Diane Yoo, the 2008 Miss Asia USA winner and now a successful venture capitalist, compares the beauty pageant to the dark success of Korea. Squid Game. He says the tireless work ethic and confidence needed to win global competitions are just as effective as steel in the world of men in a competitive world of venture capital.
Diana’s inspiration is her father, who spoke little English but worked day and night with a Korean immigrant to help his family. A family of four lived in a one-bedroom apartment and had to rely on an unreliable car, which taught Diane two lessons in her youth. Firstly, nothing comes of it without working for it, and secondly, to underestimate what he could have achieved if he had done more work than competition.
We asked Diane Yoo about the links between winning beauty contests and winning in business.
Competing in beauty pageants is not what most people consider the beginning of a business career. What did you learn from competing in competitions that you continue to be important as a business woman?
Diane Yoo: Competing in beauty pageants found a self-realization that worked with the mentality of an entrepreneur. Pure competition, independent and self-initiated, the competition further fueled my appetite as I traveled to compete globally. Like Squid Games, graduates are sent to compete with completely new groups of people in hopes of winning the big one. Dealing with the beauty cream of the crop in many countries and regions, my inner self became an expert fighter, and at any moment he quickly overcame it. Ironically, she is not the most beautiful person to win beauty pageants. It’s a tremendous ability to win people under the façade of bright lights. It’s more like portraying the mentality of a champion and you’ve already conquered the competition. In this way the judges quickly sift through the owners of the most talented beauties in the industry.
Also, in business, you need to learn to be fast, pivot and innovate. No matter how lonely you are at the top, you are constantly learning how to survive and then grow. For more than a decade, I practiced my skills by repeatedly engaging with the world’s beauty elites, while skillfully absorbing cultural differences. These powerful women did not win by chance or beauty, they were professional killers.
The world of beauty competition is exciting and extraordinary, full of wonderful and beautiful women perfected to compete in life and beauty. Just as some women use it as a platform to take the next step in life or career, I gave it the juice to grow a stronger industry. As a business woman, I used soft skills, EQ intelligence, quickly practiced on my competitors, mesmerized my charm with dizziness to influence key decision makers, and eventually close the deal or, in the world of beauty, tighten the title of winner.
Any person, given the choice, would choose to look good rather than ordinary, but is there a stigma attached to beauty for women?
Diane Yoo: Yes. There is a stigma with beautiful and beautiful women. It is an unsafe or, unfortunately, unspoken bias derived from a place of judgment. More unhappy, some women believe they need to be more conservative or underestimate beauty in order to be accepted. This stigma transcends identities, countries, and genders. Even among women, some have such insecurity that others are demolished based on their external appearance. Women like that don’t like it if others are more beautiful than them. It reduces their insecurity.
On the other hand, beauty can be used for our success. A prime example is growth rates models on Instagram. In today’s virtual society, we have a new genre of “digital entrepreneur”. Since some of the fastest growing Instagram accounts are models, their accounts have the potential to make money in an empire.
What skills did you gain in the competition, and what did you learn about the fashion industry that you can apply for as a VC?
Diane Yoo: To accurately understand your industry, move quickly and strategically to achieve your ultimate goal. Never lose sight of what you want, after all, you are responsible for driving your success.
In face painting and modeling, a thick skin is needed to survive. They tell you that your nose is too big, that you are too thick, that your walk is naughty; the feedback is endless. Also, when investing in venture capital, you need to hear hundreds of “no’s” before you receive a “yes”. In both cases, ask (yourself) again and again if you are cut off from rejection.
What challenges did you face in moving from being a beauty queen to a business woman?
Diane Yoo: I didn’t see this as a transition. Beauty was not my driving mentality. I used my soft skills, intelligence, intelligence, and leadership to maneuver through the male-dominated world of business and finance.
What motivated you to move from fashion to venture capital?
Diane Yoo: It’s not a fashion issue. Who you are at the core. I identify as an entrepreneur and come from a strong lineage of entrepreneurs. I saw first hand what hard work it was. My father was an immigrant. He spoke little English and did three rounds of juggling to survive and provide for his family. There were days when our car didn’t work while we lived in a one-bedroom apartment for four people. My father’s work ethic was what I wanted when I was young and I knew life wasn’t given to me. When I was a kid, it sparked the effort of walking around the neighborhood at dawn before we left for work.
I became an entrepreneur more than a decade ago and applied the same nature of work ethic, competitiveness, and sharply learned the nuances of the business industry. Fundraising as a woman and a person of color, there can be unspoken biases, such as: “Can this woman really build a billion-dollar empire?” Shortly after graduating with an MBA from Rice University, I immersed myself in the world of finance. I learned to myself about fund operations, investing, and being an asset manager. Time and time again, I saw her work from the bottom up as an entrepreneur, to rise higher, as I did in the days of my competition, to become the top 1% in the nation as a founder of Asian women’s funds.