Vogue Thailand turns Naomi Campbell white(ish)

In a country plagued by an abundance of skin-whitening products and harmful, stereotype-perpetuating advertising, this is a really stupid move by Vogue Thailand.

Naomi Cambell Vogue Thailand

This debacle comes a month after Naomi Campbell said this about a fashion industry she accused of being "guilty of racist acts":

What we are asking for is that you are based on your talent, on your beauty, not on the colour of your skin.

Ironic. Read more here.

Update:

Nika Mavrody from Fashion Post has this:

Today, Vogue Thailand shared a screenshot (below) showing Tyszka's email response to a critic of the cover. The photographer didn't respond to charges of racism directly or discuss airbrushing, claiming the effect was "a question of [lighting] + make up" and that the "pastel tones" are his standard style.

Tyszka also shared the final version of Vogue Thailand's November cover. Compare the final version (below left) with the pre-released version (below right):

Naomi Campbell Vogue Thailand

They're quite clearly not the same. Bet someone's regretting releasing that first version now.

The chicken story that just runs and runs

Much like a headless chicken, the story about a Hitler-themed restaurant in Bangkok just keeps on running, despite the fact that Daily Mail's story is, most likely, all made up, as I blogged about the other day. Heaps of journos have now picked up the story, complete with Alan Robertson's now infamous fake quote, and continued the spread of misinformation. Among the more high-profile reporters who took the bait are:

There are more, including about a gazillion in languages other than English, but these are the ones at the top of the Interwebs. And of course, we shouldn't forget Daily Mail Reporter, who got the ball rolling. Also, Coconuts Bangkok is just about the only news outlet that bothered to do a Google search.

A bucket full of fail: How the world's journos fudged Thailand fried chicken story

Never before has a story about fried chicken resulted in so much fail. It all started on May 28 when Andrew Spooner Tweeted this pic:

Hitler Fried Chicken

Just to recap: it's a pic of a restaurant called Hitler that probably sells fried chicken. When Andrew posted the snap, the Twitterverse reacted with a somewhat modest outpouring of witty remarks and sniggers. It wasn't the first time Hitler had popped up in an unexpected place in Thailand. There was little more to say about the matter. So it had really been forgotten until the Daily Mail came along on July 5 with its story headlined Fried chicken takeaway called 'Hitler' opens in Thailand and comes complete with logo of Nazi leader in a bow tie. Yikes!

Leading into the story, we got these two bullet points:

  • Bizarre restaurant opened last month in Bangkok
  • Images of Hitler have also been seen on t-shirts in Thailand

Then the fun really began:

Thailand's obsession with so-called 'Nazis chic' just won't go away – and now a fried chicken takeaway called Hitler – complete with a logo showing the Nazi leader in a bow tie – has opened its doors.

The bizarre restaurant opened last month in Thailand and images of it are doing the rounds on Twitter as shocked customers take photos of the offensive eatery.

At this stage, I may as well point out a handful of things:

The restaurant isn't in Bangkok
Amusing Thailand posted the picture, submitted by someone using the handle Volker, along with a caption saying it's in Ubon Ratchatani, about 300 miles from Bangkok.

It didn't open last month
The pic on Amusing Thailand is dated March 12, 2012. Andrew's pic is from May just past.

There are no images of it doing the rounds, it's just this one pic
The pic posted by Andrew is the only one "doing the rounds".

Nobody has been taking photos of it because it isn't open any more (update: at least in this guise)
A user on the Thai Visa forum writes:

The photo of that supposedly "recently opened" fried chicken fast food joint in Bangkok is actually from a fried chicken restaurant in Ubon Ratchathani and at least 2 years old! Needless to say that this shop has CLOSED DOWN long, long ago (due to copyright infringement, by the way, because it had used 'Col. Sanders').

Things aren't off to a good start for the Daily Mail's article, apparently written by "Daily Mail Reporter". It gets worse, though:

Londoner Andrew Spooner, who spotted the takeaway, tweeted: “Very bizarre Hitler Fried Chicken shop in Thailand. I kid you not. Complete with pic of Hitler in bow tie.”

Andrew didn't spot the takeaway. He tweeted the pic. Then we get a quote from "Alan Robertson, 43, who lives in Bangkok":

“The place opened last month and nobody quite knows what to make of it.

“I went in for a bite last week and got some fried chicken, which was pretty good, and asked the guy behind the counter why it was called Hitler.”

“He just shrugged his shoulders and said the owners had thought it was good image.”

ORLY, Alan? If it opened last month, there must have been a break in the space-time continuum because Andrew's Tweet is from May and the Amusing Thailand post is more than a year old. Did the Daily Mail make the quote up? Probably.

The media wasn't done yet, however. The Sun also picked up the story along with Huffington Post's Ron Dicker, who wrote that KFC is planning to take action against Hitler Fried Chicken, even though it likely doesn't exist.

