>> In a Time Out London article last week about tweed, I was mentioned in passing in a paragraph about Steve, my boyfriend.  Or rather, it was my doppelganger "Sophie Bubble off those satchel adverts."  Let's forget about the fact that they got my name wrong and look at the latter part of that faux-pas.  I'm guessing the writer was referencing the Google Chrome advert, centred around Julie Deane's Cambridge Satchel Company start-up business, in which a fellow British born-Chinese (I think…) female "blogger" is seen raving about the satchels in a YouTube haul video-esque set-up.  That's where I find myself perplexed.  The girl looks nothing like me, save for a swathe of black fringe and a teethy smile.  This writer couldn't be bothered to quickly Google "Steve Salter's girlfriend" and find a) a different name and b) a different Chinese girl.

I seemingly have doppelgangers running all over town.  Every week, someone will say "Oh I saw you on the 52 bus!" or "I saw you at Birthdays!" to which I say "Nope, that was some other Chinese girl…"  It doesn't really bother me most of the time and normally I sardonically reply, "Yeah, yeah, all Chinese girls look the same – har-di-har-har!" which then normally incites an uncomfortable flustered protest of "Erm… no!  I didn't mean that at all!"  I'm well aware that it's a little facetious to answer back with that jerk-reponse but it's almost become an automatic reflex, as though I want to enforce feelings of guilt on their part for getting me mixed up with some other Chinese girl.  Maybe I should take a leaf out of Xiao Wen Ju's book.  In Paris, I was following the pixie-faced model around for a day and backstage at a show, photographers were snapping her picture, mistakenly calling her "Fei Fei!" to get her attention, despite the fact that Xiao and Fei Fei look COMPLETELY different.  Does Xiao mind that she gets confused with the other Chinese model biggies?  She shrugs.  She says she used to get Caucasian people mixed up all the time.  Tit for tat, I guess.  

But you know what?  I remember all y'all faces and would never make a piss-poor gaffe like that.  Once in a while, I think I'm allowed to play the race card and get a little bit pissed off.  There really aren't that many of us (meaning Chinese/Japanese/Korean in origin) in the fashion industry in London.  More so perhaps on the designer and production side, a handful in fashion PR, but definitely scarce in the fashion media/journalist front.  I remember an editor from a Chinese magazine pointing out that she found it funny that in amongst the British press block at Paris shows, I did sort of look like I've been seated in the wrong block because I was the odd one out.  Therefore, when there are incidents where we (as in us scant East Asians, a definite minority in London's fashion industry) are confused, merged and painted into one single Chinese/Japanese/Korean generic persona and reduced to being say, that girl from the Cambridge Satchel ads, I can't help but feel miffed.  Only slightly though.  Before I then laugh it off, put it down to human mistake or sheer coincidence and go about my day.  

For a rare spot of cultural assertiveness, I thought I'd pull up some of my YouTube Chinese femme heroines, who have probably never experienced a "Sophie Bubble" esque typo in their shining starry lives.

Ruan Lingyu was a brilliant Chinese silent actress in 1930s, most famous for role in The Goddess (1934 – which you can watch in its entirity online), who sadly killed herself aged only 24.  Despite her short life, she built up a fantastic film repetoire to mesmerising effect, haunting you with her eyes, without a word of dialogue.  

I've been having a bit of a Ge Lan aka Grace Chang moment as I vaguely remember some of her songs from her best known films such as "Mambo Girl" and "The Wild Wild Rose".  It's her musical turns in these films that really hook you in, particularly her Chinese rendition of Georges Bizet's Carmen score.  

I grew up thinking Anita Mui was a little like a Chinese version of Madonna with her sensual performances and wild costumes.  Her uncharacteristically (for Chinese female singers) deep voice really was the soundtrack of my house, when my mum would "jive" around the kitchen and even as a seven year old, I would cringe thinking "No, mum don't dance along!"  

I listened to Faye Wong's "Scenic Tour" album constantly when I was 16, despite the fact that I wasn't really that into Canto-pop.  She's probably one of the few Chinese singers, who I'd actually rate as a credible artist, who encouraged any iota of individualism and authenticity, in both her image and her music.  

