Why Liu Wen Is A Model To Keep An Eye On This Year & Beyond
While the fashion industry is slowly opening its doors a little wider for diversity, it still has a long way to go. That's why Chinese supermodel Liu Wen speaking out about Asian stereotypes recently is so important. With Fashion Month still clocking in at being 68 percent white in terms of model diversity and with cultural appropriation being used as a prop on the runway, the more we talk about diversity and how to stop boxing minorities into stereotypes, the more the fashion industry can change for the better.
Wen — known for being Victoria's Secret's first Asian runway model — recently spoke with New York Magazine about society's understanding of Asian beauty. She told the publication, "I hope that when people see Asian women, they realize we are all different. A lot of time[s] with Caucasian people, they just group us together as Asian... We look Asian, but we still look different."
She added that before she came to New York and began working runways, her aesthetic differences were treated almost as a novelty. But now that there are more Asian models gaining visibility in the field, things are beginning to change.
She told NY Mag, "For example, before, people would put me in red lips because they thought it looked Chinese. But now, they put a lot of red lipstick on Asian models because our skin tone is different than the Caucasian one and they see that it suits us. Asia isn’t just about red."
She is also enjoying the fact that with more Asian women being represented in the fashion industry, the female stereotypes surrounding her identity are also being diminished. In an essay she wrote for Vogue, she explained, "The stereotypes of Asian women as submissive and dainty were fading. Instead, my fellow Asian models and I were more often depicted as adventurous, assertive, career-oriented women who always did our best despite the challenges we faced overseas."
She also pointed out that seeing different types of characteristics in our fashion and beauty imagery more often will take out the "shock value" of non-mainstream-media-approved features, allowing them to be seen as beautiful, too.
She wrote that even in China, her features weren't always accepted, "Growing up in southern China, people in my hometown seldom called me piao liang [beautiful], because my smaller eyes were a far cry from the wide irises of the most beloved television actresses." But seeing different variations of features and looks helps society change its opinion.
This is why she's glad she didn't make any alterations to her look in order to fit standards. As Wen told NY Mag, "I'm really happy I didn't do any surgery. The girls who had single eyelids may have thought before that beauty only had one type of eye shape. But now they see more and more types, so there will be a change."
And a change that would mean the worlds of fashion and beauty open their doors for everyone is a change worth fighting for. I have no doubt that Wen will continue to fight for just that.
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