"We find it extremely distasteful and are considering legal action since it is an infringement of our brand trademark and has nothing to do with us," a spokesman for KFC parent Yum! told The Huffington Post in an email.

Again, our friend Alan Robertson makes an appaerance. There's also a reference to the supposedly new trend “Hitler chic”, which of course is neither new nor much of a trend.

Never ones to miss out on a scoop, the Bangkok Post then hashed together a story based on the Daily Mail's effort.

Images of the restaurant taken by shocked customers are making the rounds on Twitter, according to a report on Friday in the Daily Telegraph in London.

There is no story, at least that I can find, on the Daily Telegraph's website, so I'll assume that's just one of a number of successive blunders. Again, we have “images” taken by “shocked customers” “doing the rounds”, none of which is true.

Andrew Spooner, a Bangkok-based journalist who spotted the restaurant, tweeted: "Very bizarre Hitler Fried Chicken shop in Thailand. I kid you not. Complete with pic of Hitler in bow tie."

Andrew Spooner is not Bangkok-based and he didn't spot the restaurant. Alan Robertson again shows up. For someone who more than likely isn't real, he's been getting a huge amount of publicity. (Alan, if you are real, I'll publish a full apology.)

The Bangkok Post apparently felt so ashamed of the story that it decided to delete it from its website in the hopes that maybe nobody would notice. It's still available on the mobile site at the time of writing, though.

Numerous other media outlets have also picked up the story, but it doesn't look like anyone is going to write a correction. Meanwhile, the comments sections of various newspapers have come alive with vitriol directed at Thailand, Thais and all the rest.

So how did so many people get so many things wrong with this story? It pretty much comes down to laziness. Thailand gets a lot of bad press for all kinds of reasons, but this is one of those times when it's the journos who have well and truly bodged it up.

Unless of course there really is a chicken shop in Bangkok called Hitler and Alan Robertson ate there last week. If that's the case, I'll stand corrected.

Addendum:

Not only did the Post delete their story, they also posted this one blaming everyone else for starting the fail ball rolling:

A widely circulated story about a fried-chicken restaurant in Thailand bearing the name and image of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler is stale news.

The story was first published on Friday in the London-based Daily Mail, one of the world's most visited news sites, and was picked up by the Bangkok Post among countless others.

The story has a basis in fact but the 'Hitler' restaurant has long since undergone an image makeover as the owner wanted to avoid criticism of any Nazi association. The Daily Mail observed that Hitler's image has appeared and continues to appear in many unusual places in Thailand.

The restaurant is in Ubon Ratchathani, not Bangkok as reported by the Daily Mail. Today it is known as 'H-ler' and bears a different sign, a local correspondent in the northeastern province said.

The picture used in the Daily Mail story was taken sometime in 2011 and copies have appeared in various online forums including Amusingthailand.com.

Andrew Spooner, a Bangkok-based journalist, expressed bemusement at the exposure the old news had received. "My tweet from a couple of months back about Hitler Fried Chicken in Thailand is in Daily Mail," he wrote on Twitter yesterday.

Andrew Spooner, however, remains a "Bangkok-based journalist", despite living in London. And his Tweet is from today, not yesterday. But I'm just nitpicking!

This pic from May 2011 may or may not be the most recent incarnation of Hitler Fried Chicken. I have no idea if this is the same place or not. I have no clue about anything in this story any more. (Update: This place does, however, have its own Facebook page, complete with pics and map.)

Hitler Fried Chicken

Addendum 2:

Here's a pic from 2009 posted on a forum when the restaurant was known as UEU (h/t: a reader):

Hitler Fried Chicken

Yingluck on gender equality

Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra gave the keynote speech at the Forbes Forum: Asia's Power Business Women: the Way Forward held in Bangkok on April 23. The speech was tweeted from the PM's personal Twitter account and also posted in its entirety here.

Yingluck made some rather telling remarks. In particular, she places a great deal of emphasis on "family". Though she makes attempts to challenge gender stereotypes, there is still the underlying presumption that for a woman to succeed, she needs to conform to the role of wife and mother in tandem with pursuing a career. See here:

Women are usually told that they face a dilemma, between pursuing a family life and having a successful career. Well, I think all of us being here today show that this is no longer a problem because we can manage these multiple responsibilities. Most importantly, we are able to maintain a good balance between family life and career. I am both a mother and a Prime Minister. I believe being one makes me better in the other.

I understand that the PM is drawing from her personal experience, but I don't think she goes enough out of her way to break stereotypes. In closing her speech, Yingluck also excluded a large portion of the country in her vision for prosperity.

One last point. I am a strong believer in partnerships. And the most powerful partnership is between male and female.

I may be reading a little too much into what Yingluck is saying, but I feel that for someone who has a real opportunity to address gender issues in Thailand, the prime minister should choose her words a little more carefully. Gender stereotypes persist and the conversation has to move beyond simply male and female.

