Asian Beauty and Racism

I’m looking forward to V Magazine’s “Asian Issue,” available May 12. Ten per cent of the proceeds will go to help Japan, so you can feel virtuous while admiring a group of stunning Asian models.

But is it racist to admire Asian Models? Should we view and/or judge them individually? Are we divesting these models of their  individuality when we lump them together as Asian? And what about the fact of their nationality? Korea, Japan, China, etc are different countries with different cultures. I wonder how I’d feel about a “Jewish Issue,” even though I know it’s not the same thing.

I love several Asian models: Shu Pei, Ming Xi, Du Juan, Liu Wen, and Sui He, just to name a few. They are breathtakingly beautiful! I have blogged about beautiful Asian men, and here’s another one, Paolo Roldan.

I am even willing to say that generally speaking, a beautiful Asian face is more compelling to me than a beautiful   “White” face.

Thoughts, complaints or insults?

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43 Responses to Asian Beauty and Racism

  1. Ingrid says:

    I’m just hoping for two things
    1. Even this kind of ghettoised visibility will still accustom people to the idea that ‘model’ can be something other than a blonde teenager.
    2. That foreign success means that these models become as viable in their home country as a symbol of success and sophistication as the aforementioned blonde teenagers.

  2. Laura says:

    I have to agree with you, an Asian face is more Mysterious, alluring, striking (I could go on) to me. I think it has something to do with admiring what you don’t have. I’m a typical cute-faced Australian white girl, so the Asian look is so far from what I am and represent. Hmm.

  3. mimi says:

    i dont know if its “racist” as such… i think those models are beautiful and beauty should be celebrated and embraced. though i wonder if there was a “caucasian”/”white” dedicated issue (and lets face it, all mags pretty much are already without the headline) i wonder if people would freak out over racism.

    SW – unrelated but i would absolutely LOVE your thoughts on this: ….. consumerism gone haywire or “each to their own”?

  4. brooke says:

    Hmm, well, I am one ‘o dem Asians, and I think I won’t be alone in wanting to buy this issue simply to see my “cousins” represent. It feels off to me to see them set in the stereotypical calligraphic backdrop with the red text, even though the Chinese fashion magazines I sometimes peruse do the stereotypical thing all the time. Maybe it’s because the issue is from the perspective of the Western gaze, so I feel like there’s some element of historical exoticism/fetishization going on here.

    But to me of course, it’s better than to see no Asian models at all. And as for the whole nationality thing, considering the “all black” editorials and issues out there featuring black models of all skin tones and countries that no one complains about, there’s no reason to complain here. Doesn’t really matter to me.

    I think I’m treading into dangerous territory here, but I feel that many Asians (myself included) don’t react against racism; rather, they ignore it or don’t care or laugh it off. In fact, we’re oftentimes most critical of ourselves and our looks. For a long time the Asian standard of beauty was (and still is to an extent) large eyes, narrow nose and pale skin — essentially Western features.

    Personal aside: I dunno if I’m alone in thinking this but I’ve always thought that Asian faces are more — I dunno — expressionless (mono-expressioned?) than Western ones? I think that when I look at myself in the mirror, it takes more facial contortion to convey a distinct emotion. Maybe it’s in the dark, relatively thin eyes…

    Anyways, this comment has been all over the place, so my last thought is to hell what I just said, the last picture is incredibly striking!

  5. Cheryl says:

    Wow, he´s Filipino!

  6. Regularstarfish says:

    Mimi: While we eagerly await SW’s comments (and I really can’t wait to read the sarcasm here on this one), let me give a couple of my own. First of all, holy Christ – does one brand even MAKE that much stuff in a season? Secondly, if you scroll down, you’ll see that she’s the most plain jane person on the planet. No personal style, no nothing. Apparently she feels that she needs to spend the equivalent of 10 fully furnished large houses just to look like she is “worth looking at”. And she’s still boring as shit.

    God – I thought the boxes were a joke at first, like props. But then I scrolled!

