Asians in Commerical Advertising


Asian models have been showing up fairly often on the runway and high end fashion for years (yah!). Unfortunately, it's also quite well known than runway models (generally) need only be 5'7+, thin, and capable of walking the walk - the face is inconsequential since there's makeup and runway models are essentially, I quote, "human coat hangers."

To do commercial work, models need to have more "mass appeal" and be "mainstream pretty" - the "face" is definitely not inconsequential.  That said, it's nothing new to say that there's always been a distinct dearth of Asians in commercial modeling in the US; obviously this is due to (somewhat) equal parts Asians being a minority (thus not worth targeting) and a shortage of Asians that "fit" the look American brands were looking for.

I'm not particularly interested in writing a long-winded essay about the stereotypes of Asians in American society, I just wanted to write this post to say I've been seeing a sudden leap in the number of Asian models in commercial work for some quite well known brands :D!  To see Asians modeling for brands that are targeted towards mainstream American teens/early 20s (not niche markets or high fashion) shows how (forgive my idealism) truly diverse - or rather accepting - America has become.  Maybe 'accepting' is too optimistic a word, but at the very least there is now a need for marketers to to target the Asian demographic and embrace the fact that there are many definitions of beauty.

American Eagle Outfitters - heyyy an Asian chick, on the homepage no less :D  I thought that was pretty cool.  And a guy too!  The fact that an Asian guy is modeling for "rugged" style brand in a manly-man way speaks volumes for how far Asian guys have come breaking free of the old stereotypical nerdy/waif-ish/unstylish geek.  He's pretty hot ...too bad he's younger than me (21 :( ).  Oh man, these scamps get younger every year *sigh*
Jarah Mariano (IMG) - She's a reasonably popular commercial model already I think.  Her name has been floating around ever since her stint with Victoria's Secret.  She's pretty smoking hot and done a lot of commercial work with Abercrombie & Fitch, MAC, Armani Exchange, Sephora, Roxy Quiksilver, Redken, H&M, Avon, Old Navy, Dereon, Levi's, Pac Sun and Rock and Republic.... so I'm not surprised she's modeling for AE now.  She looks commercial.  She reminds me of a younger Hyori, with her...bust....tanned, sun-kissed skin tone, and the ability to balance cute with sexy very well so it's no surprise she's picked up quite a following in Korea too - though I bet the fact she's Hawaiian/Korean helps.

Jae Yoo (Major) - WHY HELLO.  6'2, ripped abs, SEXY LIPS - where have you been all my life?  He seems to be really new on the scene but he's already modeled on the runway and done print work for Calvin Klein and Vogue.  This dude has it going for him and I feel like we'll definitely be seeing more of him in the future (YESSS).
Also Hyoni Kang (one of my favorite models, her dimple is so cute) modeled for AE in the Spring/Summer 2010 AND Fall 2008/Winter 2009 campaigns - dost I see a trend?!

Ann Taylor Loft - I don't know the name of the model but her pic shows up a lot on the LOFT site.  She has that mature, professional look Ann Taylor seems to yeah :) I love Ann Taylor and browse there often and it's nice to see her pic pop up.

Banana Republic - HYONI KANG (Ford) I adore this chick, she has such a cute face.  She catapulted to fame after placing first in the 2008 Ford Super Models of the World competition and has been working busily since.   I honestly think she's one of the first Asian models to regularly do commercial work in America (forgive me if I'm wrong, I say that as a very casual observer of the modeling world).  She has great range in my eyes, she goes from couture to commercial so well ^_^  She's modeled for VS Pink, Lacoste, DKNY, AE, and Tommy Hilfiger.  And Target, you can't get more mainstream than that ahaha.  I've actually seen her campaign in-stores too so she's not being used for just print work in Asia, which is cool to know :)

EDIT --> Estee Lauder - Speak of the devil, I just coasted into the Estee Lauder site to look at some makeup for my mom and Liu Wen (Marilyn) is staring right at me :D!  I dug around a bit and this is for EL's S/S 2011 collection :)  I consider her more of an upper-end commercial model rather than...I dunno "mainstream" than the ones above (if that makes any sense at all).  But I couldn't resist mentioning her because she is so successful.  I distinctly recall the first time I noticed her - she was the first (East) Asian to runway model for Victoria's Secret!  Apparently she is the first Asian to be a face for EL too :}

Anyway, that's all.  Kind of a random post ^_^ Btw a great blog to track Asian models is....Asian Models :)  It's a fun site to browse, so check it out~

Have a good weekend everyone!


