Chrissy Teigen has scored another magazine cover, on which she's seen posing on a beach while wearing a high-fashion swimsuit. In other words, business as usual.
There is something extra special about this cover, however, that Teigen herself pointed out on Instagram: She's covering Vogue Thailand as a Thai model.
"So proud and honored to have shot the cover of Vogue Thailand! Special to me for so many reasons... one being I am SO PROUD to be Thai," the model noted on Instagram.
Teigen's mother, Vilailuck Teigen, is Thai, while her father, Ron Teigen Sr., is Norwegian-American. Teigen has often spoken about her heritage, sharing traditions and photos of her mother (who has her own enviable Instagram at @pepperthai2 and recently shared a photo of Teigen's new cover).
Teigen's new cover is special indeed — seeing as so many international magazines fail to spotlight models from their own countries or cultures.
According to the Fashion Spot's 2014 Diversity Report, Vogue Japan only featured women of color three times out of 14 covers that year, and only one was of Japanese descent. Vogue Korea had similar numbers, while about half of Vogue China's cover models in 2014 were Asian. Meanwhile, Harper's Bazaar Japan didn't appear to have any Asian models on its covers this year.
In some cases, the predominance of white Western faces on international magazine covers can simply be blamed on "sharing" between magazines. It's more efficient use pre-existing photos for new covers, like when Kate Moss' May 2011 cover shot for Vogue Japan ended up on the cover of Marie Claire Australia in November 2011, or when Carey Mulligan's October 2010 Vogue cover photo was used to cover German Glamour in December 2010 and French Elle in November 2011.
But the lack of Asian faces on Asian magazine covers is also a sign of the dominance of certain beauty ideals — certain models, certain faces, certain skin tones — that emerge from the west and travel east. It's no coincidence that plastic surgery booms in countries like South Korea and China see women seeking specific beauty ideals.
"The Chinese and Korean patients tell me that they want to have faces like Americans," Dr. Kim Byung-gun, a top plastic surgeon in Seoul, told CNN. "The idea of beauty is more westernized recently. That means the Asian people want to have a little less Asian, more westernized appearance. They don't like big cheekbones or small eyes. They want to have big, bright eyes with slender, nice facial bones."
As the Fashion Spot put it in its 2014 Diversity Report, "If a Japanese publication dictating what is beautiful to Japanese women doesn't feature more than one Japanese model, that's an issue. If a high-profile black model isn't afforded a major solo cover in her own country, there's a problem."
Chrissy Teigen may not single-handedly overhaul deeply rooted Western beauty ideals (particularly because she embodies some of them herself). But a Thai model on the cover of Vogue Thailand is noteworthy — even though it shouldn't be.