We all know that Vogue Magazine is way passé and increasingly involved in propagating the septic intersectional gender narrative that makes us all hurl. But Chinese netizens are levelling accusations of racism against the tired rag for featuring a muse who looks “too odd and stereotypical.”
Her name is Gao Qizhen (she goes by ‘Tin’), a Chinese national and Shanghai transplant studying at the lofty London College of Fashion (LCF) who models on the side when she’s not ginning up textiles. She just landed a feature spread in Vogue World and now beauty buffs in the Middle Kingdom are grossed out and offended. “But at least she doesn’t have freckles?” they say on WeChat.
On Vogue’s Insta page, the editors posted an image of the newly minted glam girl, characterizing her as having a “singular appeal” and describing how she was discovered munching in LCF’s cafeteria by the ‘iconoclastic’ Anti-Agency. “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,” Tin said in the post.
However, rather than challenging norms and interrogating orthodoxy, many Chinese netizens (and trolls) have accused Vogue of reinforcing “western” stereotypes by featuring Tin’s unconventional face, which they rudely describe as “ugly”, “strange” and “freaky.” Conformity, unfortunately, is an intrinsic feature of Chinese culture — a stuffy, normcore groupthink reinforced by Confucian traditions, Third World bumpkin beliefs and government (Communist) censorship. Yuk.
“When fashion agencies want to present Western beauty, they choose someone with traditional features, but when they want Asian beauty, they go with someone who looks the most exotic,” reads one critique of Vogue. A handful of netizens, however, said they “don’t mind Tin’s odd appearance and eccentric features.”
The controversy comes in the wake of last month’s Zara editorial/advert that featured a similar “offbeat” model (the lovely Li Jingwen 李静雯 — doinngggg — below), a muse many mainland Chinese characterize as “being out of kilter with classical Chinese beauty standards.” Zara was even accused of “uglifying Chinese fashion” (LoL!) because of the model’s freckled face “who has been overly embraced by western fashion media.” Please. As if China has any style, taste or avant-garde originality of its own (besides Chen Man, Ground-Zero, ShuShu/Tong and a rare few others). Chatterbox Chinese should be grateful that American Vogue is pushing aesthetic boundaries and showing that beauty is only skin deep.
Tin Gao and Vogue (yep, vapid Vogue!) should be commended for pushing nonconformist/alt beauty and leading the charge against yokel local Chinese and their artless taste.
Photos Milly Cope + James Perolls + Li Jingwen + Zara + Vogue
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