Singaporeans’ perceptions of beauty

Can beauty ever be separated from race?

Aisyah Lyana

Published: 1 April 2016, 4:27 PM

Netizens have been arguing about Nadia Rahmat Kishlan representing Singapore in a photo project of beautiful women from all over the world.

What’s going on?
The Atlas of Beauty is a photo project by Romanian photographer Mihaela Noroc that captures portraits of women from around the world to explore feminine beauty. The 30-year-old chose Nadia Rahmat Kishlan, who is a mix of Chinese, Indian and Malay descent, to represent Singapore for this project.
Nadia was one of the 11 new faces among the 500,00 contestants worldwide handpicked to be models for the Marc Jacobs Spring 2015 advertising campaign. Photo credit: LOLLIPOP.SG

While The Atlas of Beauty aims to celebrate genuine beauty in diversity, a dispute erupted online as Singaporeans argued about what constituted beauty in Singapore.

While some felt that the former Marc Jacobs model fell short of their beauty ideals, Nadia’s supporters argued that the “haters” were being racist and were taking issue with her skin colour.

Nadia’s supporters responded to the “Haters” who seem to have implied that she was not a good representative of Singaporean beauty due to her race.

However, it seems like “haters” were not actually disappointed by the fact that a non-Chinese was representing Singapore.

Human resources intern Alyssa Lim, 19, who herself is of mixed Chinese and Malay heritage, said: “She’s not pretty… But nothing’s wrong with her skin colour. There are plenty of beautiful Singaporean Malays and Indians and mixed kids, but it’s just that she isn’t the ideal Singaporean beauty that everyone probably imagines.”

Part-time barista Sheryl Tan, 20, said: “Beauty standards are subjective and everyone has their own preferences. Just because I don’t find someone pretty, who just happens to be from a minority race, it does not necessarily mean that it is an issue with race.”

Noroc’s portrait of beauty in Medellin, Colombia. Photo credit: Mihaela Noroc

This is not the first time race and beauty have gotten intertwined. The half Afro-American and half Japanese model Ariana Miyamoto, who was crowned Miss Japan 2015, was put under scrutiny by the Japanese media for not looking “Japanese enough” to represent the nation in the Miss Universe beauty contest.

Miss Japan 2015 Ariana Miyamoto was racially discriminated despite being proud of being Japanese. Photo credit: Instagram
Law intern Naimi Nasser, 19, said: “I think beauty’s really subjective. I guess stereotypical beauty in Singapore would be the same as stereotypical beauty anywhere, but no matter where, skin colour is irrelevant.”

What’s your take?

1. Can beauty and race be separated? Why?
2. Can someone who does not have an “average Singaporean look” be the face of Singapore?
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