves and especially this planet. I hope that people won’t be so polarized, so that we can focus on the things that are much bigger in our world. I don’t want to say world peace because that feels so shallow, but, really, that would be my hope.
But, right now, my advice for life is to live in the present—and to not overthink. I’m a Virgo rising so I tend to do that all the time. I have to get myself back to reality at times. Live and appreciate the small moments. I think the pandemic really taught me to appreciate simple things like getting dinner with friends or going on a walk with someone, or even just a phone call. Not that you won’t ever have that again, but these experiences are so special and so comforting. When I’m around people that I love, it just fills me with so much joy and happiness; more than any materials things that any money could ever buy me. Surround yourself with really great people, and be kind and compassionate.
MINAMI GESSEL photographed by CAROLYNE LORÉE TESTON — shown using the RITUAL SERUM and REGENERATION MIST.