  7. Lara says:

    It was nice to hear from Brooke! I’m white and my bf of 2.5 years is 1/2 Korean. I also dated a Thai/Cambodian guy in high school. I’m just really attracted to Asian guys I guess. I don’t consider myself racist for being attracted to a certain look. As far as what Brooke was saying about brushing off racism, I can vouch for that too. My bf and his family and Asian friends laugh right along to the stereotypes on TV. They joke on themselves and basically don’t take themselves or the comments seriously at all.

  8. Dexter VanDango says:

    A Jewish issue? As long as we can just look at them and not have to listen to them – I can’t help thinking of Sarah Silverman and Janice from Friends..

  9. tartantreacly says:

    The cynical part of me feels that, donations for Japan aside, this is just another one of the myriad ways the fashion industry is courting the biggest and fastest-growing luxury markets in the world blah blah blah.

    Also, while I don’t think the concept of an “Asian Issue” is racist (I mean, unless it trafficks in tired and ugly stereotypes) and you can bet I’m going to be buying a copy and enjoying all the lovely eye-candy, what I REALLY wish is that there is some super fantastic fashion mag out there that will do an “Asian Issue” in a super fantastic, “F@ck Orientalism!”, playing with the Outsider Narrative kind of way that is both gorgeous to look at and FUNNY (and maybe also a bit mean.)

    Instead, I must content myself with all these fuzzy humanitarian-afterthought issues (“Being Asian/Black/Non-White is almost as Beautiful as being white!”) that strike me as being very retrograde in a 90’s way.

  10. Dru says:

    *snort* and as usual, “Asia” stops at the western borders of China. Wonder what continent I’m from, then.

    Maybe in the end it’s not that big a deal to people like me or Brooke (your blog is one of my favourites), but this is a baby step in the good direction, like people say it’s better to have some Asian faces out there than none at all. Just as long as they keep away from the usual clichéd ways of shooting Asian models, that is. And hearing about this issue actually makes me miss the my own favourite Asian model, the late, lovely Daul Kim – she’d have torn up the scenery and looked fantastic doing it too.

  11. Dru says:

    And yeah, I know it’s all a ploy to appeal to a market that needs Asian money, but I guess the end trumps the motivation here.

  12. Rikki says:

    Sister Wolf,
    I have never commented before, but I visit your blog daily because you write well and intelligently. With regard to your post on Asian beauty and your question on racism, I thought you might be interested by this article if you have not already read it:

  13. patni says:

    India is Asia too.

  14. Alicia says:


    Paolo could GET IT. HARD. and OFTEN.

    What are we talking about?

  15. Angie says:

    Dru – totally agree about Daul. She was my favorite too. RIP.

  16. Liz!! says:

    “I think I’m treading into dangerous territory here, but I feel that many Asians (myself included) don’t react against racism; rather, they ignore it or don’t care or laugh it off.”

    This is true, in my opinion! I was brought up in an Asian household and went to a predominantly Asian school. Although we made jokes about Asian and non-Asian stereotypes, that was the closest we ever got to real discussions on racism. We all lived in relative harmony with hispanics, blacks, whites and there was no major issues. (Of course, that’s just on the surface)

    It was when I went to school in the white-guilt capital of the United States that I witnessed, for the first time, people tearing their hair out about racism. I was appalled that people were offended for me.

  17. Such a difficult one because I’m not Japanese, Korean, Chinese, etc etc My friend across the road is Japanese and her husband is Lithuanian so my view is, like my friend people are people. As much as we try to define ourselves by borders, beliefs, culture ultimately we are all just individual people.

    I do agree with Ingrid’s point and Brooke’s comments were great. It is had for me to not want to say good ref the money but it will be a very small amount and then also I want the diversity of what it offers (even though I won’t be buying V mag in the UK) but I wish and I will keep on wishing that models, male & female were all equal and that ethnic origin was more evenly represented.

  18. Cricket9 says:

    How the hell admiring someone’s beauty can be perceived as “racist”? Honestly, only in America…
    About the girl with purse/Hermes fetish – what does she actually DO with all this stuff? Stares at the tower of orange boxes all day?

