Sinology Sunday: Chinese elements in Chen Man’s Rihanna photoshoot

Rihanna, fondly known in China as The Queen of Shandong, has once more collaborated with photographer Chen Man in yet another gorgeous photoshoot that represents the best of Chen Man.

Last time, their photoshoot was wildly loved by most but criticized by some for cultural appropriation even though it was work by a Chinese photographer for a Chinese magazine that was only using Rihanna as a model. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration since it’s also promoting her stuff, but it undoubtedly also work of Harper Bazaar China. Using traditional Chinese elements to create new looks is both one of Harper Bazaar China and Chen Man’s favorite themes (ex: Chen Man’s Chinese steampunk  ). These people are essentially saying Chen Man should only be able to photograph “Asians” or lose her signature style.

But I digress.  Even worse, this article from Bustle complains the photoshoot isn’t just problematic for being Chinese, but also for not being Chinese. The claim is that it’s too pan-Asian. Here’s a quote:

Rihanna’s hairstyle in this shoot, with blunt, slicked-down bangs and a bun, is reminiscent of a geisha’s traditional up-do. Although she’s not wearing a kimono, the image of Rihanna standing on a wooden foot bridge holding a paper umbrella further invites the comparison. There are also some shots where she is holding a fan.

While Chen Man does often have Japanese influences in her work, all of the elements used here can also be traced to China. I feel like most readers here will recognize the obvious elements used in the two photoshoots, but here’s an introduction to elements used in this photoshoot in case someone was searching about them and was misled. 

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Disney’s Live-action Mulan releases trailer

“You don’t meet a girl like that every dynasty.” – poster by Chen Man

Disney’s live-action Mulan released the first trailer, poster, and stills from the film today. The female costumes and make-up still look like bad 80’s movies, but OMG Liu Yifei is perfect!!!!! She’s so beautiful and so fierce in the trailer it made me tear up. I feel like the tone of the trailer was spot on in terms of what I was hoping for in a film about Mulan. What do you think?

The film stars Liu Yifei as the titular heroine and features Gong Li, Donnie Yen, Yoson An, Jet Li, and Cheng Pei-pei. It’s set for a worldwide release on March 27, 2020.

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Friday Photos

Li Yifeng and Chris Hemsworth buddy agent movie at a watch event.

Posters, stills, photoshoots, and random photos that caught my eye this week.

Gao Weiguang and Brie Larson  at a fashion   event.


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Chen Man has a Barbie modeled after her

he cut of that qipao is gorgeous and is definitely something Chen Man would love.

Probably the most well-known celebrity photographer in China, Chen Man is one of nine 2019 Barbie Sheros as a part of Barbie’s 60th anniversary’s nine new Barbies. Last year,  actress Guan Xiaotong,  ballerina Tan Yuanyuan, and volleyball player Hui Ruoqi got their own barbie dolls.Maybe because she looks like a doll, I think Chen Man’s barbie looks the most like her. 

Beijing Girls – Yang Mi, Guan Xiaotong, Xu Jinglei, Xu Qing, Chen Man

Born and raised in Beijing,  Yang Mi, Guan Xiaotong, Xu Jinglei, Xu Qing, and Chen Man rep their city in this latest of hometown-themed photoshoots that seem to be popular in magazines of late.

For more, you can look at NYT Travel’s Anhui series featuring Ma Sichun, Jiang Wenli and Chen Ran ,  Nanjing series featuring Ni Ni, Hai Qing, Mei Ting and Yang Zishan, and  Beijing series featuring Chen Feiyu, Wu Xiubo, and Xu Qing .

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