Zara unwittingly kicked up a beauty debate on Weibo this week with their new makeup campaign. The reason? Freckles.
Chinese model Li Jingwen is the star of these Alicia Keys-esque images — that is, with minimal makeup (aside from the featured lipstick) and reportedly without any retouching.
The debate unfolded when commenters slammed the images on social media, saying they made her look “low-grade” compared to her white counterparts.
One commenter called the freckles “dirty-looking” and said that the accompanying “models with no freckles” were much more beautiful:
A few pointed to Zara’s response that their Spanish team directed the campaign, claiming that such international selectors have different aesthetics that aren’t in line with Chinese standards of beauty.
However, many more defended Zara’s decision, saying the model “slayed” and dared others to try and compare themselves to Li. Some in turn jumped at the chance to criticize Chinese beauty standards:
This recently re-upped comment reads: “Western vs Chinese makeup ideas: enhance your unique beauty vs. cover it up.” Another Weibo user offered this amusing recreation, saying “This is what the picture would look like according to ‘Chinese people’s aesthetics.'”
Still more lamented the influence of plastic surgery and wanghong — China’s answer to the influencer — culture, and how these have ruined China’s perceptions of beauty.
The Beauty of Imperfection: An Interview with Photographer Shen Siyuan
In China, beauty has been traditionally rigid and ethnically Han-dominated. Shaped by online influencers and “beauty apps” such as Meitu and Meipai, qualities such as pale complexions, thinness, narrow features and flawless skin are common hallmarks of what is considered “beautiful.”
Things seem to be changing, however, as indicated by the success of idols such as “China’s Beyoncé” Wang Ju, who despite her elimination from singing competition Produce 101, gained a massive following (and a Lancôme spokesperson contract) for her unique look in the process. Seeing as even Meitu has begun naturalizing their signature effects to keep up with changing beauty trends, it’s likely we’ll see more fresh-faced Chinese models in the months to come.
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