‘Asian Eyes’ Are More Common Than You Think


The stereotypical Asian eye – the ones that
are small, slanted and often with a monolid. These can only be seen in Asians. (Wrong!) Ok, not exactly true. Just like how there are Asian people who have
larger, non-squinty eyes there also exist white people or black people
who do have these squinty Asiatic eyes. But just how common is it among non-Asian
people, and why do they even have it? In this video, I’ll get into the different countries
and ethnic groups from all over the world that you may not expect to have
this characteristic as well as examples from some well-known faces. First, let’s start at ground zero. Let’s start in East Asia where these stereotypical
Asian eyes are at its highest frequency. A big reason why these eyes appear this way,
is due to a skin fold, on the edge of the upper eyelid that extends
to the inner corner of the eye. This is called the epicanthic fold. Up to 90% of East Asians have this to
varying degrees, but for non-Asians this occurs only 2 to 5% of the time. It is these individuals who are often cited
as having ‘Asian-looking eyes’ despite not being Asian at all. By the way, having epicanthic folds doesn’t
necessarily mean you have a monolid. Actually I’ve already covered all this in
a previous video where I break down the different characteristics of Asian eyes. If you want to check that out, the link is
in the description below. Now, along with the epicanthic fold, individuals
may also have flatter nose bridges, minimal brow ridges, and wider cheekbones. Some may not have all of these traits,
or not to the same degree, but they tend to reinforce each other visually,
to create that distinctive East Asian look whether you’re Asian or not. As you get further away from East Asia, naturally
these characteristics are less common. Which is why it may be surprising when so
called ‘Asian eyes’ pop up far away in unexpected populations. We’ll divide these instances into five very
different groups with each one being more unexpected
than the last. Starting with the first one, we have the Polynesians. Polynesia is a subregion of Oceania made up
of over 1,000 islands scattered over the central and
southern Pacific Ocean. The indigenous people who inhabit these islands
are called Polynesians. So that includes the native people of Samoa,
Tonga, French Polynesia, Hawaii, New Zealand, and more. Here are examples of Polynesians who exhibit
some form of East Asiatic eyes. Not all Polynesians have these eyes,
but given the distance from East Asia they do pop up more frequently
than some might expect. Even The Rock, who is only half Samoan,
has a faint epicanthic fold. Now you might be thinking it’s not particularly
surprising that some Polynesians have this, seeing as thousands of years ago, the then
uninhabited Polynesian islands were settled by seafarers who originated
from East Asia, but… You would expect the further away you get
from East Asia, the less common it would be. This is the route they took starting from
Southwestern China about 8,000 years ago. Heading over to Taiwan first – this is where
the Taiwanese aboriginals came from They made there way to the Philippines, Eastern
Indonesia, through Melanesia, and finally Polynesia. This all took place over thousands of years. What seems odd is this. Polynesians have a much higher frequency of
these eyes, than Melanesians even though they passed through that region
on their way to Polynesia. This is confirmed by DNA analysis, with Polynesians
having a strong genetic link to East Asians, but not much at all with Melanesians. Turns out, most Melanesian people, just like
the Aboriginals of Australia came to the region much earlier, through a
very different human migratory route and have therefore evolved quite distinctively
from East Asians and Polynesians. Add to that the Polynesian ancestors that
passed through Melanesia did so fairly quick, with only limited contact with the natives. Now, onto the next group of people.
