MARTA COLOMBO ex­plores the dark side of China’s dig­i­tal beauty in­dus­try

#Legend - - SINO FILES -

BODY- POS­I­TIV­ITY CAM­PAIGNS are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar on so­cial me­dia world­wide, thanks to the sup­port of nu­mer­ous brands and in­flu­encers. In China, how­ever, ide­alised beauty still dom­i­nates the nar­ra­tive and con­tin­ues to set un­re­al­is­tic stan­dards for women and girls around the coun­try. To a great ex­tent, the trend is driven by the ul­tra-pop­u­lar wanghong (dig­i­tal in­flu­encers), whose suc­cess is re­lated to the fact that they are con­sid­ered “con­ven­tion­ally beau­ti­ful”.

For any­one fairly fa­mil­iar with Chi­nese so­cial me­dia, it’s not dif­fi­cult to pic­ture the beauty canons im­per­son­ated by many wanghong: spot­less pale skin, soft pink lips, big “rab­bit eyes” and per­fectly sym­met­ri­cal fa­cial traits. Many of them, how­ever, have un­der­gone plas­tic surgery to get their per­fect “wanghong face” and ex­clu­sively take pic­tures with just the right fil­ters. There is, in fact, a spe­cific for­mula for tak­ing a good selfie in China. Among other things, it in­cludes us­ing an app that fil­ters your skin to im­prove it and make it “dig­i­tal-ready”. With a few clicks, these selfie-edit­ing apps have func­tions to touch up al­most any “flaw” you can think of.

In China, the wanghong are par­tic­u­larly suc­cess­ful and in­flu­en­tial be­cause they ride the tide of what’s hap­pen­ing in so­ci­ety at large. While the young and af­flu­ent have many more fi­nan­cial pos­si­bil­i­ties than pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions, their de­sire to look at­trac­tive has in­creased ex­po­nen­tially. Con­tem­po­rary Chi­nese women in par­tic­u­lar, fu­elled by the aes­thetic pro­moted by brands and con­sumerism, are even more ob­sessed with cen­turies-old beauty stan­dards than their pre­de­ces­sors. In an­cient China, for ex­am­ple, a woman’s white skin was a sym­bol of wealth and sta­tus.

With mil­lions of fol­low­ers, HoneyCC is one of the most pop­u­lar wanghong in China. Like all the other in­flu­encers, she gets gifts and re­quests for prod­uct-place­ment posts and videos. But un­like most of her coun­ter­parts, her page doesn’t fo­cus on fash­ion, travel or well­ness. She mostly shares short self-taken videos of her danc­ing, lip-sync­ing, eat­ing and do­ing mun­dane ac­tiv­i­ties. Last year, HoneyCC, born Lin Chuchu, told The

New Yorker that she never takes or posts

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