Udayavni Special

Is only ‘fair’ lovely?: Color is only skin deep, but Indians remain obsessed with fair skin


Neeta Shetty, Jun 26, 2020, 6:58 PM IST

Citing its commitment towards a more inclusive vision of beauty Hindustan Unilever Ltd on Thursday decided to stop using the word “Fair” in its brand name. The FMCG’s Fair & Lovely product has been quite popular amongst women in the market. In fact, business houses have capitalised on this craze for fair skin among Indians by targeting even the male clientele.

The idea that only fair is pretty has been existing in the society from yesteryears. Matrimonial ads specifically mention wanted a fair-skinned bride/bridegroom as one of the criteria that they are searching for in a life partner. A few pertinent question hence:- Are all dark/dusky-skinned people ugly?, Is colour not just skin deep?, Doesn’t beauty lie in the eyes of a beholder?

Notably, this racial attitude has corroded the self-worth of several people, young and old likewise. We have come across campaigns such as ‘Dark is Beautiful’ which aims to celebrate the different shades of skin and fight colourism.

The move from companies to take stock of their own contribution to systemic racism has come in the backdrop of the Black Lives Movement protests in US. While announcing its decision to halt production of their ‘Clean and Clear’ fairness range of products, Johnsons & Johnsons stated: “Conversations over the past few weeks highlighted that some product names or claims on our dark spot reducer products represent fairness or white as better than your own unique skin tone.”

However, while these efforts are a step in the right direction, the real fight remains with people’s mindset who relate beauty with fairness. The rebranding exercise will not really reduce demand for such fairness creams.

Meanwhile few personalities have lauded the move and also shared experiences they faced for being a shade other than fair.

In an Instagram post, actress Bipasha Basu wrote: “There was a strong mindset of Beauty and how an actress should look and behave. I was DIFFERENT as it was pointed out. Didn’t really stop me from being and doing all that I loved. Well, you see I was confident and proud of who I was from childhood. My skin colour didn’t define me … even though I love it and wouldn’t want it to be any different ever. Many skin care endorsements with loads of money was offered to me in the last 18 years ( some were very tempting)… but I stuck to my principle always.
All this needs to stop. This wrong dream that we are selling … that only fair is lovely and beautiful when the majority of the country is brown skinned. It’s a deep rooted stigma. It’s a mammoth step from the brand… and other brands should follow in the same footsteps soon.”

Check out her post:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

From the time I was growing up I heard this always,”Bonnie is darker than Soni.She is little dusky na?“Even though my mother is a dusky beauty and I look a lot like her.I never knew why that would be a discussion by distant relatives when I was a kid. Soon at 15/ 16 I started modelling and then I won the supermodel contest … all newspapers read … dusky girl from Kolkata is the winner.I wondered again why Dusky is my first adjective ??? Then I went to New York and Paris to work as a model and I realised my skin colour was exotic there and I got more work and attention because of it. Another discovery of mine:) Once I came back into India and film offers started… and finally I did my first film and from an absolute Ajnabee to Hindi film industry …I suddenly was accepted and loved. But the adjective stayed which I started liking and loving by then.DUSKY girl wows the audiences in her debut film. In most of my articles for all the work I did,my duskiness seemed to be the main discussion.. it attributed to my sex appeal apparently.And sexy in Bollywood started getting accepted widely.I never really understood this… To me sexy is the personality not just the colour of your skin…why my skin colour only sets me apart from the conventional actresses at that time.But that’s the way it was.I didn’t really see much of difference but I guess people did.There was a strong mindset of Beauty and how an actress should look and behave.I was DIFFERENT as it was pointed out. Didn’t really stop me from being and doing all that I loved. Well you see I was confident and proud of who I was from childhood.My skin colour didn’t define me … even though I love it and wouldn’t want it to be any different ever. Many skin care endorsements with loads of money was offered to me in the last 18 years ( some were very tempting)… but I stuck to my principle always. All this needs to stop. This wrong dream that we are selling … that only fair is lovely and beautiful when the majority of the country is brown skinned. It’s a deep rooted stigma. It’s a mammoth step from the brand… and other brands should follow in the same footsteps soon🙏

A post shared by bipashabasusinghgrover (@bipashabasu) on

Reacting to HUL’s announcement actor Nandita Das who also supports the ‘Dark is Beautiful’ campaign stated, “Wow! Words impact notions & they, the mindset. I want to believe that the campaign Dark is Beautiful & India’s Got Colour played a tiny role. Many of you have too. Long way to go before things are truly ‘fair’, but we are on our way!”

Das was part of a powerful music video ‘India’s Got Colour’ also featuring actors – Radhika Apte, Ratna Pathak Shah, Suchitra Pillai, Swara Bhaskar, Shweta Tripathi, Sayani Gupta, Tillotama Shome, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Divya Dutta. The 2-minute clip highlighted the diversity of skin tones in India and takes on the discrimination faced by those with darker skin.

“It took a world backlash and the Black Lives Matter movement to give us a push in this direction. But make no mistake, all of you who have been vocal about the need for a cultural shift in regard to the sale and endorsement of fairness creams in our country contributed to this victory,” actor Abhay Deol wrote in an Instagram post.

Celebrity endorsements:

Celebrity endorsements have helped the bias towards skin colour get more deep-rooted in our country. Ad campaigns have featured Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra, Katrina Kaif, Kareena Kapoor, Yami Gautam and Shahrukh Khan Hrithik Roshan to name a few. However few actors namely Sai Pallavi, Kangana Ranaut, Ranbir Kapoor, Kalki Koechlin, Abhay Deol, have refused to be part of such endorsement campaigns.

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