If your birth year begins with a one, odds are you think TikTok is some sort of bizarre playground filled with weird trends and look-at-me wannabes. Dive in, though, and you’ll see it’s also being used by smart, funny, fearless people as a platform for change. Sari-Ella Thaiday, whose TikTok videos have so far garnered 3.5 million likes, is a young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman belonging to the Darnley, Saibai and Yidinji people. Whether she’s delivering a wordless, withering clapback to a troll accusing the awarded gymnast of lying about her medals, or revealing a hand drawn dragon makeup look, she is putting social media presence to good use, and having a great time doing it. In honour of her partnership with the period care brand Me., Sari spoke with us about the challenges of being an Indigenous content creator, her passionate stance on beauty and health (including affordable period care products) being for more than just white people, how learning to love and speak about her own body has led her to have a better understanding of it, and her beautiful concept of family as her guiding light.

A glorious rainbow eye look
Image: Instagram @sarithaiday

“I grew up in Cairns in a Torres Strait Islander family, and was raised by strong women, as were most of the people around me. If there’s one thing that shaped me into the person I am today, it is how we were taught to value family.

I found my teen years challenging, trying to navigate around beauty standards. I didn’t totally understand at the time that my differences in appearance from those ‘standards’, which were due to me being Indigenous, didn’t mean I wasn’t beautiful.

I went to high school where the majority of my peers were non-Indigenous, and I thought that because I didn’t look like them, with pretty blonde hair and Eurocentric features, I was less desirable. I was really insecure and embarrassed, and ended up damaging my hair from over-colouring and straightening it, trying to fit in.

Celebrating her love of adorable Japanese animation
Image: Instagram @sarithaiday

After high school, I started to overcome that and learned to love myself a lot more. I want more people to embrace who they are and not be ashamed of their identity. I know it’s easy to get confused by society’s standards and even hate yourself because of them, but once you accept who you are no one can tell you you’re not beautiful.

I have posted before about beauty not only being for white people, and that is something that I strongly believe in. Indigenous women have never been viewed as desirable, or as fitting in with society’s standards of beauty, so it’s extremely important to embrace and celebrate what we have. I like to remind people that ‘the beauty standard’ is not diverse: it’s extremely narrow, and non-inclusive of anyone of colour. Just because society says something doesn’t mean it’s correct, or true. I believe that self-hatred and identity crises among Indigenous people stem from the belief that beauty should only be associated with white people. We need to not give into that thinking, or to negative things people might say about our appearances.

IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @sarithaiday

I started posting on social media about a year and a half ago, purely to share my love for culture. I never particularly thought about it or planned it out. Through that early posting, I was able to gain a following and now it’s grown into something I never would’ve imagined, and I’ve been given opportunities I could only have dreamed of.

The best part about what I do is the fact that I am able to pave the way for representation of Indigenous Australians in the online space, and encourage more Indigenous Australians to follow suit. The downside to all of it is racism. Some people in my life haven’t been very nice towards me because of my social media content, and that has affected my mental health greatly.

IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @sarithaiday

A lot of my makeup looks are bold and colourful – I think that’s just who I am as a person. I may not show it typically, because I can be pretty shy, but the makeup is a way for me to properly express myself and a way to communicate. I feel as though my makeup looks are my niche.

I don’t really think there’s much to hate about beauty. I mean, I absolutely surround myself with beauty products and beauty tutorials… I love everything about it! I think the only thing that I don’t like is the price tag that comes with it. We know that it costs a lot to purchase skincare and makeup products, and I sometimes wish that I had an unlimited amount of money to just be able to buy every single thing that I wanted!

IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @sarithaiday

I did quite a lot of cheerleading during high school which required me to put my own makeup on, so that’s how I learnt a lot of techniques and is kind of where it all started. I think the first beauty product I ever bought was a $10 bottle of foundation for my formal.

There’s been a lot of learning since then. I think my most embarrassing beauty memory was when I was around 18, which was during the time where big, thick, bold eyebrows were a thing. Just because it was trendy at the time I had to do it, but looking back on photos it did not compliment my face at all, and I just looked like I was walking around with slugs above my eyes. Now, my favourite technique for the brows is to use hair wax to brush the brow hairs upwards, which creates a beautiful fluffy look. Then I lightly fill them in with a little bit of brown eyeshadow and it looks pretty and natural.

IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @sarithaiday

I love creative makeup, but I don’t wear day-to-day makeup very often, probably because I live in Cairns where it’s really hot and humid, and wearing any just isn’t practical! I often go about my day with just a bare face.

I like to keep my skincare pretty simple. I wash my face with a fragrance free cleanser by CeraVe. If I have makeup on, I generally use a Face Halo first, which is a microfibre pad that you just add water to and wipe your makeup off with. Then, once my skin is really clean, I like to apply a serum. My favourite at the moment is the Sand & Sky Australian Emu Apple Dreamy Glow Drops, which makes my face look so nice! I love moisturisers and have been using the Ole Henriksen Cold Plunge Pore Remedy Moisturiser, which is amazing and works so well on my skin.

