Chinese model Jing Wen has worked for some of the most exclusive labels in the global fashion industry.

The 25-year-old beauty, whose full name is Li Jingwen, has appeared on the cover of Vogue in Italy and China and among high-end labels such as Chanel and Prada.

But Chinese social media users are up in arms over the way Spanish fashion giant Zara chose to depict her in a recent campaign.

In Zara's advertisement, Li dons a "minimal" make-up look — the only bold aspect of her appearance being a striking crimson lipstick. Most importantly, her natural freckles are on full display in the ad.

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Over the past year, the Western beauty world has increasingly embraced freckles — a trend in part driven by Meghan Markle's wedding to Prince Harry last May.

Markle made a point of letting her natural freckles shine through her minimal make-up, with Hollywood celebrities Emma Watson, Emma Stone and Kendall Jenner also setting their freckles free.

Meghan Markle's freckles were proudly on display at her wedding. Photo / Getty Images
Meghan Markle's freckles were proudly on display at her wedding. Photo / Getty Images

But in China, by stark contrast, freckles are relatively uncommon, and it's the norm for models and celebrities there to have smooth, pale skin.

Take, for example, Fan Bingbing, one of China's most well-known and popular actresses.

Critics in China have subsequently accused Zara of imposing Western beauty standards on the Chinese model.

Fan Bingbing is an example of China's beauty standards, where pale, ultra-smooth skin is seen as beautiful. Photo / Getty Images
Fan Bingbing is an example of China's beauty standards, where pale, ultra-smooth skin is seen as beautiful. Photo / Getty Images

"Why are freckled faces misconstrued as high fashion?" one commenter wrote on Weibo, according to The New York Times.

"So that's how you see Asian women?" another said. "I've lost all desire to buy things."

A third said the image was "just the West's beauty standards for Asians, very different from ours". They added: "For those women to be called the most beautiful in Asia feels like discrimination to the rest of us."

In response, a Zara representative said the advertisements were targeted globally, rather than at the Chinese market specifically.

"The aesthetics of the Spanish people are different," they said. "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 is yet to respond to the controversy. Photo / Getty Images
Jing Wen is yet to respond to the controversy. Photo / Getty Images

After the representative's comments were published, the hashtag #ZaraRespondsToUglifyingChineseModelComments began circulating around Weibo, garnering close to 500 million views.

While some supported the ad, many continued to accuse Zara of racism.

The incident even made it all the way up to China's government-owned media outlets.

The China Daily said "those who complain about Zara's new advertisement might do so to prevent the nation's image from being hurt" amid a "lack of cultural confidence".

"Cultural confidence is just being promoted by the leadership of this country, and tolerance is an essential part of it. Only when we learn to tolerate each other in terms of aesthetic will cultural confidence be owned by everyone."

Even the hawkish Global Times chimed in, describing Li's freckles as "iconic" and interviewing a Chinese art blogger who said she did not believe the ad was racist.

"Beauty or ugliness is not the only standard for models," the model said. "Instead, faces that can leave audiences with a visual shock are welcomed in the modelling industry."

Li is yet to respond to the controversy — but judging by her previous comments, it's doubtful she'll take issue with the way Zara portrayed her.

In a 2016 Vogue interview, Li said she used to hate her freckles. "When I was little, I really hated them because normally Asian people don't have them," she said.

"In high school, I always tried to cover them, but now it's OK. I like them, and that's enough."