Comments (20)

  1. WY says:

    I commend you for being the bigger person and not dwelling on this, but honestly, this, however small and inconsequential it may seem, is a part of racism, based on how we can be lumped into one blob of the Other race. I love how more East Asian models are getting noticed and chosen to walk for shows and appear in ads, but sometimes I have to wonder how Tokenism gets into play here. Are they beautiful because they are beautiful? or is it because they look “different” and hence, “exotic”? Anyway, I love all the Chinese female stars you added! Cheers to individuality and creativity, beyond race or any other social delineation!

  2. Have noticed so many clumsy allusions to you over the last few years, it’s great to read you flagging it up.

  3. Love this! I’m half, but you can still imagine the confusion as Asians wash me over to look like all white people and Caucasians do the same on the flip side!!
    http://www.queenofmayhem.com
    http://www.queenofmayhem.com

  4. Couteau says:

    Whoever wrote Sophie instead of Susie is obviously jealous. It’s quite flattering. Had Suzy Menkes been a bit more spiteful in that article of hers, she would have misspelled every blogger’s name.
    Also flattering is being thought of as an exotic little creature. Even if that does have a downside.
    Was Anna May Wong too obvious?

  5. susie_bubble says:

    Definitely too obvious… she’s someone that is universally known… these are heroines from my youth and upbringing.
    Hmmm… interesting that even exotica (denoting something one-off or special looking) gets muddled up…

  6. Www says:

    Very interesting post. I kind of relate to you eventhough I am not asian, but have african origins and people do have the same behaviour towards me. I can’t count how many times people are asking me if I weren’t the girl of that caf√©, or is my name is not Aminata or Koumba because I exactly look like a friend they have. It tends to irritate me too but then I take it to the second-degree since my mom was still unable to recognize our pharmacist when stumbling upon him in the streets or doing the groceries eventhough we have known him for some good 10 years !
    I think you did great not mentioning Ana May Wong and instead introducing us to brand new chinese women (at least for me) enabling us to know more about China.
    On an other note, your blog and this post is an other great example of your ability to deal with any type of subject with always in mind culture. That is why you will always stay a great example for me, blogger.
    Shug Avery of Incognito
    http://www.thinkincognito-eng.blogspot.com

  7. Jennifer L. says:

    Oh Susie, I just have to add, my 4 year old (eurasian) daughter once mistook a photo of you in a mag for me – I think she must have been confused by our shared love of a fringe!

  8. SarahK says:

    Love this post!
    Not discounting the racism thing I also think a big part of it is simply people being lazy and disinterested. “All black people look the same”, “All asians look the same” etc. No they don’t. Look at the person in front of you and pay attention!
    If it makes you feel better, although I’m caucasian, I get confused with lots of other girls simply because I wear glasses and have brown hair. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “Oh I saw you at such and such a place” (no you didn’t that wasn’t me) or “have you met Jen? you guys could be twins” (no we couldn’t. We look nothing alike bar a pair of glasses and similar hair colour). I’ve come to realise that such people have no aesthetic intelligence, are lazy and have no ability to pay any attention to detail as in they do not pay attention to an important detail such as someone’s face.
    Thanks for the videos….as always I learn something new and interesting from your blog. xxxxxx

  9. SarahK says:

    and just to add…my name is Sarah-Anne but people from my doctor to my teachers in school to my work colleagues to poeple I meet here and there call me Sally-Anne, Sarah-Jane, Emma-Jane, or any double barrel concoction they can think of other than the one I have just told them. Lazy, lazy lazy.

  10. milex says:

    I can’t even imagine… Stay strong, beautiful.
    http://milexblog.blogspot.co.uk

  11. Couteau says:

    That whole blurb in Time Out is condescending, even to Steve (tweed is having a moment but its not really hip). Gay bachelors are lonely losers. Bloggers are ridiculous. Asians all look alike. It’s not funny, because it comes from somewhere insecure.
    Pointing out race will make them think twice before voicing their fears. But the joke was mainly on the blogger thing, as in, we don’t even know their names, except we do and fear for our future in journalism. Tedious.
    Exotica gets blurred when people are assigned to pre-set roles. The smart asian, for instance. Quirky Japanese. Cheery Brazilian. What I meant is that you (me, whoever) can play with those associations, but there are buts.