Sari is a hair chameleon, here rocking a blunt bob
IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @sarithaiday

My hair is coarse, thick, curly and frizzy. It used to be very long and I would straighten it all the time, which would take hours. Then I went blonde, and when I grew tired of that I cut it short and got rid of all the damaged bits and have been growing it out ever since.

These days, I’m not one to usually get my hair done, but when I was living in Brisbane I went to Little House of Hair, which was absolutely amazing. She was able to take my brown hair to blonde which was such a difficult job, and I loved how it looked. The best thing about it is that she knew how to work with ethnic hair that was naturally curly or kinky or course, and did such an amazing job.

Glowing skin complements any bold makeup look
IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @sarithaiday

Growing up, we were taught the basics of hair care, which was pretty much just to make sure it was clean by washing it once a day. I didn’t know much about what you could actually do with curly hair, so I would always just tie it back. It wasn’t until I started actively using social media that I learnt about curly hair products.

So far I have not applied any heat to my hair at all since I cut it, and don’t plan on doing so. I’ve been letting my natural hair out and have been using SheaMoisture haircare products on it, especially Curl Enhancing Smoothie, which enhances my curls and makes them so beautiful. I no longer have any desire to straighten it anymore, because my curly hair is way prettier!

Sari calls this vibrant frock “my pretty island dress”
IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @sarithaiday

I have to admit, I do struggle to get out of bed in the mornings! But once I’m up I love to drink a bottle of water straight away and then have breakfast.

I usually start with a banana or maybe a cup of green tea, and I’ll also take my iron tablet, which I do daily to make sure I’m not deficient.  In the afternoons I try to work out, usually by going for a run near the Esplanade, but I’m injured at the moment so I’m just resting.

Relaxing for me is sitting down on my laptop and turning on AnimeLab to watch one of my favourite shows. I just finished Naruto Shepparton and I cried because it was all over! I’ve started Attack on Titan as well as Demon Slayer and some other cute fairytale Anime. I also enjoy sitting down and painting, on paper or on my face; I find that to be therapeutic.  I love doing intricate designs and working on something outside the box, like painting a character on my face.

IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @sarithaiday

I used to be a gymnast, so a lot of my workout routines are based around my old gymnastics workout routines – I have an entire workout based off what I’ve been doing since I was three years old!

A lot of people would find it extremely difficult but I’ve been doing it forever and I enjoy it a lot. A lot of the exercises involve core strength, so things like sit ups, crunches, dish holds, planks, leg raises, bicycles, V snaps and so on. I do it based on whatever my skill level is at the time, and add onto it the stronger I get. I can really see the difference in my body when I’m working at it regularly.

In terms of my diet, I eat a lot, and whatever I feel like! A lot of my meals are home-cooked, made for the family or by the family. We have a lot of island meals and my favourite is sop sop, which is traditionally made in Torres Strait island families. In mine specifically, we make it out of coconut cream, purple sweet potato and pumpkin, and it tastes so good!

Sari has partnered with new period care brand Me. to help make periods less taboo,
and period products more accessible, in Indigenous communities
IMAGE: supplied by Me.

As I got older and started to feel a lot more comfortable with myself, the whole period experience became easier to deal with, even as unfortunately my period symptoms have gotten worse.

I think it became easier to deal with my period over time through trial and error. I was using the wrong products in the wrong sizes, and once I was able to work out that I needed to be using different sizes it was easier to feel like I was in control, even when what is happening to your body is not in your control. What I love about Me. is that they promote talking about periods openly without having to be embarrassed by it. I feel as though if I knew more about periods when I was a teen, and that they weren’t something to be ashamed of, I would have figured out how to deal with them properly sooner.

I don’t know about all the ins and outs of the role race plays in period care, but I do know that periods are a taboo topic in a lot of Indigenous families, and I do know that many Indigenous young people have to stay home from school whenever they get their period, which is generally due to poverty. So race does play a big role in that respect, as many Indigenous communities don’t have access to proper sanitary items. That means that young women have to miss out on things (including their education) by staying at home, because they can’t afford to have products which, instead of basically being a luxury item, should be free.

IMAGE: Instagram @sarithaiday

I don’t mind the idea of ageing. There’d be no more bad period symptoms! And I’m just happy that I understand a fair bit about beauty treatments, so that I can look after myself now for when I get older!

Of course it’s not just about taking care of my appearance. I am already looking after my physical health for when I am older, by focusing on things like my bone and muscle strength now. I feel like I take good care of my body, eating well and exercising, but I have also already seen how important it is to take care of my mental health, too. (And coming back to appearance, I have found that when you’re not feeling right within yourself, it shows on your face.) If I know I need to focus on that side of things, I generally do that by taking breaks when I’m feeling overwhelmed, and making sure I am around family, which helps my happiness.”

IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @sarithaiday

Story by Zoe Briggs. Main image via Instagram @sarithaiday.

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