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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Volunteer: Your chance to touch hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars’ worth of Guo Pei’s haute couture designs (and earn college credit for it)

To be honest, they're probably not going to let you touch the masterpieces.

To be honest, they’re probably not going to let you touch the nice things.

Designs by China’s leading fashion designer will feature in the F4D & First Ladies Luncheon charity fashion show in New York later this month, and event organisers Miro Door are looking for volunteers.

Guo Pei is best known in the West for creating Rihanna’s stunning gold cloak at the Met Gala this year, and among Cfensi readers for her mind-blowing 1002 Arabian Nights fashion show in 2009 featuring Fan Bingbing. (Don’t tell them you knew about Guo Pei before the Met Gala in your application, because knowing about Guo Pei before it was cool is pretty hipster, and hipster stuff is so 2011.)

Volunteers will be responsible for preparing garments, and dressing and styling models for the show. Interested candidates with experience in dressing at fashion events are encouraged to apply. Continue reading