Men’s Grooming Guru: ‘Masculinity Is So Fragile, It’s So Toxic’

Jame Jackson
david yi
David Yi founded a men’s beauty and grooming site called Very Good Light. (Photo: David Yi/Yahoo Beauty)

Yahoo’s Diversity in Beauty Awards (the DIBs) highlight and celebrate personalities, brands, and products that embody inclusiveness and innovation. We enlisted eight experts who have championed diversity in their careers and cover all bases of the beauty industry to vote on the best in makeup, skin care, hair care, and more. Here, DIBs judge David Yi discusses how his men’s beauty and grooming site blurs gender lines and shatter stereotypes.

David Yi, the founder of a men’s beauty and grooming online destination for millennials and Generation Z called Very Good Light, cultivated a love for skin care and grooming at a young age.

“Being a Korean-American, we were slathered with SPF. Ever since I was a child, my mom and dad showed us how important skin care was,” Yi tells Yahoo Beauty. “They knew beauty was something that came from the inside out, but people take notice of your skin. Skin care is about pampering yourself. You have to be your biggest ally and supporter before anyone else. It’s an inner confidence that pushes you through the entire day.”

A post shared by David Yi (@seoulcialite) on Feb 21, 2017 at 1:14pm PST

After stints as a writer and editor for media outlets like Mashable, WWD, and the Daily News, Yi decided to address the huge gap in the beauty industry for men and personal care. “I felt that there needed to be a new voice, especially for Generation Z. This generation is more genderless and sexually fluid than any other generation.”

So Yi created Very Good Light to fill that void. “I launched something to cater to that guy who felt he didn’t fit into that definition of ‘masculinity‘ or the confines of what it means to be a male in 2017,” he says. “It’s all about inclusivity, celebrating who you are and who you want to be; normalizing men and their behaviors, normalizing makeup, normalizing beauty, and that everyone has a place to call home.”

However, Yi stresses that Very Good Light does not cater to just one “type” of man. He explains, “We don’t have to sell it out as an ‘inclusive’ and ‘woke’ brand. We want that to exude through our site and the content we produce.”

He continues, “I think the biggest misconception is that the site is only LGBTQ-related, and it’s not. If you’re in tune with your body and face, and you like to pamper yourself, that doesn’t make you one thing or another. It’s pretty judgmental to box someone into a sexual category just based off their morning skin care routine or what grooming products they use. I want to tear that down or the notion that beauty is only for a specific individual.”

men's grooming, very good light
Everything from hair pomade to facial sheet masks are discussed on Very Good Light. (Photo: Very Good Light)

These archaic notions of men and pampering are simply “fractions of fragile masculinity,” according to Yi. He says, “Right now, masculinity is so fragile, it’s so toxic. I feel once we shatter those stereotypes and get out of those confines, that is what will push us forward. Once we start changing men and making them ‘feminists,’ making them allies for people of color or the LGBTQ community, that’s when the world starts to change.”

Celebrities like Young Thug and Jaden Smith have helped redefine gender-fluidity through fashion. “These are young men who are swaggy, at the top of their game, and whose masculinity is never going to be questioned. They are blurring the lines between genders; they wear womenswear, and they don’t care what people think. I feel like they are the ‘poster children’ for Generation Z and what that generation stands for. It’s about being bold, brass, brazen, and expressing yourself in an authentic way.”

Of course, websites like Very Good Light, no matter how “progressive,” have faced adversity. “People thought it was a brilliant idea that was vital, but there’s definitely been push back. Being a men’s grooming site, in general, a lot of people can’t understand that. In small town or rural cities, they may not understand the movement of men’s beauty or gender and sexual fluidity.”

However, Yi pushes forward. “I feel like that’s the opportunity we have here: to educate and hopefully change people’s ways of thinking to say you can be who you want to be, you can be empowered, and you can be unique. No matter how you identify, you’re free to be a man and accepted,” he says.

Beauty brands should become more inclusive, because the movement isn’t going anywhere, according to Yi. “From Maybelline [and] CoverGirl to Milk Makeup, these brands are showing that men can have a seat at the table. But [brands] feel like if they target men, they’ll lose their core customers, which just isn’t true.”

Through Very Good Light, Yi has one important message he’d like to spread: love. “The world needs more love, and we need more understanding and less judgment,” he says. “We can emphasize each other’s journeys. I hope we can redefine men’s beauty standards. You can empower yourself to make a change; that’s what Very Good Light is all about.”

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