19 August 2013

Should Asian magazines only feature Asian models?

As someone who's worked in the Asian magazine for a number of years I've seen a lot of angry Tweets, comments and emails demanding that Asian magazines stop using non-Asian models. But, there are so many factors that go into choosing a model for a shoot or even the cover of a magazine and so it's not as black and white as people think.

That's not to say that I agree with Asian magazines using non-Asian models, just that it really should be regulated - remember who your audience is. Growing up, I looked at these magazines as something that I could relate to. It was frustrating to turn on the TV, watch a film or walk past a beauty billboard and only see white models and actresses; there was no one representing the Asian community. When Asian Bride/Woman and subsequently Asiana came on the scene it finally gave all those women and girls who felt unrepresented something to relate to.

Now there are more Asian magazines then ever, all vying to be the best, and forgetting what it is that makes them so different. I won't name names (although it's blindly obvious by the pictures!) but when I flick through an Asian magazine now I'm hard pressed to find an Asian model! Bridal makeup shoots are the worst offenders - the models are either not Asian, extremely fair or photoshopped to look fair. Imagine you're flicking through a beauty shoot in one of these magazines, looking for makeup inspiration for your big day, and all you see are fair-skinned models. How likely is it that you'll find something to suit you?

I don't want to come across as a complete hypocrite (I used to work for these magazines and I've organised a fair few shoots in my time!) so I will argue that it's not completely deliberate. Well actually it is, but there are reasons why... 

1) There are not enough professional Asian models
An editor might encourage a pretty Asian girl to send in their photos but if they have a big ad campaign or cover to shoot know that they will always go for the more experienced, professional model, and there is a HUGE lack of Asian models in the industry (real ones, not Instagram ones...). 

2) Clients don't want a dark model advertising their clothes/makeup/product
It really annoys and pains me to admit this but a lot of clients, who pay for advertising and keep these magazines running, will not want a dark or Asian model. 

3) Tall Asian models are few and far between
I know it's a huge generalisation to say that most Asian girls are short but trying to source an Asian model who is seriously tall, photogenic and has great bone structure is really hard. 

The above reasons don't justify why there's such a lack of Asian faces in Asian magazines but it
 is important to know why it's happening. Do I think it's right to continuously put white models with dark eyes and brown hair on the cover of an Asian magazine? No. Magazines should be pushing boundaries, shocking their readers and going against the grain, not sticking to the same, generic, cookie-cutter idea of beauty. 

Do you think the Asian magazine industry are not using enough Asian models? Let me know your thoughts!
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