Beauty standards

Freckled fashion model sparks outrage on Chinese social media

Li Jingwen in an ad for Zara. (Zara/Twitter)

Images of Chinese model Li Jingwen, 25, proudly showing off her freckles in a new ad campaign for Spanish retailer Zara have sparked a backlash on Chinese social media. Using the hashtag “#InsultToChina,” online users denounced the photos as a betrayal of Chinese ethnicity and suggested that Zara was trying to impose Western beauty standards on Asian women.

“Why are freckled faces misconstrued as high fashion?” wrote one user.

“The West’s beauty standards for Asians [are] very different from ours,” added another. “For those women to be called the most beautiful in Asia feels like discrimination to the rest of us.”

In China, freckles are sometimes disparaged as “sparrow marks” and rarely seen on models. And while Western brands have their own deserved reputation for whitewashing, supporters of the Li argued it was unfair to condemn her or the retailer for showcasing her natural face. Stigma against freckles, her defenders said, pushed many women to “fix” their faces with cosmetic surgery.

“I feel it’s not the brand discriminating against Asian women, but people discriminating against people with freckles,” wrote one online commenter.

In a 2016 interview with Vogue, Li admitted that for years she had been self-conscious about her freckles.

“When I was little, I really hated them because normally Asians don’t have them. In high school, I always tried to cover them, but now it’s okay. I like them, and that’s enough.”

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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