Laneige seeks to defy Asian beauty standards with film starring dark-skinned model

Two Singaporean influencers are hoping to fix the lack of representation of darker-skinned women in Asia’s beauty industry with their own self-made film for Korean brand Laneige.

Creative writing student Jemimah Wei and fashion stylist and blogger Trishna Goklani teamed up to write and produce a five-minute romantic comedy film ‘My BB Love’, which features Indian-descended Goklani as the main love interest.

In a bold attempt to address the seeming shortage of positive representation of Indian and Malay women in Singapore’s advertising and media scene, the film shows a Korean exchange student at Wei’s university Nanyang Technological University falling in love with Goklani.

Although backed by Laneige Singapore to promote its BB cushions, the campaign was first conceptualised by Wei, a brand ambassador for the Korean beauty company, more than a year ago. Wei later teamed up with fellow influencer Goklani to develop the storyline, and then successfully pitched it as a campaign idea to Laneige.

Goklani, who has experienced overt racism from throughout her adolescence and early adulthood, said: “I’ve constantly been told through marketing and stock availability that I’m not within the ‘normal’ range of shades, which is something girls like me feel very strongly about. That’s why this project is really close to my heart – that this giant international brand backed and enabled this entire collaboration.

“It means so much to girls like me who recognise through this representation and execution that our marketing dollar is worth something to the brand. This is a great step, and I’m hopeful that it will spark more conversation and action around this topic.”

Speaking to Mumbrella Asia, Wei added: “The issue of female representation and women’s rights has been important to me for years. As a Chinese woman, I come from the majority race in Singapore and racial representation is a very touchy subject in Singapore.

“That’s when I came up with the idea to make a film that would address these issues in a way that’s filled with humour. It’s not triggering anyone; it’s not threatening and the response has so far been overwhelmingly positive.”

“It’s undeniable that the role of the beauty industry goes beyond just product creation – it has a huge impact on how girls see themselves and how society sees girls.”

Products aimed at promoting fairer skin have been at the forefront of controversy for many brands in Asia over recent years. In 2015, Nivea came under fire on social media for stigmatising women with dark arm pit skin. In June, a Malaysian ad for Watsons sparked outrage after showing a woman in ‘blackface’ seemingly becoming beautiful by washing off her darker skin. 

For many brands, the product names themselves are seen as stigmatising for women with darker skin, such as Fair & Lovely and Pond’s White Beauty. Even the name ‘Laneige’ means ‘the snow’ French, although the brand prefers the tagline: ‘Unleash your Sparkling Beauty’.

The co-founder of women’s network SheSays Singapore Meera Jane Navaratnam recently called on brands to stop promoting the “unattractiveness of darker colouring compared to fairer skin”.

Writing for Mumbrella Asia, she said: “We all have to work harder to stay relevant – to recognise that our readers, viewers and be aware that the traditional Singaporean consumer is changing. We have to work harder to make our narrative, stories and the content we are developing inclusive.”

The Laneige video was shot by Singaporean director Martin Hong  and has received more than 220,000 organic views and nearly 800 shares since being uploaded onto Facebook on Friday.

Wei added: “I do not think this went viral by accident. This is an issue that people feel very strongly about and something very close to both mine and Trishnas’ heart.”

Lim Yi Fang, Laneige’s brand general manager in Singapore, said: “There has been a perfect synergy between Jemimah and Laneige ever since we started working with her two years ago, and this project embodies everything we stand for. We believe that all women should embrace their own uniqueness and individuality – there is no one single definition to beauty, which is something we reflect in our skincare and makeup lines.”


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