By Lesley Hobbs


Elise Hu is a Los Angeles-based journalist, podcaster and author. Between 2015 and 2018 she was the first Seoul Bureau Chief of broadcast media group NPR. In May 2023, she published her first book, Flawless: Lessons in Looks and Culture from the K-Beauty Capital, which took a deep but accessible dive into the South Korean beauty industry. Elise then spent a whirlwind six months travelling the USA attending book signings, author events and speaking engagements.

WiPS had the honour of hosting Elise’s first international book event (sold-out!) at the FCC on 23 December 2023. We owe a debt of gratitude to long-standing WiPS member and award-winning author Dr Stephanie Han for connecting Elise with WiPS in early November. Stephanie somehow knew that Elise and WiPS would make in-person event magic happen despite the short lead time. The last Saturday before Christmas was Elise’s only available date during a 72-hour whistlestop tour of Hong Kong. Bookazine ensured that a carton of Elise’s books cleared Hong Kong customs well before the event, and Elise herself arrived in the Hughes Room just in time for the first course and in interview-ready mode.

Lookism, Hallyu, the technological gaze and skull reshaping were just some of the concepts that Elise’s audience got to digest along with the cheesecake. Isn’t photoshopping your ID card considered illegal? Apparently not because we should all want to eliminate freckles even for government-issued documents.

Elise emphasizes that her book is as much about technology as about beauty. And not just female beauty. K-Beauty’s rules may be at the extreme and unforgiving end of the vanity scale, but social media platforms and AI tools are having a huge impact on all aspects of our lives, and we are all guilty of self-policing and narcissistic behaviour when it comes to our “appearance”.