A provoking Chinese beauty ad released by SK-II aims to empower young single women. Branded by the stigmatic term "sheng nu," Chinese women who are over 25 and are not married are known as "leftover women."

This luxury skincare ad opens with images of little Chinese girls smiling at different stages of life. Statements like, "I won't die in peace unless you're married" and "You're too picky" echo in the background. As the ad unfolds, young Chinese women express the pressures their families put on them to get married. "People think that in Chinese society, an unmarried woman is incomplete," says one of the young women.

Speaking about her daughter, a Chinese mother says: "She is just average looking. That's why she's leftover." Other parents are shown attending a "marriage market" where they post résumés of their eligible children. A young woman observes, "It's like you're selling your daughter."

The women in the ad say they are searching for true love, whereas their parents are searching for "suitable" matches. "[N]ot getting married is like the biggest sign of disrespect," says one woman, "I want to say sorry to them." Then, she breaks into tears.

Advertisement

The ad ends on an uplifting note when the young women decide to take over a "marriage market." They hang pictures of themselves for their parents to stumble across. The pictures include personal messages. "I want to take my time to find the right person," declares one. "I'm happy being alone," affirms another.

In a statement to the BBC, SK-II President Markus Strobel said the ad is part of a "global campaign to inspire and empower women to share their destiny."

After seeing her daughter's picture hanging in the marriage market, one mother says: "The leftover women are outstanding. The leftover men need to try harder."