LONDON — Less than 12 hours after Raf Simons unveiled his first codesigned men’s wear collection with Miuccia Prada, the Italian luxury brand is trending on China’s microblogging site Weibo for a whole different reason.
Chinese actress Zheng Shuang, who last week appeared in the brand’s Chinese New Year campaign alongside Chung Xia and Cai Xukun as a new ambassador, was accused by her ex-boyfriend, producer Zhang Heng, of considering forcing the U.S. surrogate carrying their child to terminate her seven-month pregnancy in 2019 because their relationship came to an end.
Zhang said in a Weibo post on Monday that he has been stranded in the U.S. for over a year because he and his family “must take care of and protect two young and innocent lives.”
Later, the local press obtained two birth certificates from the states of Colorado and Nevada, respectively, for the couple’s elder son and younger daughter. It appeared that Zheng’s name was listed on both documents, with a date of birth matching her Chinese legal documents.
A court hearing scheduled for March 22 for “dissolution and permanent orders” was uncovered by China’s netizens with both of their names on the case.
Later, a self-claimed friend of Zhang shared a recording with the media in which the two and their parents allegedly discuss what to do with the then-unborn children.
Zheng allegedly can be heard saying that she is gutted that the fetuses can’t be aborted since they are seven months old inside their surrogate mothers. Her father allegedly proposed to give them up for adoption, while her mother added they wish never to see the two children.
While abortion is a sensitive topic, Zheng’s attitude during the alleged call and the fact that she allegedly considered forcing the surrogate mothers to terminate their pregnancies because she doesn’t want the babies — even though it might not be illegal in China as the surrogacy happened in the U.S. — has caused heavy criticism online.
Her appointment as the face of Prada in China already raised some eyebrows online last week since many see her as an unequal match for the brand. Zheng rose to fame with soap operas and reality TV shows, lacking the type of intellectual associations for which the brand is known.
After the scandal broke, Prada’s post about its fall 2021 men’s wear show was filled with more than 5,000 comments about the scandals, most of them either urging the brand to distance itself from Zheng, or making fun of the brand for associating itself with her.
Some internet users even blame Zheng for the continuous decline in Prada’s shares over the past week, and call Zheng the “true devil wears Prada.”
On Tuesday, Prada announced that it has terminated Zheng’s ambassadorship, making her the most short-lived brand ambassador in the brand’s history, lasting only nine days.
In a brief announcement sent to WWD, Prada said “Following significant recent media coverage of her personal life, Prada Group has today decided to cancel its collaboration with the actress Zheng Shuang, which was announced January 11, 2021.”
While many within the industry sympathize with the brand’s situation, some are predicting that the incident may have a lasting impact on the same level as Dolce & Gabbana’s China debacle in 2018. In China, the concept of family — especially continuing the bloodline — is highly emphasized in traditional values.
The hashtags of their birth certificates and the alleged recording saw 1.53 billion and 1.96 billion views on Weibo, respectively. In comparison, the hashtag of the Prada fall 2021 men’s wear collection had 120 million views.