Nothing addresses my post, A Different Beauty, better than this article in The Washington Post today: “Foreign Models Flock to China, Where Western Beauty is Embraced.”
Even though it may be true, as reps from modeling agencies cite in the article, that Western models may be more professional, or they’re hired to appeal to a brand’s international campaigns, the cultural prejudice involved is revealed in other ways, such as the terms used to signify each, i.e. foreign models are called “yangqi,” or trendy in Mandarin ,whereas Chinese models are called “tuqi,” or countrified. The salaries are almost a third to a half more for Western models than their Chinese counterparts.
But in the end, it’s more about looks than business. The agents admit that “the foreign models have a much more 3-dimensional face,” a more desirable aesthetic. And, they never hire black models — “Western” models mean only white.
This is on the heels of the article from The Los Angeles Times, that Chinese men and women, college grads and white-collars alike, are getting plastic surgery to raise their job prospects in a culture where employers readily admit to hiring for yibiao, or appearance. Job postings list height, weight, and appearance requirements for every kind of job from nursing, technology, and government, to journalism and administration.
The ideal is san ting wu yan, or three equal parts and five eye. Not suprisingly, this ideal is more Caucasian with other ideals including a crease in the eyelids, a straight nose, and fair skin. This even extends to height, where people are undergoing painful surgery to lengthen their bodies with steel pin inserts, a surgery initially used on dwarves. Most of these ideals are directed towards women.
The result is a country’s, an entire ethnicity — or several in China’s case — pushed aside for a Western, Caucasian ideal, genetically unachievable by the indigineous population, such as the musculature wanted for male models that is rare for the body of a Chinese man. What this does to the country’s self-image, especially the younger generations, is yet to be studied.
What can the US and Europe do, or better, why should they do anything? The number one influence on China, as in most nations, is Western television and Hollywood where they never see images of non-white women being held up as beautiful. Given the literal faces of US and Europe are changing, perhaps it’s time Europe and the US caught up with their own countries’ realities.
And time for countries like China, who historically balked at foreign rule and still are stalwart to any Western influences, to apply the same pride in their own people’s appearance.