  1. Pssh- random. schmandom: this post is totally relevant. 8) What with all the fashion bloggers floating around here.

    Actually, I had a similar thought recently, while walking through my mall a few weeks ago: there's an American Eagle and they, of course, had those huuuggee posters/displays with their models in the collection.

    I was like 'Whuuuhhh??? Asian models in the front display? : D Cool!' There's another store/brand whose S/S collection also features a few Asian ladies front n' center. I'm always glad to see the western world diversify a bit more. <3

    TL;DR- Asian models, FIGHTING! (Although perhaps, in lieu of the many new 'Sheen-isms', we should go with 'WINNING', now. Haha)

  2. yea i have noticed the amount of asian models in commercials too, that is awesome! there was even an asian model walking the vic secret runway just last show, too bad she was only in 1 outfit but still better than nothing!! :D

  3. Yay Asian!!!!!! :) I noticed that for a little while as well, mostly with American Eagle b/c they spam me every so often with a coupon or whatnot and I saw that Asian gal on the front. Yep and it's totally cool! :D
    Totally random post but I'm glad you wrote about it, you're an awesome writer! I would totally read it if you wrote a whole essay on stereotypes in American society :)

  4. Elle, this totally reminds me that this past winter H&M had liu Wen and a other asian model on their Christmas ads. They look gorgeous with their pale skin and red lips.

  5. Is it me or do most asian models have small eyes? check out all the models in asian and they have huge eyes!

    I remember seeing Jarah Mariano in a VS catalog the first time and I was like... OMG..she's so hot! Look at her... bust! :)

  6. The model for Estee Lauder is amazing!!

  7. You have no idea how excited I get when I see Asian models in Western settings! The only thing I get slightly annoyed about is they really do only hire models that look very 'overtly' Asian with small Asian monolid eyes... and meanwhile in Asia they only hire half/half looking models. I'm somewhere in between so it makes me feel average and unattractive :(.

    But, I am one of those people with body image that is very easily swayed by the media. It's really terrible. I had to stop reading Vivi because I became so upset that I wasn't half! It was ridiculous looking back on it.

  8. i loove that gorgeous asian girls are getting more commercial work! love this post. Enter my Dior giveaway?


  9. I've also noticed the abundance of Asian models in fashion and beauty ads lately. I'm so happy that the world is now noticing how pretty Asian people are. :) Maybe it's because of the Yellow Fever? People are finally catching on and it isn't going away! hehe.

    <3 Irene
    Couture Petite

  10. Great post Elle! I've noticed the AE model often on their website and in stores on posters. The second I saw her I remembered seeing her in the VS catalogs. I think it's great that Asian models are getting more exposure in American ads. I do notice that a lot of the Asian models shown usually look stereotypically "Asian;" i.e. hooded/monolids, black hair, etc. It's very rare to see Asian models that look like the ones commonly found on Yesstyle or Japanese fashion mags.

  11. This is a great post. As an Asian American, I try to make myself aware of the issues that are going around, but often times, I don't feel like reading (depressing) news. I love this way of bringing a subject to my attention through a fun way. Well written and very interesting.

  12. yea!!! ive been seeing asians more now and that totally makes me happy xD it's about time more asians are represented xD (ESPECIALLY in non-kung-fu-esque stereotypical role/look)

    and i agree with Rinny how they don't really put out those other asians we see in asian magazines, but rather build upon the stereotype of monolid, smaller or slantier eyes. Those models do look good in their monolids and what not, but I can't really find natural double lidded ones. I hope they bring out more varieties among us asians :)

  13. great post! i think its totally awesome asians are getting more into the modeling world :)

    and wouldnt mind if it was an essay! hehe


  14. Oh my gosh, I love your blog! It's so charming! You know, I noticed the difference when I moved to Hawaii. There's a A LOT of Asian influence here rather than in the mainland. In fact, because of the heavy tourism, I notice that there is a lot more influence of what Asian's think are pretty. Of course there's similarities, like petite features, large eyes, and white skin.
    I was hoping we could follow and friend each other! Thanks!

  15. I love this post...go Asians... There are smokin' hot Asian guys around...gosh I live in Japan so there's eye candy everywhere haha....

  16. Yay for Asian getting into the mainstream, but nay for always leaving out the Asian guys.

    It's always, an Asian girl with a white guy...always.

    Why not an Asian guy with a white girl or and Asian guy with an Asian girl.

    Almost there, but not quite

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