UPDATE: Added teasers for the first episode dropping on Dec. 9.
Trigger warning: some spoilers from the webtoon, in case you haven’t read it, and mentions of abuse and eating disorders.
I deserve to binge on a nice rom-com. Like a nice, feel-good, inclusive rom-com with some hard-hitting lessons underneath all the fuzzy feels that’ll numb me from the mess that is this week. Maybe the rom-com K-drama gods heard me because I was reminded that “True Beauty” exists.
As reported by Naver, tvN has dropped the main posters for “True Beauty,” a K-drama about a girl who struggles with self-esteem and confidence issues, and channels all that energy to improving her makeup skills.
But before it landed in the “K-drama ideas for consideration” list, “True Beauty” was a webtoon, still an ongoing one available for reading on the Naver Webtoons site and app. And it’s a pretty popular one, often on the app’s top 10 webtoon titles.
But I’ll be honest. I dropped this webtoon from my reading list years ago for various reasons. It had so much potential in the initial chapters ’cause a lot of readers could see themselves in the main character Jugyeong, who gave them a boost of confidence to do what they want and be themselves.
We’ve seen that in a lot of media. Bullied introvert exacts revenge by being their best self. Bonus points if there’s a makeover montage for that.
It became less about the prevalent “lookism” in South Korea, and more about makeup transformation and the main character’s unhealthy dependence on it.
As the webtoon chapters progressed, however, it became less about “true beauty” or inner beauty and what many people fail to see, despite how we’re constantly advocating love for oneself. Rather, it became more about how the main character increasingly depended on makeup to mask everything she was insecure about, even the things that makeup can’t fully conceal.
It’s borderline unrealistic how not a single person (save for the main boy, because plot armor and all) had noticed that Jugyeong with and without makeup was the same person. And how all that makeup didn’t cause Jugyeong’s skin to break out (which, by the way, a lot of us struggle with even if we don’t wear that much makeup). It became less about the prevalent “lookism” in South Korea, and more about makeup transformation and the main character’s unhealthy dependence on it.
Makeup is wonderful, powerful even.
There’s even a character in this webtoon called Sujin, who’s supposed to be the mean girl archetype. Her aggression toward the main character stems from the abuse she had experienced at home and the eating disorder she had developed from the trauma.
For me, Sujin has more depth than the stereotypical mean girl, maybe even more depth than Jugyeong herself. Maybe some part of me wishes that this side of Sujin makes it to the K-drama and that the show would expand on it.
But whatever my feelings are for this webtoon, it doesn’t change the fact that this is what the author has created. There’s nothing wrong with loving makeup. Makeup is wonderful, powerful even. As an ex-reader of this webtoon, I just hope that the K-drama does justice to the issues addressed in it.
In the meantime, check out these previews for the first episode, which drops this Dec. 9.
Photo from tvN