Vogue Model’s “Singular” Look Kicks Up Another Chinese Beauty Debate

An Instagram post from fashion bible Vogue has sparked another debate regarding Chinese beauty and the Western gaze among netizens

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10:15 PM HKT, Mon March 4, 2019

Another week, another Chinese beauty debate. Yes, another model’s looks have kicked up a beauty debate on the Chinese internet, hot on the high heels of Zara’s frecklesgate incident. Yesterday, Vogue featured London-based Chinese model Gao Qizhen on their Instagram.

It wasn’t long before comments flooded in on both the original Instagram post and on Chinese social media, especially Weibo.

Many focused Vogue‘s choice of the words “singular beauty”, criticizing the international media outlet for “exoticizing” Asian models while selecting traditionally pretty white models. One user wrote, “You’re giving people a weird idea of what Chinese people look like.”

Others praised Gao’s uniqueness and urged critics to “diversify their aesthetics,” blaming narrow ideas of beauty enforced by beauty apps and influencers.

This controversy lands two weeks after freckled supermodel Liu Jingwen was lambasted (and then praised) for her look in Zara’s latest makeup campaign.


If there’s one clear takeaway from these debates, it’s that beauty, aesthetics and representation all matter greatly in modern China. Judging from the online pushback, a shift away from unified ideas of beauty might also already be under way.

Cover photo: Vogue on Instagram

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