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The Eurocentric Impact of Bold Glamour on Runway Model Shereen Wu during LAFW23

One year on from the release of ‘Bold Glamour’ – How has the media landscape changed?


Celebrating its first anniversary, the Bold Glamour filter on TikTok has become a focal point in the evolving landscape of social media and beauty filters since its introduction in February 2023. The journey of filters has shifted from playful effects like dog ears to more subtle yet impactful facial enhancements and complete makeup transformations. What started as a light-hearted game has now made its mark on fashion runways, sparked a rise in selfie dysmorphic-related surgeries, and played a role in upholding Eurocentric beauty standards.


TikTok has emerged as a trendsetter in shaping beauty standards and driving the demand for specific makeup looks. One such trend that has gained significant traction is the use of the Bold Glamour filter, a digital Artificial Intelligence (AI) tool that enhances facial features to create a Westernised supermodel aesthetic. While this filter has been developed and used for entertainment, its popularity also raises questions about its unintended consequences, as seen in the whitewashing controversy at the Michael Costello show.


TikTok's Bold Glamour filter has become synonymous with high-impact makeup, encouraging any user to experiment with a bolder look that was once reserved for professional photo shoots or editorial spreads. The accessibility of a full face of makeup, designed to complement faces individually, has fuelled a surge in demand for makeup tutorials associated with the Bold Glamour trend. Influencers who have recreated the look for their audience include Mikayla Nogueira (@mikaylanoguiera) and Kelly Strack (@kellystrackofficial) who both amassed 2 million and 239.3K likes, respectively, at the time of writing.


The Bold Glamour filter, whilst encouraging self-expression and inclusivity in the digital space, inadvertently contributes to the normalisation of Eurocentric beauty standards. The exaggerated features promoted by the filter often align with the traditional Western ideals of beauty, overshadowing and marginalising diverse beauty aesthetics. This unintentional bias pervades the fashion industry, where the demand for a specific look or singular beauty ideal can inadvertently lead to the exclusion of models who do not fit the prevailing standard. The fashion industry must navigate carefully to ensure that technological advancements do not compromise the principles of diversity and inclusivity.


However, the unintended consequence of this trend becomes apparent when examining the recent whitewashing controversy at the LAFW Michael Costello show in October 2023. The incident involved the inappropriate use of AI technology, altering the appearance of a model of Taiwanese American descent, Shereen Wu. The juxtaposition of these events highlights the interconnected nature of beauty trends on social media and the persistent challenges faced by models of diverse backgrounds on the runway. By heavily editing a model's face, a designer takes away any exposure a model might be receiving which is especially unethical as many models, such as Shereen Wu, walk in these shows for no pay.


The designer Michael Costello, 41, allegedly photoshopped the face of model Shereen Wu, 21, to make her appear more European when she walked for his show at LA Fashion Week last October. Wu contacted Costello via Instagram direct message asking him why he replaced her face and he replied, “There is nothing I can do to the artist who send [sic] me edits or photos but post them and say thank you.”


“I felt so small” Wu recounts of her initial reaction. “None of us, to my knowledge, were getting paid; we do it for the exposure and for the art.”


“But I figured that if I don’t stand up, I’m betraying my own values and integrity.” Like so many models, Wu was faced with the decision of either speaking out and potentially damaging her career or remaining silent and allowing young professionals starting out in the industry to continue to be taken advantage of.


After Costello removed the contentious image from his Stories on Instagram, as stated by Wu in a video on TikTok, the designer proceeded to share a sequence of AI art and profiles featuring AI models. Wu interpreted this move as an insinuation that either everyone is engaging in such practices or that she, as a model, is easily replaceable.


Since publicly speaking out about her mistreatment, Wu has been branded a liar and there are a significant number of bots swarming her social media page with hate. Wu has said that she has repeatedly lost access to her social media as many accounts appear to be reporting it for spreading lies. In a since-deleted Instagram post, Costello also threatened legal action against Wu but she has said that he has not followed through with this.

Evidence of bots:


In response to Costello's legal threat, Wu reportedly reached out to the Model Alliance, an advocacy group dedicated to supporting workers in the fashion industry. Subsequently, she was connected with legal assistance to address the situation. However, Costello has not followed through with threats of legal action.


The edited photo looks like a rendition of the Bold Glamour filter and the Eurocentric standards that it pushes. Wu has experienced Eurocentrism in the short time she has been modelling through choice of words and microaggressions, although she did want to emphasise that “most people I’ve worked with in the past are lovely.” However, being told that people love how “ethnic” Wu looks or makeup artists looking busy so that they don’t have to apply her makeup is more “troublesome.”


Michael Costello, in a since-deleted Instagram post, provided his comment on the situation. The designer said that he spoke to them outside while he was unloading his truck. Wu said that Costello in fact mistook her for “another East Asian model.” Costello also stated that he offered Wu “compensation for her time and talent” which Wu denies as none of the models were paid, and she has been offered no compensation since the viral situation.


In addition to this, Costello provided a photo on Instagram of a screenshot from WhatsApp of the confirmed list of models. He spelt Shereen Wu’s name as “Sheerness woo” and called her “Shareen” in his caption.


Costello also alleged that Instagram deletes stories after 24 hours but he did, at the time, post an unedited photo of Wu. He said that he screenshotted it to prove that he uploaded it but the screenshotted image that he uploaded is edited as it has no date and time stamp and inconsistent fonts. Costello also stated “Her false allegations against me… is not the right way for anyone to start their career.” This further reinforces the harmful stereotypes of allowing exploitative mistreatment of young people in the industry trying to build a career off free work.


In the past, Costello has also been accused of creating damaging fictional messages with Chrissy Teigen, copying Maxie James’ ‘Royale’ dress in 2014, body shaming singer Leona Lewis and not allowing her to walk at his LA Fashion Show because of her size, and ending the career of Real Housewives star Falynn Guobadia.


When asked if Wu is still pursuing a career as a model, she replied “I’ve been told no one would want to work with me now that this situation has been made so public. So, we’ll have to see.” 


“The power dynamic between a big designer and a no-name model is terrifying, and I don’t wish for anyone to experience this sense of helplessness over their own image.”


In an age marked by celebrity apologies on social media and the prevalence of misinformation, the familiar pattern of conflicting narratives is not a novel occurrence. Yet, as this narrative unfolds, it becomes evident that we are currently undergoing a profound examination of how social media platforms are influencing and shaping aspects of pop culture beyond the conventional realm of celebrity gossip. This ongoing scrutiny has brought forth challenging discussions surrounding mental health, racism, bullying, and harassment.

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It's disheartening to hear about Shereen Wu's experience with Michael Costello and the fashion industry's persistent Eurocentric standards. Kudos to her for reaching out to the Model Alliance for support, and I hope she receives the justice and respect she deserves.

tunnel rush

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