Zara is being accused by Chinese netizens of “uglifying” China for using photographs of freckled Chinese model, Li Jingwen, without heavy photoshop or makeup.
When the Spanish fashion retailer posted photos of the model for a lipstick commercial on their Weibo account, Chinese netizens criticized the company for picturing Jing Wen with clearly visible freckles, suggesting that selecting the model could have been an attempt to “defame the Chinese”.
Other netizens also took issue with the model’s facial expression which they believe showed her in a “bad mood”.
“Such pictures featuring an Asian model with freckles and an expressionless pie-shaped face mislead Westerners’ impressions about Asian women, and can lead to racism against Asian women,” one user wrote.
“Does it mean that us Asian women all have dull eyes and have faces fully covered by freckles?” said another.
Many female Chinese netizens believed that they were being negatively portrayed and generalized by a foreign retailer and pointed out that most Chinese women do not have freckles.
One person wrote, “you spent such an effort finding a model with freckles, just like searching for a needle in the sea. How hard you’ve been working on this!”
“Selling products in China had better respect Chinese people’s aesthetic taste. I don’t understand why Zara showed this face with a lot of freckles?”
While many women in western countries find freckles to be a desirable trait — often drawing on fake freckles using eyeliner or even getting temporary tattoos to mimic the look — China and other East Asian countries have a history of preferring fair, unblemished skin.
Jing Wen, who is often considered to be one of the top models from China, has admitted to struggling with her freckles in the past. In a 2016 interview with Vogue, she told the magazine, “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.”
Eventually, a spokesperson for Zara responded to the backlash by supporting the advertisement, explaining that there were no intentions of making the model appear ugly by leaving her natural freckles untouched. The company stated that their photos of the models were taken without digital manipulation, in a natural way.
Since the initial backlash, other netizens have commented in support of the model, criticizing other netizens of being overly sensitive and being unable to embrace other forms of physical beauty.
Some Weibo users believed this wave of criticism over a model’s natural freckles was a result of being too paranoid after the recent scandal surrounding Dolce & Gabbana.
One person wrote, “The people saying Zara is insulting China are overreacting and they are probably paranoid about being persecuted in the aftermath of D&G incident. They should be more confident with their own country.”
View this post on Instagram
Several other netizens chimed in to show their support for Jing Wen and Zara’s advertisement:
“I think this model looks not bad. She has a kind of beauty of confidence.”
“I think Li Jingwen’s image is much better than those pale, glossy and perfect faces that have been processed by photo software.”