China Social Media Erupts Over A Top Model's Freckles In Surprise Ad

A nation grapples with its views of women's beauty.

China is apparently having an existential crisis over ... freckles ... on social media. The nation is furiously arguing about photos of a top Chinese model after she appeared in a new Zara cosmetics ad without enough makeup to hide her pale dusting of freckles.

Social media users on Weibo — China’s version of Twitter — accused the Spanish company of insulting or “uglifying China” by photographing model Li Jingwen with her freckles clearly visible in the ad, which was released on Friday, reported the South China Morning Post.

“Selling products in China had better respect Chinese people’s aesthetic taste,” wrote one annoyed Weibo user. “I don’t understand why Zara showed this face with a lot of freckles.”

Weibo comment concerning Zara ad featuring model Jing Wen and her freckles.
Weibo comment concerning Zara ad featuring model Jing Wen and her freckles.

Others stood up for Zara — and the beauty of 25-year-old Li, who is known professionally as Jing Wen — with her freckles visible.

“Numerous international fashion powerhouses never reject models with freckles. According to Western mainstream beauty standards, the public is even fond of faces with some freckles,” said an editorial in China Youth Daily, the Post reported. “Those criticizing the model’s appearance are truly smearing their own Chinese folk.”

The “aesthetics of the Spanish people are different,” a Zara representative said in response to the controversy, the BBC reported. “Our models are all photographed purely, the pictures aren’t changed, and they’re not modified. She has always looked like this. Her face has not been photoshopped, she was photographed naturally.”

Jing Wen, who is from the southern city of Guangzhou, has not responded to the controversy. But in an interview with Vogue in 2016, she said she “really hated” her freckles when she was a young girl because “normally Asian people don’t have them.” She said she finally grew to accept them. “It’s okay. I like them, and that’s enough,” she told Vogue.