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How Rihanna and the Murder of George Floyd are Reshaping Beauty Standards in China

By Leroy Adams, Culture Travels

There’s money to be made in China, which is projected to have the world’s largest economy by 2030.

As an expat in this Asian country, I saw firsthand its economic power, which is driven by its 1.4 billion population. For instance, the English learning market in China is valued at $80 billion.


Chinese parents, concerned about competition and space, want their children to have every advantage and understand both the value of learning the language of global business and the skill requirements for elite Western universities. Last year, 289,526 Chinese students enrolled in American colleges or universities, the lowest number since the 2013-2014 academic year when 274,439 Chinese students attended U.S. colleges and universities. Western ideas of success and beauty continue to heavily influence the shopping behaviors of Chinese consumers. In the summertime, I would walk down the busy streets of Sanlitun (downtown Beijing) and pass Chinese women carrying umbrellas large enough to cover three people trying to block out the sun, fearful of dark skin. Such behaviors are expected in a society encouraged by a multi-billion dollar skin-whitening industry.

This brings me to the purpose of this article, Rihanna’s expansion of Fenty – her insanely popular cosmetic beauty brand – in the Chinese market is not only a testament to her business acumen, as you’ll see but also an example of the power she wields to change hearts and minds. In China, Rihanna will make the type of money that will set RZA and Riot’s grandchildren up for life, grow Fenty into the Louis Vuitton of the cosmetic industry, and, driven by her massive celebrity and inclusive brand messaging and products, give support to voices, sparked by the murder of George Floyd, ushering in a new narrative on race, identity, and beauty standards in Asia.


In 2016, I accepted a teaching job in Beijing with Education First.

One day, I was walking through one of the city’s massive malls, and I noticed that most cosmetic stores featured Chinese models who looked like they were preparing for a role in the movie White Chicks. I grew up on Rush Hour; Jackie Chan did not look like that. The next day, when I asked my Chinese colleague to describe the physical characteristics of someone from a Western country, she replied,” They have a small nose and small lips, and they are light…”. The whole time, in my head, I’m like, “Damn, she is not talking about me.”

My friend, with every ounce of her vehement spirit, declared that she, too, was white!

To read the full story, go here.

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