Friday, September 19, 2014

For decades, the most beautiful Asian models were invisible, ignored by fashion in favour of other ethnicities. Now things are changing for these women. By Ben Arogundade, author of the book Black Beauty.

MANY FASHION FANS PRESUME that the first non-white beauty to break into mainstream fashion was African American. The truth is, she was actually a beautiful East Asian woman namedChina Machado. Discovered by photographer Richard Avedon in at a New York runway show in 1958, he made history by pressing for his images of the Shanghai-born beauty to be included in the pages of fashion magazine Harper's Bazaar. It was the first time they had ever featured a non-white model.

THE FIRST EAST ASIAN BEAUTY: Chinese-born model China Machado was the first non-white beauty to crossover into mainstream fashion, courtesy of photographer Richard Avedon, who took this shot for Harper's Bazaar in 1958.

Although there was rejoicing amongst Asian women that one of their own had suddenly been brought into the fold, there was resistance to this bold new diversity from within fashion. Robert F. MacLeod, the magazine’s publisher at the time, told Avedon, “Listen, we can’t publish these pictures [of Machado]. The girl is not white.”

Today, the beauty landscape is very different, with a plethora of East Asian models such as Sui He, Fei Fei Sun and star of The Wolverine film Tao Okamoto holding their own amongst the most beautiful white and black women in the cat fight for work. Chinese beauty Liu Wen is currently ranked at number five in models.com'sworld listing, standing out as the first Asian face of Estée Lauder, and with multiple Vogue China covers and campaigns for clients from Calvin Klein to Lane Crawford.

It is a far cry from the racism experienced by China Machado just half a century earlier, and although the inclusion of the most beautiful Asian women models within fashion is partially driven by China's rise as an economic superpower, nevertheless, these new girls look here to stay.

The biographies of many of the new generation of East Asian models and actresses are available above, written by Ben Arogundade, author of the best-selling book Black Beauty.

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