Pt. III – Jen Phuong and the Exploration of Intrapersonal Intimacy
On her company, Flaws of Relativity, the (outdated) standard of beauty, and empowering women from the inside out.
Things don’t always last forever and that’s what, I think, flux means — constantly evolving, changing, growing, and pushing your comfort zone.
For a while, staying out late wasn’t as appealing as when I was in my early-20s nor my standard of fun—and as I grow, I’m learning to find balance and meaning in the mess. So, now, I find the genuine act of connecting with people who know how to hustle and flow… is my kind of fun.
We’ve all had – what my friends and I call – our #HoePhase at different times in our lives for different reasons, too. And after going through that in my early 20s, I’ve been reborn like a motherfucking Pheonix from the ashes. Just kidding! I’ve just been more mindful and selective with who I choose to spend time with—I had to lose a lot just to gain a few gems. I’m also noticing a better relationship with myself through feeling all the feels; thinking all my thoughts; and speaking all my words.
I’ve both read and heard people say, “I’m moving forward and never looking back!” But like… you ever sat in a car before? There’s a rearview mirror to see oncoming traffic and avoid messy collisions. That said, I’m a rebel — I’m looking the shit out of the past. As long as I’m not caught catching feelings or dwelling in ‘could haves’ but reflecting, I’m gucci.
So now, when I look back at all the past versions of me, I’m fucking proud as hell of how far I’ve come.
Like Jen, the actual person in the spotlight (lol), I do my best to be a person with emotional intelligence, love, empathy, compassion, and foster equality and inclusion. I choose to look at impermanence all around us with beauty and awe because we can never fully live without embracing it. And to quote Pocahontas, “but if you walk the footsteps of a stranger / you’ll learn things you never knew, you never knew.”
Jen Phuong is a fucking gem—a one of a kind, fellow Aries. She’s also the Co-founder and Creative Director of Flaws of Relativity—a Toronto-based collective of women, all on their own respective journeys, educating other women about feeling good inside and out. That’s not all Flaws of Relativity is—they’re also a creative community motivated to create a space to collaborate with other talents.
We’re talking about wearing masks because I love the history of it. Masks were made to frighten enemies, contain identity, and show status—now, masks are a metaphoric piece we use to symbolize our comfort levels and where we think our placement in the world is.
Let’s fire this up 🔥
And beauty is this innate thing that makes you attractive.
Getting to know Jen
Tell us about yourself
I build things — sometimes — because engineers raised me and I have a smart-ass brother. I meet other humans occasionally because, through collaboration and conversation, there is innovation. I help individuals launch their businesses through events and workshops by connecting humans with each other under one roof and across the interwebs. I simply match the right products and services to the right people because I don’t manufacture anything.
How does your Asian cultural upbringing impact your views on beauty?
From a very young age, being Asian has definitely impacted my views on “beauty”. My permanent tan made it difficult to make friends in Vietnam when my family and I travelled there. The other kids would call me ugly and said I was lying when I told them I was from Canada. They didn’t believe that someone so dark would come from a country like Canada. In my pre-teen years, my caramel skin became something that most people sought after, I realized. However, I still didn’t feel beautiful because all my life I wanted to be fair.
Now, I am proud of where I come from and learned that beauty is beauty and it’s what you make of it. I learned to find ways to even emphasize my almond-shaped eyes or high cheekbones and (sometimes) come to love my semi-flat nose. I think my views on beauty is ever-evolving and I think there’s beauty in that, too. My Asian cultural upbringing and identifying as a Vietnamese-Canadian, an “in-betweener”, has made my views on beauty much more interesting and much more relatable — ironically.
What was the one thing you’ve always struggled with growing up and how did you overcome it? Or learn to cope with it?
I hated my Vietnamese name — Phuong—because people couldn’t pronounce it properly.
I hated when people anglicized it every time they did try to pronounce it. So, in school for a very long time, people called me Jenny. I found it difficult to identify with Jenny when my family never called me Jenny, but Phuong. Now I make an effort to get people to call me Phuong — even if they do pronounce it wrong. It feels more like me. (Most people don’t know this about me)
Describe Flaws of Relativity in 5 words or less.
Vulnerable and badass women.
What motivated you and your team to start Flaws of Relativity?
