Fashion and Cosmetics Brands Spark Controversy in China with Pride Campaign and Removal of “Whitening” from Skin Care Products
US fashion brand Calvin Klein has introduced a new campaign that features a plus-size, African-American transgender model. This and French cosmetics brand L’oreal Paris’ decision to alter its slogan have both sparked controversy on Chinese social media as many netizens said they felt the move was merely an attempt by the companies to be “politically correct.”
Jari Jones, the first plus-size transgender model to grace a giant billboard in New York in the history of Calvin Klein, has been encircled by public discussion not only in her own country but on Chinese social media. Her multiple identities such as being an African-American and a member of the LGBTQ+ community have become the center of controversy.
Some Chinese netizens said they believe the reason why Calvin Klein chose Jones was to pursue political correctness and pander to trending rights movement such as the Black Lives Matter campaign.
“The model is an African-American and a member of the LGBTQ community. Choosing her was the highest point of political correctness. I think this action will not help and is just a surface effort,” netizen “Minglasipangqi” commented on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo.
Some netizens also questioned why the fashion house didn’t go with a tradition tall and thin model.
“I understand that women have different sizes, but this model is too heavy and is not very healthy, I think. She doesn’t make me want to buy these clothes,” another netizen wrote.
Not all voices have been in opposition to the move. Some netizens said they feel that regardless of the results of the campaign, it is good that the company is taking action to support multicultural values.
“June is Pride month for the LGBTQ+ community and Jones’ identity as a member of the community can present the beauty of diversity to more people by being on the giant billboard at the center of New York,” Peng Yanzi, founder of the LGBT Rights Advocacy of China, told the Global Times on Monday.
Jones’ impact is not only limited to her gender identity, Peng said, adding that her body type can challenge some traditional impressions that might be out of date for women and models, Peng said.
Amid campaigns to protect the legal rights of African-Americans and transgender people in the US, breaking the mold when it comes to choosing models and promoting fashion icons is necessary and helpful, Peng said.
A Calvin Klein fan living in Beijing told the Global Times that she loves the brand even more because of the move.
“I like CK better after reading the news because it is a brand that recognizes the demands of their customers.”
While Calvin Klein has received some voices of support, French cosmetics brand L’oreal Paris has faced almost complete opposition on Chinese social media for changing its slogans and removing words like “whitening” from its products.
“It is too excessive. L’oreal should dye all its skin care products to black, or else white cream is also racist,” Sina Weibo user “Xiaoniaozhendechaojikeai” commented. The hashtag “L’oreal will stop using skin whitening” had received more than 110 million views on Sina Weibo as of Monday afternoon.
“Maybe next time white paper will also be banned.”
After African-American George Floyd was killed by a white police officer in the US in late May, many protests and campaigns against racial discrimination have broken out in the US and other regions around the world. Some companies have faced criticism for promoting skin whitening products from people who feel that these products promote the idea that lighter skin is better, according to a report from the Xinhua News Agency.