While international brands have long been using Caucasian models to market their fashion goods to China, local labels seemed to have found a “middle ground” in hiring Uyghur models to promote their products.
Mandarin-speaking members of the majorly Muslim ethnic minority group from China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is now filling up the local industry’s demand for models who possess a “half-Asian, half-European” look.
“Not to brag, but we are very good-looking,” Abdukerimabliz was quoted as saying. “Our facial features are naturally attractive. We’ve got great eyebrows, big, beautiful eyes and double eyelids that weren’t created by a surgeon.”
Fun Models CEO Max Liu noted that such demand can be attributed to how local brands adapted to Chinese consumer trends a couple of decades ago when all popular foreign brands used models with Western features.
“There were fewer local brands in China back then,” Liu explained. “All the famous brands were international, and they all used Caucasian models. As China has developed, local brands now want a local image, but not too local. So they’ve turned to models who have half-Asian, half-European looks for their brand identity.”
Liu added that since Uyghur models are Chinese and they speak Mandarin, agencies find it easier to work with them than hiring foreign ones.
This is reportedly the reason why every year there is a 10% increase in the number of Uyghur models in China.
“With their looks, they can easily flow through cultures,” says Liu. “They can play multiple roles. If you need to cast a foreigner in a movie, they can do that while speaking flawless Chinese. They’re incredibly versatile.”
According to model Parwena Dulkun, she has been receiving so many job offers that she is forced to turn down some of them. She shared that modeling has taken her to different parts of the globe.
“I was in the States recently and after that, I went to Europe — I was in Italy, France, and Switzerland — and then I had a job in Hong Kong,” Dulkun revealed.
She says her features often get her mistaken for a different race anywhere she goes, even in her own country.
“In many Chinese cities, people think I’m a foreigner,” Dulkun revealed. “They try to speak English to me, and I answer in Mandarin. Cab drivers always turn around and ask me what country I’m from.” She says she proudly responds that she’s actually Chinese with a smile.
Dulkun reveals that even in Western countries, people still get confused about her race. “In France, people spoke to me in French, thinking I was French. In Italy, they spoke Italian to me. The immigration officer in Europe wouldn’t stamp my Chinese passport at first because he didn’t believe I was from China.”
Uyghurs breaking out in the local fashion industry hopefully helps to open doors to more opportunities for the rest of the members of the indigenous group which has had a long history of discord with the Chinese central government. In recent years, activists have accused the government of creating policies that have gradually curtailed the Uyghurs’ religious, commercial and cultural activities.