A Malaysian singer has come under fire over the weekend after featuring an ethnically Chinese woman in brownface in his latest music video.
Choo Hao Ren, also known as Haoren, released the song “White Doll” for a Snowbebe advertisement. Snowbebe is a skin-whitening product sold in various countries across Asia.
The video follows Qiu Wen — a Malaysian Instagram influencer — as she “transforms” her skin after just two months of using Snowbebe.
It did not take long before the now-deleted video blew up online, with countless social media users accusing Haoren of racism.
“Hey Choo Hao Ren! This is racist sh*t, what makes you think this was a good idea for a music video? Do better,” one Twitter user wrote.
Another tweeted, “The only makeup those two are allowed to apply is clown makeup.”
Clown shit that’s what. Also got the synopsis : tanned girl was bullied for her dark skin, guy likes her wants to help her out. Gets her a skin whitening cream(?) she uses it and becomes fair and pretty. I’m going to take a nap I can’t With this
— a naan in this cruel world (@thenaantalks) January 25, 2021
What’s problematic is the fact that
1)they PAINTED her brown. Like wtf. That’s wrong on so many levels. It’s brown face. And the video shows her trying to ERASE her skin with an eraser???
2) they’re essentially equating white skin = beautiful.
— kanjiro1922 (@kanjiro1922) January 25, 2021
colourism is sooooo normalised in malaysia most people think it’s okay or it’s just a harmless joke, like they genuinely do not understand what people that are trying to educate them are talking about
— sher⁷ ⟭⟬ (@mikrogukk) January 26, 2021
Haoren initially took to Instagram to defend himself. In a comment, he argued that his video had nothing to do with blackface since his aim was to “imitate people who got tanned by the sun of Malaysia.”
The singer added that Qiu Wen’s character was based on the true story of his girlfriend, who “used to walk to school” and became tanned.
“I hope you can all listen to the lyrics deeply and the story of the MV in detail to understand the right way [of interpreting it],” Haoren wrote.
Haoren’s explanation did not sit well among critics. By Tuesday, he posted an apology video on YouTube announcing that he had accepted his critics’ comments with “an open heart.”
In the video, however, he still mentioned that the ad’s intent was to stress the importance of skincare. He also noted that an edited version is underway.
“I wish to emphasise again that I have never intended to touch on racist topics. If I have offended you in any way, I am deeply sorry,” Haoren said, according to the South China Morning Post.
“We all live in a multiracial country, Malaysia. I am still learning every day and it is a continuous journey for me on racism.”
Feature Image Screenshots via Choo Hao Ren