Daily Drip

Vogue Model’s “Singular” Look Kicks Up Another Chinese Beauty Debate


Another week, another Chinese beauty debate. Yes, another model’s looks have kicked up a beauty debate on the Chinese internet, hot on the high heels of Zara’s frecklesgate incident. Yesterday, Vogue featured London-based Chinese model Gao Qizhen on their Instagram.

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As a model, @qizhen_gao brings a kind of singular appeal. The Shanghai-born textile-design student at the London College of Fashion, wound up in front of the camera by happenstance. “I hadn’t thought about modeling before moving to London,” she says. She was scouted in the campus canteen on her lunch break. One of the photographers who spotted her was assisting at the London-based Anti-Agency (which prides itself on its iconoclastic taste), and it turned out to be the right match. “Anti is a word that applies perhaps as a negative thing in some fields, but in terms of fashion and modeling I think it challenges the norms of beauty and looks." Tap the link in our bio to learn more. Photo by @perolls

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It wasn’t long before comments flooded in on both the original Instagram post and on Chinese social media, especially Weibo.

Many focused Vogue‘s choice of the words “singular beauty”, criticizing the international media outlet for “exoticizing” Asian models while selecting traditionally pretty white models. One user wrote, “You’re giving people a weird idea of what Chinese people look like.”

Others praised Gao’s uniqueness and urged critics to “diversify their aesthetics,” blaming narrow ideas of beauty enforced by beauty apps and influencers.

This controversy lands two weeks after freckled supermodel Liu Jingwen was lambasted (and then praised) for her look in Zara’s latest makeup campaign.


Chinese Model’s Freckled Face Divides Netizens

If there’s one clear takeaway from these debates, it’s that beauty, aesthetics and representation all matter greatly in modern China. Judging from the online pushback, a shift away from unified ideas of beauty might also already be under way.

Cover photo: Vogue on Instagram

Mayura Jain
    Mayura Jain is a Shanghai-based writer, editor, illustrator and designer originally from Los Angeles. Before joining RADII, she worked for lifestyle magazine City Weekend and Sixth Tone as editor and graphic designer. In her spare time she frequents art exhibitions, fosters cats, and chows on unhealthy vegetarian food.