  19. Dani says:

    But still, it seems that Asians who are considered the most beautiful in Western society are those that have faces resembling White ones. It’s the same with African-Americans. The most well-known ‘ethnic’ actresses that come to my mind that are considered ‘beautiful’ – Lucy Liu, Halle Berry, etc – do not really have unfamiliar facial features to the Western world. Our society may appear to sometimes be open to differing ideals of beauty but I think the room for just how ‘different’ one can be is still very small. Hell, even in the last picture you posted her hair is covering most of her face! It could be a symbolic statement, but I dunno.

  20. drollgirl says:

    hmmm. speaking as a dumb white chick, i find most looks more appealing than the dumb white chick look.

  21. firefly says:

    It’s your own personal opinion on who you think is more beautiful, etc. The problem begins when people start to discriminate against it or make it into a fetish.

    As an Asian girl, I think that we’re nothing special, just people, like everyone else in the world. I sometimes think it would be easier for me if I were white just so people won’t think of me as “smart and shy and insignificant” and typically “Asian”, and discriminate against me.

  22. Em says:

    I guess I’d have to see how it turns out to really make a judgment, but I’m a little skeptical. For one thing, Asian women seem to be fetishized a lot, so it makes me worry they’ll play up the stereotypes of Asian women (exotic, mysterious, sexually submissive, etc). Also, as Dru pointed out, all the models in that picture appear to be East Asian. If they’re calling it an Asian issue, why aren’t there any Middle Eastern models?

    Ideally, every magazine issue would represent models of various ethnicities and body types. Maybe the Asian/black/plus size issues are a stepping stone to that point. Maybe young Asian women will enjoy seeing people who look like them represented and appreciated for their beauty. It’s hard for me to say because I’m white, so I can open a magazine or turn on the TV and see people with my skin color represented in lots of different ways, not just as a stereotype or token.

  23. Sandra B says:

    I think as long as they’re getting paid or getting laid, objectifying someone for their race is not a problem. Unless it’s some skeevy guy like my boss saying “Huh huh, Asian chicks are totally hott” Eww.

    However, I worked at a kosher assisted living facility and right around April I’d get something I liked to call “Passover Fever”. All those cute young maschgiach that came in to help out got my panties in quite the twist! And so I would actually REALLY love to see the Jewish Issue.

  24. Deanne. says:

    as an Asian person, I don’t think it’s necessarily “racist” if you pay attention to races. Racism has a more negative connotation, along the lines of a criteria by which you discriminate. I’d say it’s more “race conscious,” or rather, just being aware about race. I’d say its relatively harmless for the time being. the real issue is diversity as a whole, not just in having these random issues that celebrate with national-whatever-race. it needs to get to a point where a body is just a body, face is just a face, even a beautiful one.

  25. Andra says:

    It’s a pity just can’t all be happy with what we’ve got.

    But, I guess that’s human nature.

    I was a little blonde kid with short, curly hair. I always yearned for long hair so I could have plaites and a fringe.

    I have never been able to manage either of those things and all my life people have been telling me how much they envy me my hair. I must admit it is easy it is to look after I barely even comb it, just run my fingers through it and I’m done.

    Now I just have grey short hair and I’ve learned to live with that.

    However, I would just about kill to have had Sister Wolf’s hair when I was younger and more impressionable.

    Sometimes there comes a little bit of wisdom with old age, or at least some acceptance of what we have.

  26. Andra says:

    I’m still working on it.

  27. liz says:

    i have to agree with the other commenters..what WERE we talking about? Because I can’t get past Paolo…damn.

  28. sisty says:

    Fetishes in general aren’t necessarily racist, though they are depersonalizing. Same as the fetish for Eastern European bug-faced, praying-mantis-bodied models, or big-boobed Nazi Brazilians, or whatever.

  29. It does feel tokenistic when magazines do this – like Italian Vogue’s ‘black issue’ which featured fashion shoots on black models yet all the ads were still beautiful white girls – because that’s what helps sell products (this is a summary of their words, not mine)

  30. Sister Wolf says:

    drollgirl – Yeah, same here.

    Dru – Agree on Daul Kim.

    Patni – Thanks for pointing that out!

    mimi – God that is some fucked up shit.

  31. Sister Wolf says:

    ALicia – I’m glad your pregnancy hasn’t messed with your sex drive.

