白富美 pronounced Bái Fù Mei meaning 'fair skinned, rich, and beautiful' embodies the beauty standard for most Chinese and Asian women. Living in China I see women and men possessing some of the most diverse features in the East Asian region. These beautiful and diverse features do not necessarily coalign with the ideal Bai Fu Mei people hold in such high regard.
When I first arrived in China I was warned several times to prepare myself, because they were known to discriminate towards Blacks and people with darker complexions. Well I didn't listen and pushed off my friends and classmates comments. During my internship at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing is where I encountered stares and comments from my skin, to my hair, to my big eyes when traveling around the city. Even when I moved to Shanghai after graduation I still faced the same comments and stares, but most of it was positive. My friends and people I met said they loved my skin color, and they wish their hair could just naturally do whatever mine does sometimes. However, this was not always the case and I noticed the women seeking to obtain this Bai Fu Mei status were generally more critical towards people with darker complexions or anyone working towards the goals of the Bai Fu Mei.
One cloudy May day, with people still grasping onto their UV protected umbrellas, we visited a solo exhibition called 'Fakei REAL ME' by French artist and photographer Corinne Mariaud at the Art Plus Shanghai Gallery. This exhibition focused on this obsession over Miss. Bai Fu Mei. Corinne's concern was looking at the dissolution of the 'i' which fights conformity with resistance and the rise of a new 'i' which is, "entangled with absurdity and common sense, nature, and superficiality". The women photographed for her exhibition come from Seoul and Singapore which she feels "illustrates how through the use of makeup and plastic surgery her protagonists allegedly try to enhance their appearance and yet deceitfully fall into a trap of subjecting their bodies to a never-ending quest for perfection".
What I saw through this exhibition was a reduction of the self in order to have society's standards becomes it's new identity. Women are still fighting for their right to express themselves as they choose, and how they choose. I do not wish to judge anyone's choice, because one thing women continuously face is to have others tell us what we should or should not do with our own bodies. We should be free to mold our bodies or leave it be. What I think Corinne is really trying to touch upon is when these women made the choices to reconstruct their bodies what was the underlying cause, and if it is an outside benefactor than this hunger to manipulate the body will never cease.
As our ancestors migrated their way out of Africa they evolved with their new environments. The ability for humans to evolve in such a way is beautiful, but if we force ourselves to change it takes away the beauty of the process it took for us to arrive here in 2019. Yes dress up, and put on some makeup, but let's do it for our own empowerment and not to conform to society's will. Let's aim for goals which enlighten us and stop certain parties and individuals from taking away our rights to control our own bodies. Let's make 2019 the year to empower and uplift each other by serving compliments, and appreciating what has been passed on to us through our lineage with a little sparkle on top.
Never dilute your vibrance
*Corinne Mariaud also held an exhibition next to Fakei REAL ME called Disorder, which focused on masculinity. If you'd like to hear more about this exhibition leave a comment down below.
*all photos are taken by me please link my website if you choose to use them, thank you.
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