Chrissy Teigen learned the hard way (is there ever an easy way?) that the internet doesn’t handle nuance very well.
Never afraid to speak her mind on anything, Teigen grabbed her phone out of her purse Monday night and fired off one hot take that left legions of her followers rending their garments and gnashing their teeth in rage.
“Oriental” is a phrase best used to describe objects like vases and rugs, not people, for the record. It’s a term that denotes exoticism and foreignness and reinforces the notion that the Far East is a mystical place full of dragons and incense smoke and demure women with skin like lotus blossoms, hobbling around on bound feet. It’s not a word that we’re used to hearing anymore and so when Teigen jumped on Twitter to do what she does best – existing as her unfettered self – naturally, she got flack for it, from all sides. Twitter is either very bad or very good depending on the day, but it is not a place for nuance.
If you have the time or the energy to assess her mentions, you will find a lot of people yelling in cacophony about how she should or shouldn’t feel about something, as well as a fair amount of people calling her out for being a woman of Asian descent – her mother is Thai – and not repping harder for Asian women or speaking to issues concerning representation.
It’s not troubling that Teigen doesn’t rep for Asian women because that’s her choice. What is troubling is the expectation placed on Teigen to “speak on Asian issues” simply because she is Asian and a famous person. Identity is personal! The way people of color chose to process their roles in a society that favors whiteness is intensely personal and often private. Yes, Teigen is a public figure. Assuming what she does or doesn’t feel about her own identity based on the image she chooses to project presumes that she doesn’t think about it at all. Any person of color, public or private, will tell you that they certainly do think about it all the time, but don’t necessarily feel the need to share their thoughts.
Chrissy Teigen’s job is to sell that cookbook, do stupid shit on Snapchat and bop around on stage on Lip Sync Battle. It’s not her job to be all the things for all the people.