We have the Indigenous Americans. These are the pre-Columbian peoples
of the Americas. North, Central and South America. Aside from East and Southeast Asians,
it is the Indigenous Americans who have the highest frequency
of epicanthic folds in the world. The reason for this goes back 20,000 years ago,
during the last ice age or I’ll say the last glacial maximum. The sea levels were a lot lower, resulting in
a land bridge spanning the Bering Strait that connected Northeast Asia with
Northwest North America. This allowed people from Siberia to cross
over to Alaska; then eventually Canada and beyond. These are the ancestors of today’s indigenous people
and are the reason for any shared characteristics. It does seem as though the further North you
go, the more likely it is for the native populations and tribes to have these Asiatic features. And this is connected to the fact that this
wasn’t the only migration wave from Asia. There was a second more recent wave, which
resulted in the ancestors of today’s Inuit people as well as several other North American
indigenous groups. Today, they live primarily in the Arctic regions
of Alaska, Canada and Greenland. Since these communities came later on having spent more time adapting biologically
to East Asian conditions before crossing over to the Americas they tend to end up looking more East Asian
than their southern counterparts. Ok, now let’s talk about white people. The next one is Eastern Europeans. The typical European eye tends to be larger,
more horizontal or even downturned and with multiple lids. With no epicanthic fold, the inner corner
of the eye is fully exposed this is generally hidden for individuals with
heavy epicanthic folds. It’s perhaps not too surprising that there
are people from countries or regions like Western Russia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland,
Ukraine, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria that can have more Asiatic features,
due to the proximity to Asia. These Eastern European nations have historically
been in contact with various Central and East Asian peoples
through war and conquest. Likewise, you can find many people from Western Asia,
and actually Northern and Central Asia as well looking like this, this or this. In the 13th century, there was a huge influx of East
Asian DNA into Europe in the form of the Mongol Army. In fact, Genghis Khan – actually pronounced
Chingis Khan founder and great ruler of the Mongol Empire is considered to be one of the most prolific men
in human history, with over 16 million individuals worldwide
being able to claim a genetic link to his line That’s 0.5% of the world’s male population. So perhaps the next unexpected group can also
be largely explained by the Mongol invasions. Or can it? This is the one that most people have been
asking me about, the Northern Europeans. You might have noticed East Asian eyes – or
some variant of it – popping up in places like Norway, Sweden, Finland and Northwest Russia. People in Ireland and Scotland have also been
found to have these traits. Actually we can broadly say once again,
that the further North you go, the more Asiatic the eyes can get. Certainly down south near the Mediterranean
they appear much larger. Although just to be clear I’m not claiming
that it is rampant in Northern Europe. Over there, it’s still often considered quite unique
and distinctive, though depending on the region. There are many professional Scandinavian models with
this combination of classic Northern European traits with Asiatic eyes. There are also well-known celebrities like
Emma Stone, Michelle Williams and Renee Zellweger all with nordic ancestry. Although it’s quite sad to see Renee Zellweger
rid herself of those distinctive eyes in favour of the more traditional European set. Personally, I thought she looked much better
before, but anyway. You may have noticed that some of the last few
examples differ from the classic epicanthic fold look. Their eyes appear more hooded, with a somewhat
swollen excess of skin hanging from areas closer to the brow. I know the way I just described that didn’t
sound all that attractive, but far from it, they can look very appealing. These are called ‘hooded eyes’, and while they
are not so common among East Asian people, they do seem related to epicanthic folds in
a genetic and evolutionary sense, but more on that later. Now back to the Mongol Empire – could this be
the explanation for the Northern European countries? The Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup, C-M217 is
found at high frequencies among Mongolians and many indigenous Far East populations. Here’s a distribution map of the spread of
the C-M217. Here, we can see how it’s very-well possible
for people from Eastern European countries to exhibit these features – to have this sort
of genetic variance. By the way this right here, is somewhat typical
of eastern European populations. That approximate 2% for Northeast Asian DNA
is enough to result in the occasional epicanthic folds. But this spread does not explain what we see
in the Northern European countries where Northeast Asian DNA is actually higher than 2%. Take Finland for example. At 7%, Finns have the highest percentage of
East Asian genes of any European population. Interestingly enough, they also have the highest
percentage of blonde-haired blue eyed individuals. So how did this East Asian DNA get into the
population? Well, it was likely through the reindeer herding
indigenous people of Scandinavia called the Sámi people They have inhabited the Arctic regions of Norway,
Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia for at least 5,000 years. The genetic lineage of the Sámi is quite unique
and shows that they are descended from multiple populations at
various times, including European and Asian ancestry. About 19,000 years ago, their Asian ancestors
migrated in a counter-clockwise path from Southeast Asia, to China and Mongolia. Then about 11,000 years ago they followed the
receding glaciers westerly to Northern Europe as new
land opened up for settlement. This explains what we see in their features today. Moving on to the British Isles. People have noted somewhat Asiatic eyes in
some English, Scottish and especially Irish people. Remember, having these eyes alone won’t always
give that satisfactory East Asian look. It’s often a variety of traits – which I’ve
already mentioned that tend to reinforce each other visually. Most of these examples only have it in the eyes. And some much stronger than others. Now, you’ll see that epicanthic folds are
often paired with hooded lids although they can appear separately as well. Take a look at Jennifer Lawrence who is of
English, Scottish and Irish ancestry. She has the hooded eyes, as well as what looks
to be a faint epicanthic fold. Then there’s JFK – who’s mostly of Irish descent. He has a version of the epicanthic fold that
reaches the outer corner of the eye. This tends to be pretty common for non-Asian epicanthic folds. East Asians have the ones that reach the inner
corner of the eye. There are also reported cases way out in Iceland. Björk is the best example of that. She claims to be 100% Icelandic, but then
look at those heavy epicanthic folds. Unlike the other groups I’ve mentioned, Britain,
Ireland and Iceland are a lot more difficult to explain Certainly there isn’t enough
genetic evidence to conclude one way or another. Some have said though, that the Celtic forefathers
of the region developed the eye folds after mingling with people in parts of Asia
near the Caucasus Mountains before beginning their migration westward. Ireland and Britain’s remote geographical
position in comparison to the rest of Europe meant that the gene-pool thereafter, would
have been less susceptible to change. Or perhaps you can thank the Vikings for it. Maybe these Nordic seafarers – having interbred
with the Sámi people up North brought over this trait, when they established
the Kingdoms in Scotland, and cities such as Belfast and Dublin in Ireland
a thousand years ago. The recorded history of Iceland also began with the
settlement of Viking explorers and their slaves Their activities extended as far Greenland and the North
American coastline, which leads to another theory that Vikings who came in contact with the
Indigenous American tribes like the Inuits, brought their DNA back with them
when they returned home. Ok, so that was Europe and now
onto the final group. Southern Africans. This one’s particularly unexpected because
of the distance from East Asia. Let’s look at Madagascar first. Here, there are the Malagasy People who make
up over 90% of the population. They have a high frequency of epicanthic folds and as you can see here the Northeast and Southeast Asian DNA is of
a significant amount. But how could this be? Remember those ancient East Asians who
crossed over to Taiwan 8000 years ago before making their way to Polynesia? Well, they had related groups that branched
off midway, from Indonesia in a quest to explore the Indian Ocean. Eventually they ended up all the way in Madagascar
by 500AD, and have remained there ever since. Moving on over to the African mainland however,
things aren’t as easily explained. There are the Nilotic people –
indigenous to the Nile Valley living in countries like South Sudan, Uganda,
Kenya and Tanzania. They have been known to exhibit epicanthic
folds but it’s often the Khoisan people in and around the
Kalahari Desert in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana who are the most famous examples of
‘Africans with ‘Asian eyes’. Although perhaps we shouldn’t really say that
since there is in fact no relation to East Asians if we look at their genetic markers. This is unlike any of our previous examples. The Khoisan represent a population historically
– and on many levels – genetically distinct from even other Africans. They possess some of the oldest DNA lineages
out there, and may have been one of the first populations to differentiate from the most recent
common paternal ancestor of all humans today So East Asian DNA isn’t the reason for their eyes. It’s something else. To understand why they still developed these
features, we have to step back back to the evolutionary origins of the
so-called Asian Eye. How did many East Asian people evolve to seemingly
have smaller and slanted eyes in the first place? What caused epicanthic folds? And could this give us insight into how some
Southern Africans with no migratory and genetic connection to
East Asia, developed the same set of traits? I will be answering this in a future video
so make sure you’re subscribed to get that. But if you want to find out what kind of Asian
eyes you have, grab a mirror and click the video on top otherwise click the one below
if you prefer something else. I hope you enjoyed this topic, and if you
have any questions or thoughts let us know down below. Thanks for watching, hit that like button,
and stay tuned for more interesting ‘Asiany’ videos.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes

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