The Lack Of Asian Models In Australia

shu qi.jpgAfter thinking about this for quite some time and noticing that nearly every main modelling agency in Australia has a significant lack of diversity, I felt the need to write about this topic. Many agencies would have one Black model, one or two Asian models and all White models. It seems that we live in a multicultural society, but there is often more exposure to a certain category. I recently read an article from The New York Times on Why Won’t Hollywood Cast Asian Actors? and thinking about the topic of diversity, as an Asian, I feel that very often we are misrepresented or rather – under represented. I can say for many other groups there is a lack of representation too, however for now,  I will touch on the lack of Asian models in the Australian fashion industry. The lack of diversity also applies to the media, especially in multicultural societies.

Alexa Chung, Susie Bubble, Nicole Warne, Zara Wong, Margaret Zhang and Wendy Nguyen are just some of the first Asian fashion bloggers, writers, models and creatives that I have read or followed in the last several years. They are incredibly talented women who have a significant influence within the fashion industry as well as on social media. It is undeniable that there is still discrimination towards Asians and other minorities when it comes to jobs and other aspects of daily life. Opportunities are often not as open as they should be. We deeply need this to change in order for there to be a feeling of inclusion, equality and diversity. The truth is within the working industry there are many stereotypes that are built up of Asians not having high enough English proficiency, judgment of ones background, the ability to lead and ones working capability.

In Australia there is a lack of Asian fashion models or media role models that are recognised or influential. When we talk diversity, we may think of gender, race, age, body sizes or sexual orientation. The Asian market in the fashion industry is huge, and it seems expected that they should be given as many opportunities, but it is often not the case. Noticeably (although not all) many advertisements I saw when I am in Asia often have Caucasian models for many fashion or beauty campaigns. It seems that it would make sense to have at least one Asian model when it is targeting that region. Many companies believe using Caucasians in their brand will make it more appealing. I believe that the long exposure of Western beauty has influenced to some degree, the act of some Asians aspiring to Western Ideals of beauty.

Representation is important in order to feel acknowledged in a way. The important part we need to remember is the vast influence that television, media, social media and the fashion industry have on society. Young people absorb these pieces of information. Growing up, I went to a high school in New Zealand in the country side, where I was one of the only people with an Asian background. Much to the fact that my Mathematics teacher would mix me up with the Japanese student (who was a boy) every lesson. Of course there was laughter and it was funny, but it almost gives the feeling that all Asians are the same. It almost gives the sense that, you only need one Asian or Black model in a modelling agency to represent an entire culture. That simply should not be the case.

Understandably, the majority of Australia (and New Zealand) are mostly Caucasians, but there is the significant percentage of minorities who make up the population. We need more positive representations spread across the media. This is vital in order to open peoples minds rather than close it. If an Asian is represented, they can often be the stereotypical oriental model, whereas many Caucasian models can play the role in an editorial of your everyday girl next door. I feel that we need more Asians to also see more Asian models playing the role of someone you can relate to. Whether this will change in the near future or sometime in the next year,  it will be wonderful to see the gradual change for a more diverse society.

Photo of Shu Qi for Harpers Bazaar China August 2015

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