Here are some of the highlights from the speech, as posted on the prime minister's personal Twitter account:


Flamboyant Estonian lady in Bangkok is a cult heroine in the making

This is Mai Long, an Estonian writer/journalist who lives in Bangkok and has, apparently, written six non-fiction books and more than 800 articles for Estonian mags and papers. She also has a Ph.D in sociolinguistics. But all this pales in comparison to Mai's first crack at fiction, which comes in the form of Mango Maiden.

As a rather optimistic writer from The Big Chilli puts it:

Mango Maiden has the potential to become another Emmanuelle or, better still, the current blockbuster ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’

The book was first unleashed onto the world in 2006 with feedback crowdsourced from various leering Myspace fans, but it's just this month come out on Amazon and has received a bit of a promotional push on Mai's glorious Facebook page. In her own words, Mai describes the book as follows:

The cosmopolitan and urban lives of four feminine and empowered Caucasian minxes are followed in real space and time during the last nine months of 2004 in city of Bangkok, Thailand. Contrary to the popular belief that the white women do not have fun in Thailand, every angle of the lives of these mature career women imparts sensuality.

Four feminine and empowered Caucasian minxes. This sounds like it has potential, and indeed, the book is a literary masterpiece yet to be discovered by the wider world. The opening paragraphs give an interesting insight into what happens when our first protagonist, Jasmine, eats an orange. Prepare to be dazzled.

Usually Jasmine bought one slice of watermelon and one slice of sun lady cantaloupe from the fruit vendor on the street when she returned from lunch. Sometimes she bought a sliced soft ripe guava or a long slice of vivid orange papaya. Today the office smelled of oranges. Jasmine took one orange, it had a strange green peel, but the inside looked promising.

Jasmine knew what happened when she ate oranges.

First, when you peel the fruit, the sprinkles of the fragrant juice make your fingers sticky and tickle your nose. Then the mix of the savory smell from the peels and the sweet smell of the orange flesh takes you over, it clouds your mind, paints it orange and makes your eyes shine. Then it makes you suddenly take a deep breath. And when the first slice of orange flesh touches your tongue and the juice fills your mouth – then you know, you’ve got the fever. Heart beats, pulse races, blood storms through your body and you want you want you want to erupt.

Jasmine licked her fingers and felt that the orange fever was taking over again. It was the fragrant dizziness, a certain hot pulse deepening down inside. She had a strong urge to be licked, and yes, oh she wanted to be kissed, and more, to be sucked and more. And more! She tried to control her breathing while enjoying the deep undulating pulsing pleasure.

She had a slight blush on her cheeks, her lips looked full and moist, and her eyes were deep blue. She swallowed the last piece of the juicy orange, licked all ten of her sweet fingers clean – the office was filled with an orange mist and the whole world seemed orange to her – so orange, so hot, so restless.

I shudder to think what would happen if Jasmine discovered Del Monte fruit cocktails. Moving on, we go deep into the psyche of a Bangkok socialite.

Emporium is the favorite hang out place for the bold and beautiful Bangkokians. If one wants to see the most beautiful model like Thai girls, this is the place. Tall, slim, with very white complexions and expensive tasteful clothes they walk in pairs from the coffee shops to the boutiques and vice versa. But at Emporium one can also see the brand clad loud Chinese girls shopping at Louis Vuitton like there is no tomorrow; fast walking Asian businessmen always in dark suits no matter how hot it is outside, older Thai ladies with big hairdos, strong make-up and bright stiff suits and of course the local Japanese and Western expats buying their food at Gourmet market or just having a quick lunch.

But two blonde office girls were still a striking sight at Emporium as many heads turned to look at the pinstripe mini clad Jasmine kissing Tara on the cheek at the Skygate in front of the Morgan shop. Tara looked radiant in her golden beige trousers and sheer small blouse. Her hair was a golden chestnut color and wavy, her complexion porcelain-like. All Thais adored her luminous white skin.

But this is only the tip of the iceberg. As the book progresses, things start to get raunchy. Children, avert your eyes!

She pouted. She longed for a kiss. Suddenly she felt her breasts hardening. Oh no, now the seam of the lace was feeling harsh on her nipples. Looking in the mirror Jasmine started to unbutton her cardigan. The black bra couldn't flatten her nipples any more — they peeked, no pressed, out through the lace flowers. Slowly she pulled her bra down under her left breast. Ohhh… much better… Like in a trance she dropped the cardigan and took her bra off. Yeah. That's it! Release them.

Release the hounds! She then sends an SMS message about her touchy-feely adventure to "at least nine guys". The book contains heaps more steamy scenes, most of which I should probably leave to your imagination, but here's a taster, this time from a woman called Tara:

Oh yes, she will see if it all fits in her mouth later, for sure, Tara decided slyly. She would rape this [man] even though he had a gun!

My goodness! If this has been enough to whet your apetite, you can get this book free of charge for a limited time only from Amazon. What are you waiting for?!

But wait, there's more! Mai also has a Youtube channel on which she performs musical numbers like this instant classic, again about fruit (and other things):

You want some? Yes please!