Hope hails from unexpected places, and, sometimes, it just might originate from an iPhone 7 with a cracked screen. Wielding 12 megapixels and a fierce pride in her heritage, Diamond Bar High School senior Grace Tjiptadjaja brings a beacon of kindness and positivity amid the coronavirus through her work as an Instagram model.
Tjiptadjaja’s Instagram account, @gracechipy, emphasizes promoting self-love and representation to Asian peers with tan skin, a feature seen as incongruous with the traditional beauty standard. Since she started the account in April 2020, it has amassed over 4,000 followers.
“I’ve noticed that in modeling and movies, the Asian beauty standard is light pale skin and super skinny people. I’ve never seen someone who looked like me walk down the runway, so I wanted to create my own group, and maybe others like me will start stepping out,” Tjiptadjaja said. “When I was younger, I struggled with positive self-image. But over quarantine, I had all this free time and an opportunity to change that, while also trying to spread confidence in their looks to others.”
In the pictures she posts, Tjiptadjaja always tries to incorporate bright lighting or colorful backgrounds. In order to maintain this atmosphere, she also tries to reply to all the comments on her posts.
“I took bright pictures because I like bright colors, and also because I heard that it stimulates your brain into thinking you’re happier. But no matter what, bright colors always make me happy, whether they’re colors or flowers, so I hope they can do the same [for other people],” Tjiptadjaja said. “I hope people will click on my account and see a burst of color; I hope it makes them feel good.”
Branching out from Instagram posts, Tjiptadjaja was a brand ambassador for an online clothing store, though she is no longer working with that company. She also hosts a Discord server and Twitch streams for her followers, where she communicates and plays games together with them.
“Because [COVID-19] brought upon a dark time to us, I just wanted to create a space where people could relax and pretend that not everything is falling apart. I wanted people to take a step back from all of the stress, and be kind to one another,” Tjiptadjaja said. “We had a good time together, and some of those friends I made I still talk to today.”
From handling negative feedback to stopping the comparison between herself and others, Tjiptadjaja managed to increase her self-confidence too, in addition to empowering others.
“I used to be more shy, but [my modeling] made me feel better about myself, and gave me a lot more confidence,” Tjiptadjaja said. “Now, if I see other people are having a good time, I’m like, ‘I wish my life could be as extravagant as that,’ but even if I have less than another person, I learned to see it like something cool I can strive for and achieve myself.”
Tjiptadjaja wants to possibly pursue something related to social media or modeling in her future, though she hasn’t made a final decision yet. However, she does know that her Instagram account is something she wants to keep active years into the future.
“I am undecided since I’m more of a go with the flow kind of person. I want to spread positivity, but I also want to say [to my followers]: ‘Have fun; do your own thing. Everyone should live in the moment, and just live life,” Tjiptadjaja said. “I wanted to be someone people can look up to, someone people can take motivation from and try to be a happier version of themselves. I’m glad to be doing this.”