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How freckles sparked outrage in China: Zara is accused of using an ‘ugly’ model to promote cosmetics

Zara has been accused of ‘uglifying’ China by baring the freckles of a top Chinese model in its latest make-up advertising campaign. 

The Spanish fashion retailer sparked debate after model Li Jingwen, professionally known as Jing Wen, appeared in a lipstick commercial with little make-up and her freckles showing, prompting a backlash among Chinese social media users on Friday. 

Outraged net users blamed the brand for ‘insulting’ and ‘defaming the Chinese’ as it is often considered unattractive for Chinese people to have freckles. For years, clear and, as they see it, ‘unblemished’ skin is the dominant beauty norm in the country. 

Spanish fashion retailer Zara sparked debate after model Li Jingwen, professionally known as Jing Wen, appeared in a lipstick commercial with little make-up and her freckles showing

Outraged social media users blamed the fashion brand for 'insulting' and 'defaming the Chinese' as it is often considered unattractive for Chinese people to have freckles

Outraged social media users blamed the fashion brand for ‘insulting’ and ‘defaming the Chinese’ as it is often considered unattractive for Chinese people to have freckles

‘Does Zara mean to say that all Asian girls have faces fully covered by freckles?’ read one of the comments on the Zara release on Chinese microblogging site Weibo.

‘Sorry, but us Asian girls don’t have freckles. Even if we do, it’s only a small proportion of us,’ wrote another user.  

‘Such pictures featuring an Asian model with freckles and an expressionless pie-shaped face mislead Westerners’ impressions about Asian women and can lead to racism against Asian women,’ one person accused.  

Some even called Li’s appearance ‘ugly’.  

Jing Wen, who is from Guangzhou, southern China, is one of the country's top models and has been featured on the cover of Vogue China and in adverts for Calvin Klein, H&M and Prada

She said in an 2016 interview with Vogue that she used to hate her freckles

Jing Wen, who is from Guangzhou, southern China, is one of the country’s top models and has been featured on the cover of Vogue China and in adverts for Calvin Klein, H&M and Prada. She said in an 2016 interview with Vogue that she used to hate her freckles

For years, clear and 'unblemished' skin is the dominant beauty norm in China (file photo)

For years, clear and ‘unblemished’ skin is the dominant beauty norm in China (file photo)

Others jumped to her defense and called for acceptance of different perceptions natural beauty. 

‘I think she looks beautiful and unique,’ one user said. 

‘Some people are just born with freckles. People are getting offended because they’ve never seen unphotoshopped images of models, leading them to think that all Chinese models have flawless skin,’ another said. 

‘This Chinese model is suffering discrimination from her compatriots – what is going on?’ another user said. 

Some of the comments, deleted soon after being posted, even suggested Zara meant to ‘insult’ China, drawing comparisons to a scandal that involved Italian brand Dolce & Gabbana last year. 

 

Some of the comments, deleted soon after being posted, even suggested Zara meant to 'insult' China, drawing comparisons to a scandal that involved Italian brand Dolce & Gabbana last year

Some of the comments, deleted soon after being posted, even suggested Zara meant to ‘insult’ China, drawing comparisons to a scandal that involved Italian brand Dolce & Gabbana last year

A Zara representative said photos of the model were taken in an all-natural way, without any software manipulation, and the reactions might stem from differences in aesthetics

A Zara representative said photos of the model were taken in an all-natural way, without any software manipulation, and the reactions might stem from differences in aesthetics

The luxury fashion house was forced to cancel a high-profile runway show in Shanghai and apologise to Chinese people after a trio of promotional videos called ‘Eating with Chopsticks’ and derogatory remarks allegedly made by designer Stefano Gabbana were widely condemned as ‘racist’ in November. 

Zara responded on Saturday that it meant no harm, according to video news site Pear. The company representative said photos of the model were taken in an all-natural way, without any software manipulation, and the reactions might stem from differences in aesthetics in different cultures. 

The advertisements were targeted at their global market, not specifically at Chinese consumers, the unnamed representative added. 

Removing freckles is not just a Chinese issue though. In the US and Europe, companies have photoshopped images to give models an appearance of clearer skin. Meghan Markle has previously complained that her freckles have been airbrushed out of photos. 

In Dolce & Gabbana's latest ad campaign video, the Chinese model was seen trying to eat pizza with a pair of chopsticks, which net users deemed racist and disrespectful

In Dolce & Gabbana’s latest ad campaign video, the Chinese model was seen trying to eat pizza with a pair of chopsticks, which net users deemed racist and disrespectful

On Tuesday, the topic page ‘Zara responds about Chinese model advertisement’ had already been read 500 million times on Weibo. 

State-run China Daily said in an editorial on Sunday that while those who complain about Zara’s new advertisement might do so ‘to prevent the nation’s image from being hurt’, they showed ‘over-sensitivity and a lack of cultural confidence’. 

Jing Wen, who is from Guangzhou, southern China, is one of the country’s top models and has been featured on the cover of Vogue China and in adverts for Calvin Klein, H&M and Prada.   

In 2016, Jing Wen said in an interview with Vogue that she used to hate her freckles: ‘At school I always tried to cover them, but now it is okay. I like them and that’s enough.’  

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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