  32. Alicia says:

    Not at all, Sis. Not at all.

    *scrolls up to Paolo again*

  33. Lynn says:

    Yes it’s true there have been a new crop of asian models in the international venue, but as an asian and having seen so many different asian faces, I just am waiting for it to move on because it just ain’t good enough. Female asian models right now are only signed if they are classically beautiful, as in, they look like they could be made into caricature porcelain doll. I have experienced this when my friends who are modeling agents see gorgeous asian girls with tattoos, non-classical facial features, haircuts aside from the natural, long length, those they would otherwise sign, and they tell me that, “the market is just not ready for that.” I’m so bored with this, and am left wondering when, if ever, the market will be ready. When can we see an asian Doutzen, Aygness, Freja?

  34. Sister Wolf says:

    Lynn – Check out recent pictures of Gwen Lu. She’s pretty butch looking and gorgeous.

  35. Lynn says:

    Yep- gorgeous! And the blonde for Gwen and Daul, I liked it. This is the work of stylists. However, I don’t think the agents saw it this way when they first signed. Next- asian female models with tats and bad attitudes!

  36. Hammie says:

    If an issue like this can make Asian girls feel beautiful then it’s all good. Makes me sad to hear that plastic surgery is so popular in china – eye jobs, boob jobs and horrifically; a year long procedure to make legs an inch longer.

    I grew up in a country where a stereotype of the tanned, sun bleached, large breasted, small hipped blonde was the ideal. So I dyed my hair and burnt my freckled skin and hated my looks anyway. I had more in common with my Hawaiian barbie than the standard one.

    I think blogging is wonderful because I’ve learned that there are lots of ordinary but beautiful people in the world. Xx

  37. Dexter VanDango says:

    Too young..?

  38. TinLizzie says:

    I’ve always had a thing for Asian men. Stunning!

  39. Dru says:

    Lynn- the great thing about Daul was, she wasn’t actually a classical beauty, which was why I fell in love with her look in the first place – she always looked like she’d tell you to fuck off if she was in a bad mood, and you never forgot her work. Even pre-blonde, she was one of my favourite models.

    Another one I really liked was Mey Bun, who really should be better known.

  40. minzhi says:

    asians are asians and westerners are westerners, they are different people so they have different names, stating their differences doesnt make you a racist SW!

  41. Marky says:

    Darren Criss.

  42. bye Carol says:

    Vogues all Black issue is the same notion. or all curvy runway shows. why can’t these models just be circulated into the fold reglarly without being spotlighted. Separating them, labeling them and then storing it away is no favor once the asian fad passes and they can’t get booked. So true about the vast number of asian countries and the ‘asian issue’ being a stupid title. should indians be in this too since they are often called asian or is this just the mongoloid asian issue. i could see an all japanese editorial to raise money for the quake but its just silly to give asia a handout from white america considering they are the largest population collectively and only dominated the globe since practically the beginning of time until right this second…so yeah if I were asian i’d laugh off racisim too.

    What they should do is show a chinese girl with a wide set nose or a korean with a deeper complexion or an asian with curly hair or one that is balding for that matter to bust up the fcked up standards and pressures of beauty within the culture. I’m brown and nothing pisses me off more than an Asian with an umbrella when it’s not raining.

    this is not about racisim it’s about how stupid the ‘fashion’ industry is. Why do they act like they are still being ‘edgy’.

    And let’s get to the real meat of the issue like… when are we going to talk about Carol running away to Wales! such a perfect climax to the saga. She could have moved in with dad to escape but that’s not far enough away. Can’t wait til she pulls a Chaz Bono.

  43. Dru says:

    bye carol – come on, brown chicks take UV damage too, melanin doesn’t protect your skin from EVERYTHING the sun does to it. Why judge someone for something as benign as an umbrella on a sunny day? That’s nearly as bad as telling a girl she doesn’t need sun protection at all because she’s dark-skinned (and yes, people do that).

    If you have to be pissed off, be pissed off at the ideals that say light skin is everything, I’d be very happy if someone blitzed skin lightening lotions/creams out of existence.

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