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Malaysian Media Must Get More Ethnic

Model Maya KarinAs mixed-race models dominate industry.

Mixed-race models seem to be the darlings of the moment in the UK advertising industry but in Malaysia they have dominated catwalks and magazines for many years. The so called Pan-Asian's have appeared so much that Zainuddin Maidin, Malaysia’s information minister recently demanded that the number of Pan-Asians be reduced on local television and replaced with ethnic Malay faces.

Over the past two decades the rising number of mixed-race women from all over Asia have taken the modelling world by storm. They dominate the magazine advertisements, fashion shows and catwalks from Singapore to Manila to Hong Kong. Modelling agencies like Elite Model Management of Hong Kong, have built their business on the faces of mixed-race models.

It wasn't always the case, mixed-race children used to be treated as pariahs and indeed many still are. However, where in the 60s and 70s they were born from the couplings of occupying military forces and locals, often growing up in one-parent families, they are now the children of well-to-do western businessmen and women who stay together and raise their children.

Their racial backgrounds are extremely varied, American-Filipino, Thai-German, Japanese, Lebanese and Swiss. What seems to be the acceptable trait is that at least one parent must be Caucasian.

One of Malaysia’s hottest models at the moment is Maya Karin, who is of German, Chinese and Malaysian parentage. Sara Malakul Lane, with Looque Models of Singapore, is a descendant of the Thai royal family whose father was a British corporate executive. Her mother, Madam Tuptim Malakul Na Ayuthaya, is a descendent of King Rama II.

Some advertising executives say Maidin’s move is going to backfire as Malaysian advertising agencies will be less competitive across the region.

Anthony Leung, head of television production for JWT Hong Kong says,

'Pan-Asian models are extremely popular because they blur the boundaries of races and can capture a wider audience without being offensive.'

Zainuddin Maidin's demands are already starting to have an effect on the advertising industry in the country with two government-owned television stations forbidden to use anything but Malay models in their advertisements.

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