Pianist Lang Lang shows off pregnant wife’s small waist, angering China’s body positivity movement

Society & Culture

A pregnant woman maintaining a slender figure is not one of the aspects of motherhood that deserves celebration — this is a lesson that world-famous pianist Láng Lǎng 郎朗 has recently learned.

lang lang gina pregnancy
Image from Sina Entertainment

On November 10, the Chinese musician Láng Lǎng 郎朗 and his wife, Gina Alice Redlinger, a fellow pianist and composer, were interviewed by a group of journalists backstage at Alibaba’s Singles Day gala.

Redlinger, who is six months into her pregnancy, was bombarded with questions about her journey toward becoming a mother.

At one point during the interview (in Chinese), Redlinger was asked how she managed to “maintain a slim, beautiful figure while pregnant.” As she turned to the side to show her baby bump, Lang Lang gazed at his wife’s pregnant belly and proudly exclaimed, “Her waistline barely changed!” 

Redlinger laughed, visibly enjoying what she took to be a compliment. “Eating small frequent meals is my secret,” she said.

Almost immediately, people on social media, as well as several news outlets, began praising her for gaining weight only in the belly while keeping her limbs thin. By the end of the night, the hashtag “Lang Lang pregnant Gina’s waist didn’t change” (#郎朗 吉娜怀孕腰没变化#) jumped to the top of trending Weibo topics, attracting more than 4.4 million views. 

“Gina is truly a small waist fairy! I can tell how much Lang Lang loves her just by the way he looks at her,” a Weibo user wrote (in Chinese). “Gina’s beauty is out of this world. I don’t have a baby growing in my body, but my belly is bigger than her when I’ve eaten a lot!!” said (in Chinese) another one.

But as compliments started to pile up, critics voiced concerns that applauding a pregnant woman’s slim body could send a dangerous message to those who are struggling with weight gain during pregnancy and those who have pregnancy body fears. “It’s common for pregnant women to have body image issues as they adjust to a new shape. They should be encouraged to embrace the beautiful changes in body figure, not to be told that a growing waistline is a problem to solve,” a Weibo user stated (in Chinese).

Many internet users also blamed the media for placing an unnecessary focus on celebrities’ pregnant and postpartum bodies, which they argued could convey harmful messages about body weight and shape ideals. “What would be amazing is if entertainment journalists stopped writing about female celebrities’ weight,” a Weibo user said (in Chinese). 

As an increasing number of Chinese women start to feel comfortable in their own skin, 2020 has seen the country’s body acceptance movement going from the fringes of discourse to the mainstream. While traditional beauty standards in Chinese culture still celebrate thinness as an ideal body type for women, those who perpetuate fatphobia and weight stigma are getting called out more and more frequently. Last week, RT-Mart, a major supermarket chain in the country, was forced to apologize after featuring a measurement chart in one of its stores that described women who wear size large as “rotten.”