The Chinese model, who starred in a series of widely discussed Dolce & Gabbana promotional videos has claimed that the controversy surrounding them and the fashion house’s campaign nearly wrecked her career, although she apologised for her role in it.
"As a Chinese model working overseas, being able to work with any top brand, regardless of whether its D&G or anyone else, is positive (for your) career. But I didn't anticipate that the cooperation with this brand would almost ruin my modelling career”.
Model Zuo Ye claimed she hadn’t been informed about the content of the videos beforehand, other than having been told that three 40-second ads showing her struggling to eat Italian food — pizza, spaghetti and cannoli — with chopsticks, to the sounds of classic Chinese music, were going to be “fun”.
"I never and would never bear anything disrespectful to my home country”, she said. "I'm deeply in love with my country and proud to be a Chinese to stand on international runways”, Zuo posted on her Weibo account Monday, adding in the comments that she was feeling “uncomfortable” as she was told “to laugh from ear to ear,” given the fact that she “hates to laugh in real life”. Also, what further added to the general embarrassment was the “super-sized” food that she was supposed to eat with chopsticks.
The videos were meant to promote “The Great Show,” billed by the famed fashion house as a “tribute to China”. However, the voiceover was perceived as patronizing, with the narrator advising “not to use chopsticks as knives,” but instead handle them “like pliers”. The tone was quickly picked up on social media, drawing loads of criticism over it sounding “racist”. It allegedly prompted Stefano Gabbana, one of the fashion brand’s co-founders, to push forward with anti- China rhetoric in direct messages, which were shortly made public. Although Gabbana himself denied writing these, claiming his account had been hacked, the exchange had already caused a massive outcry by the time.
Zuo expressed guilt and surprise at the social media storm, claiming that the “anti-China rhetoric”, alluding to Gabbana’s alleged comments, virtually added fuel to the fire.
The outcry appeared to bring about a total PR crisis for the Italian brand, which saw Chinese celebrities quickly withdraw from a grand D&G catwalk show in Shanghai, slated for 21 November, and thereby force its cancellation. Apart from an online storm, D&G’s products were pulled from major e-commerce platforms and stores in China, such as Yangmatou, as well as e-commerce portals Kaola, Taobao, JD and Alibaba's Tmall. On top of that, D&G's Asia-Pacific brand ambassadors, singer Karry Wang and actress Dilraba Dilmurat, announced the termination of their contracts with the brand.
Although Gabbana vehemently denied his authorship of the anti-China messages, he, nevertheless, joined his business partner Domenico Dolce in his video message, in which they issued an apology “to all Chinese people around the world” saying sorry for "everything that has happened and what we have caused in your country”, yet without mentioning the said messages.
Gabbana has angered the public more than once with his remarks on Instagram, most recently calling US pop singer Selena Gomez “ugly” in comments below her red carpet snapshot, as well as bashing the pictures of playsuit-clad Kate Moss.