Vogue and Zara, Frecklegate and 'beauty' in China, explained | Video | SupChina

Vogue and Zara, Frecklegate and ‘beauty’ in China, explained

Last month, after Zara posted photos of model Li Jingwen 李静雯 (who models under the name Jing Wen) to its Sina Weibo page, Chinese social media users howled with outrage, then vigorously debated Jing Wen’s appearance in Zara’s latest marketing campaign for a cosmetics line. The reason? Because of her freckles.

“After seeing this ad I have decided I will not buy any products from Zara,” Weibo user Moshiwuchang said, as quoted on CNN, “not because I think the model is ugly, but because you are discriminating Asians’ view of beauty.”

But that controversy would be nothing compared to the backlash against Vogue model Gao Qizhen 高其蓁, whose appearance on an Instagram post triggered accusations, from Chinese internet users, of the brand “exoticizing” Asian models. One user wrote, as reported by Radii, “You’re giving people a weird idea of what Chinese people look like.”

What triggered these reactions? Watch the above video to find out, and learn how some pushed back against the initial surge of negativity toward Zara and Vogue.

Victor Zheng

Victor Zheng is a Chinese-American who grew up Virginia. In China, he has acted in web series, produced videos, and appeared on reality shows. He hopes to use his experiences and media influence to strengthen mutual understanding between China and the rest of the world, whether that be through conversations at the gym or by dancing on Chinese television. Victor currently resides in Beijing.


  1. huthuthike3 Reply

    the selection of these models is a very strange decision. I have yet to see White actress selected in Hollywood movies that are considered not good looking or outright ugly by the White audience, or Victoria Secret using what’s commonly considered ugly models.

    Beauty is subjective, and there are plenty of ugly girls out there, rated by each culture. I would love to see a White Western girl who is considered fat and ugly unattractive by her own culture, say with flat breast and no ass, to become fashion model. Would that be a PR disaster for the likes of Vogue and Zara? Or the negative marketing will actually work?

    It seems these firms, Vogue and Zara, had chosen a strange angle, to ask Chinese consumers fight against Asian models of their selection, so that Vogue and Zara can trigger a strong negative response for marketing. It is sneaky and evil, because it is not intended to become a commercial success. They just try to insult.

  2. Ben Reply

    Huthuthike3, there are tons of Western models that are “ugly”, or that challenge the Western notions of beauty. Just because you haven’t seen them doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Just look at the recent Cosmopolitan cover with plus-size model Tess Holliday, who is white. Did Cosmopolitan want to insult Westerners? Of course not, they wanted to show that there is more than one standard of beauty. So of course Zara didn’t mean to insult Chinese people…*shaking my head*

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