The model in the incident Li Jingwen. (Photo from Zara's website)
The costume and cosmetics brand Zara was recently in trouble because one of its advertisements, in which a female Chinese model appeared, was blamed for "defaming the Chinese".
The troublemaking advertisement was released on Friday on Zara's official website. Titled "Beauty is here", it stars a Chinese woman wearing the brand's clothes and aims to introduce new cosmetics.
Yet, after Zara shared it on Sina Weibo, China's equivalent to Twitter, in some of the comments it was noted that the model had freckles on her face, suggesting that by selecting her as the model, Zara might mean to "defame the Chinese", because a perfect face should be without any freckles. Some also added that the model in the photo didn't appear to be in a good, energetic mood.
"Does Zara mean all Asian girls have freckles on their faces?" Went one of the hottest comments on the Zara release.
"Cannot believe they pick a freckled face on behalf of Asian females," said another. Some of the comments, deleted very soon after being posted, even guessed Zara might mean to "insult" China, as the Italian brand D&G did in November.
Yet the majority of the comments said they don't think Zara means any harm. "It is OK for anyone to have a freckled face, so why cannot a model?" was another one of the hottest comments.
On Saturday, Zara responded that it meant no harm. The company said photos of the model were taken in an all-natural way without any software manipulation, and the reactions might just be differences in aesthetics.
By Sunday evening, the hashtag #Zara responds about the Chinese model advertisement# had already been read 460 million times on Sina Weibo, making it one of the hottest of the day.
It might be understandable that those who complain about Zara's new advertisement might do so to prevent the nation's image from being hurt. However, their deeds show over-sensitivity and a lack of cultural confidence. It shows they are so afraid of being hurt that they tend to take a defense gesture against any move they do not understand.
Cultural confidence is just being promoted by the leadership of this country, and tolerance is an essential part of it. Only when we learn to tolerate each other in terms of aesthetic, will cultural confidence be owned by everyone.
Besides, the model in the incident, Li Jingwen, is famous, having worked professionally for a long time. To those who are unsatisfied with her freckled face, that might be hurtful to her, too, although they might not mean any harm. Let's hope tolerance can be promoted so that similar misunderstandings do not happen again.