We learned the hard way that building a business in a man’s world was not as easy as we thought. Equality is different from equity. We may be given the same resources and skill set but that’s not equality in any company or business.
We believe that women are different. We communicate, express and/or suppress feelings, ideas, and emotions in ways that are different from men. Therefore we started educating our clients about products in a different way and marketed our products and partnerships in a more intimate way. Now mind you, this idea only evolved until much later!
Don’t get me wrong! Flaws of Relativity started at a place where we wanted to just have fun with what we’re good at and that’s to educate women on what we go through on a daily basis.
How to simplify makeup looks and get the skin you want but still savour french fries. Motivation came from creating a space for ourselves to work and be able to collaborate with other talented people and it soon inspired others to join us. We’re excited as to where it’s going!
You worked with a lot of clients that have a darker complexion, why did you start there?
I attended training sessions to learn how to make custom foundations and the instructors there when it came time to talk about skin tones. They said that working with people with darker complexions will be the hardest because their skin exhibits the most complex amounts of undertones. I found it fascinating that because of this fact, I got to play with more colours! It was a challenge for me but I figured if I started from the most difficult first, it would equip me for anything! I guess it was my mother’s mantra growing up — do all the difficult things first before going out with your friends; a.k.a do all your chores first before going out.
Your work focuses on clean makeup, skincare, and also including supplements. Why did you choose to educate and help women transition to cleaner products?
I guess I kinda worked backwards. I care more about the environment and the planet than I do about what I put on my face, therefore everything that affected the water and its ecosystem affected my choices in beauty products.
…our “truest” self is always there, the masks just change depending on how much you want to reveal to others or if you want to see it the other way…
Going sk-IN deep
Our culture has lowkey normalized wearing masks and “showing face” to protect ourselves from how people may see our authentic selves. How many masks do you wear, if any?
I wear them all the time.
How I see it is, our “truest” self is always there, the masks just change depending on how much you want to reveal to others or if you want to see it the other way, it’s still the same, it’s a matter of parts of the “truest” self, which you want to protect.
So to answer the question, it’s just one mask—the colours change depending on my trust levels with that person/situation.
What does self-care mean to you?
At first, I thought it was bubble baths and getting your nails done but it truly evolved to getting myself in check/in-line. It’s time to recalibrate my mood/my thoughts/my mentality because being around other people, you can be drained of your complete self.
So now it means, reading something meaningful and which I could bring my energy back up again. Or spending time with someone who I can remind myself of me again. Sometimes, it can be a good song — on repeat.
How do you implement it into your busy entrepreneurial lifestyle?
When partners or clients cancel on me, I don’t take it personally anymore. I started to give people the benefit of the doubt and try to be more compassionate. So, when I decided to implement that into my business, I allowed myself to do the same — sometimes I need a reminder but I started to schedule myself into the calendar now.
How do you define beauty?
When I think of beauty I think of my mom’s bathroom counter immediately, for some reason. Maybe because I recognized the difference between vanity and beauty from a very young age. Vanity is how you want others to perceive you — I think. And beauty is this innate thing that makes you attractive. That’s a bit of a round-about way of answering this question because I think beauty has a round-about way of representing itself.
Who are your influences?
It changes in intensity but since the beginning of 2019, Michelle Obama has been my biggest influence. She’s poised, speaks with conviction and is passionate about her mission and she does it all with grace.
It’s what I want to emulate but with a little more me and BETTER.
Do you have a dirty little secret?
My skin, my studio and my client kits (for consultations) are pristine but my car, my bedroom and my office is a mess (not dirty, but super messy)!
I haven’t mastered the art of Marie Kondo quite yet. The scary part is… I don’t think I ever will 🙊.
That’s it for my conversation with my girl—part human, part angel, part bada$$—Jen Phuong! From exploring what beauty means to self-awareness to building a business, I hope you enjoyed getting to know Jen, her work, and maybe learn a thing or two. Right now, if you catch her on the ‘gram which is filled with inspiring (and effortless) content that makes you feel beautiful and want to be her—also, incorporate supplements into your daily routine.
If you like this, please follow this publication to be in the know when the next conversation is up. And if you haven’t read other conversations with Toronto artist Marina Stojkovic and the ‘perfect-brew-obsessed’ Brodie Vissers, I’ll just put that right here.
Cảm ơn nhiều 🙋🏻♀