  12. Peter says:

    stay strong rumi we love u!!!1!
    Sike! Susie, you stand out because you’re so great at what you do. I’ve been reading for years‚Äîlike 2008‚Äîand I don’t comment often, but this seemed to be an appropriate article to let you know that your blog is really important to me and your writing has had a big effect on the way I see things. Cheers!
    Also, I like the posts about whatever is on your mind at the moment—especially after a long spell of fashion month reporting, to hear from the Bubble herself and what she feels like talking about.

  13. Emma says:

    It’s lazy and casually racist. I’m Australian but I have one Chinese great grandfather and one Australian Aboriginal great grandfather – oddly they both married Scottish women. People are confused by how I look and insist I’m Mediterranean, Middle Eastern or Jewish (I do have two aunts that converted to Judaism but that’s another story) – they won’t accept I’m Australian and think I’m hiding my background almost as if I’m embarrassed to admit some shameful secret. When I do tell them I’m part Asian and Aboriginal they don’t believe me and think I’m inventing an exotic history for myself – ‘but you don’t even look Aboriginal or Chinese, you look Greek! Lebanese!’. I’ve stopped even discussing it now – I change the subject, I’m not offended it’s just time consuming and annoying and patronising. I know my grandmother and grandfather both experienced horrific racism in outback Queensland as they were growing up but I guess they learnt that they just had to ‘stop taking themselves so seriously and learn to – ‘take a joke!’. Ha.Ha.
    Thanks for posting the videos, they are beautiful – I love the Chinese version of Carmen, too.

  14. Haidee says:

    Love it :)
    cargocollective.com/haideedefraine

  15. nao says:

    Wow, great gaff! You would think a Time Out London journalist would know who you are regardless, seeing that person works in media. Or would know how to google you without referring to you as so and so’s girlfriend.

  16. jay says:

    People apply the term “racist” way too liberally nowadays. It’s lazy journalism, not racism. Plain, white girls with blonde hair all look the same to me, for example. And I remember Nelly Furtado saying in an interview, that people come up to her all the time, asking for autographs, convinced she’s Courtney Cox. Some people look like other people, regardless of their race. As I said, that article is just an example of lazy journalism.

  17. Love all these images, lots of inspiration here!

  18. MZ says:

    Ever heard of the Cross Race Effect? There’s no point in taking it personally, it’s a generalised cognitive limitation. It arises from different processing strategies used to identify faces of your own race vs. faces of different races.
    It has been demonstrated that there are two types of processing for the recognition of faces: featural and holistic. It has been found that holistic processing (which occurs beyond individual parts of the face) is more commonly used in same-race situations, but there is an experience effect, which means that as a person gains more experience with those of race he or she will begin to use more holistic processing. Featural processing is much more commonly used regarding an unfamiliar stimulus or face.

  19. UT says:

    To be honest I happen to do this quite often to people. I unknowingly mistaken one person for another, however, as an individual I believe that it is probably because I don’t recall anyone’s face that I don’t see to often in person. The problem they have there in London doesn’t happen at least which I have noticed here in Canada. I have heard of this issue a few times where they will classify minorities as the same (we and them scenario) in a populated majority area such as London and America. Obviously we will learn to differentiate those we see often in television as I did with American films and television. While watching Korean television shows and other entertainment, I started to differentiate Koreans apart. The source of the problem is from the media, which I have noticed a trend where they would have 3-5 models that they would style very differently and one colored model (often looking the same in most ads). When they have more than one colored model often they would style them strikingly similar and they would then add a non-colored model wearing something different.

  20. Amanda says:

    It’s such an disrespectful act for Caucasian always thinking “all Asians/Africans” are the same.
    We never ever think all Caucasians are the same.
    I’m feed of with this kind of Orientalism thing.
    Hey man! Narrowed eyes, flat noses do not represent us.

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