Naomi Wang Ju may have already earned the moniker of “China’s Beyonce”, but the breakout pop star actually considers herself more of a “Yangpu Rihanna” (Yangpu being a district in Shanghai) — and RiRi herself seems to have given the stamp of approval.
#WangJu just announced as spokesperson for Fenty Face! ?"I've always believed there are so many different standards for beauty […] These are my body parts, and I love them."#NaomiWang #王菊 pic.twitter.com/ojdm9tSkiN— Trending Weibo (@TrendingWeibo) July 26, 2019
#WangJu just announced as spokesperson for Fenty Face! ?
"I've always believed there are so many different standards for beauty […] These are my body parts, and I love them."#NaomiWang #王菊 pic.twitter.com/ojdm9tSkiN
— Trending Weibo (@TrendingWeibo) July 26, 2019
Wang was selected as a China ambassador and face of Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty brand, and appeared in the cosmetic line’s China-aired #NewGenerationOfBeauty ad campaign. It’s a fitting collaboration, given Wang’s long history of challenging conventional beauty standards.
Since her debut on China’s hit idol-training show, Produce 101, Wang has faced consistent controversy surrounding her appearance. With tanned skin, freckles, and an athletic build, Wang is the antithesis of the “standard” Chinese pop idol. Netizens criticized her weight and skin color, questioning if she was even “suitable” to perform in an idol girl group. One Weibo meme mocked her size and stage presence by speculating she could even overpower Marvel supervillain Thanos.
“China’s Beyoncé” Wang Ju Fails to Make “Produce 101” Cut
But the discourse quickly changed as Wang’s positivity, self-assurance and rejection of convention began to emerge on public television. Sharp-tongued and level-headed, Wang deftly handled early public backlash by embracing the memes, poking fun at the hater comments, and openly acknowledging the gap between herself and traditional concepts of beauty in China.
“I’ve always believed there are so many diff standards for beauty, and I’m tired of being told you’re not skinny enough, and you’re not light enough, and your eyes, your lips, everything… these are my body parts & I love them” #王菊thank you for being such an inspiration ? pic.twitter.com/jHg6RRwRMS— ? (@jiangshens) July 28, 2019
“I’ve always believed there are so many diff standards for beauty, and I’m tired of being told you’re not skinny enough, and you’re not light enough, and your eyes, your lips, everything… these are my body parts & I love them” #王菊
thank you for being such an inspiration ? pic.twitter.com/jHg6RRwRMS
— ? (@jiangshens) July 28, 2019
Although Wang did not make the final cut of Produce 101, her refusal to submit to the rigid pressures of conventional beauty standards captivated the hearts of fans across the board, even inciting vocal support from China’s gay community. Popular LGBTQ publication DanLan wrote “Everything Wang Ju has been through, we gays have been through before.”
Wang’s struggle is relatable, and her resolution in spite of it has made her a role-model for a generation of Chinese youth who are growing progressively critical of the world around them.
“I think I am beautiful. I don’t agree [that] only people with white skin, small faces and thin bodies are beautiful,” Wang said in an interview with the South China Morning Post earlier this year. Her sentiments echo the mission of Fenty Beauty, which was created for the explicit purpose of diversifying the beauty industry, both in terms of cosmetic accessibility for women of color and representation for those not considered ‘conventionally’ beautiful.
In the Fenty ad, surrounded by a diverse array of confident and unapologetic women, Wang looks like she truly fits in. After all, appearances aside, it’s Wang’s ideals that made her a face for a new generation of beauty in China.
Cover photo: Simon Song
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