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Foreign Artist Confused Why Malaysian Cosmetics Ad Featured “Mat Salleh”

Foreign Artist Confused Why Malaysian Cosmetics Ad Featured “Mat Salleh”

The European artist was curious to know if local audiences could resonate with the Caucasian models in the cosmetic advertisement.

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It is no secret that caucasian and pan-Asian models are the go for many local advertisers. Despite the potential of local models, advertisers seem to often pick international models over local ones for advertisements and fashion campaigns. 

Even in campaigns for local traditional outfits, international models are sometimes picked to front them. Hence, Sara Ryan, a foreign artist, was curious to know why this is when there are plenty of beautiful Malaysian models. 

@sarainkualalumpur Im not judging , I only wanted to share my thoughts , what do you think? #modelingmalaysia #asianmodels #modelsasia ♬ original sound – Sara Ryan

“I am not judging, I only want to share my thoughts, what do you think?” said Sara in her TikTok clip. 

Sara, as seen in the clip, was in an MRT station in KL. While she was waiting for the train, she noticed the cosmetic advertisement on the doorways, which only featured caucasian models.

“This brand thought it would be a good idea to use all the white models to promote their brand,” said the artist as she showed the advertisements behind her.


“Well, they are pretty but I mean, why not local models? I mean, they could use local models, right? Malaysia has a lot of beautiful models, beautiful faces and people can relate (to them)” 

She then ended her video by asking viewers if they could relate to the cosmetic advertisement on the train.

On the same page 

Viewers in the comment section were equally curious to know too. Given that the target audience is Malaysians, many were puzzled as to why the brand decided to feature an international model instead of a local one. 

One user, 04MorticiaJay, wrote, “Finally someone who I can relate. Yes I’m asking the why question too.” 


Another user, Cik Ah, chimed in by noting how the brand was missing out by not featuring Malaysian models.

“100 agreed, we have many natural beauty local women, too bad those brand don’t see that,” commented the user. 


User, Bahrain, however, thinks the decision was made by the company to save costs.

“Is it an international brand? If yes, then it’s because they want to save cost from having to use different models for different region,” wrote the user. 


Popular among Asian brands 

This unfortunately is not just common in Malaysia. This is indeed a common practice among Asian countries. Many Asian brands often pick Western models to promote their clothes, perfumes, and other products. 

Well, according to writer Elaine Lee’s findings, this is due to two reasons. She theorises that Asian companies do this to minimise the competition between local brands and international ones. 

“It’s less about how ‘better-looking’ foreign models may be than Asian models. It’s more about competing with these foreign brands, and wanting to be seen as the same kind of quality brand,” said former Fashion Editor Taeil Park when speaking with Lee.

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Secondly, she concluded from her interviews that it was because of our subconscious inferiority complex. 

“We have a subconscious inferiority complex against Westerners. As a race, we have a tendency to think Westerners are more sophisticated than we are.”

As such, Asian brands gravitate towards hiring Western models to gain more traction and sales for their products. 

Do you agree with Lee’s findings? Do you think that is why Western models are often the go-to? And that the local advertisements and fashion campaigns should feature more Malaysian models. 

Share your thoughts with us via TRP’s FacebookTwitterInstagram, or Threads.

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