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As A Dusky Woman, Here Is What I Feel About The Photoshopped Skin Tones Of Miss India Contestants

This morning, I came across a rather hard-hitting post while scrolling down my Facebook feed. Femina Miss India had released a list of 30 contestants that would be participating in this 56th edition of the pageant. This is the same platform that brought today’s Global superstar Priyanka Chopra Jonas to fame, further facilitating the winner to compete for the Miss Universe title.

Clearly, the prestige is paramount, stakes are high and the competition, cutthroat. Except, in the recent beauty shots of the contestants, it looks as though all 30 of them have been cloned. Whether it is the first glance or the 10th, the resemblance is still uncanny. Porcelain white skin, glossy long hair, similar features, and not a hint of brown in all of the 30 girls, who ironically, should have been a “fair” representation from around the nation.

 

The caption of the tweet that started the outrage was: ‘What’s wrong with this picture,’ and if I were to answer that, I’d say everything! I have dusky skin, and coming across this post was like an unsettling hiccup, to realise the kind of beauty standards that these pageants aspire to set for young and impressionable girls. In just a fraction of a second, what beauty means had been reduced to fair complexion and straight long hair, leaving most of us Indian women feeling inadequate.


India inhabits brown skinned people, but that has had no bearing on our preference for white. Be it in matrimonial ads or for the title of Miss India, all we want is a white swan, because the likes of me have always been cast aside as the ugly ducklings.


And that is exactly the kind of feeling that this post instigated in many of us - of being unaccepted. In a land where we have grown up worshipping Gods and Goddesses with all shades, We look for beauty and perfection in an imperfect world and find it only in a certain sect of women who are tall, fair, slim and of course, have long straight hair. All because people here are obsessed with  fair and clear skin.

At first it was my family’s way of asking me to use creams and home remedies on my face to get to a fairer shade. Then of course it was the constant calling of names by my brother and friends, who thought commenting on my shade was a laughing matter. And then, it was the constant reminders on TV by all sorts of Fair and Lovely advertisements, to work towards a lighter shade. So when the same gets validated by a big platform such as this beauty pageant, you know that the colorism has trickled down far too deep to ever come out of.

 The sentiment resonates with hundreds of people out there, who took to Twitter to call them out on promoting such discrimination. After all, you can’t photoshop everyone white, but the point is, you shouldn’t feel the need to in the first place.

We forget that more than half the population of India is brown, and it is okay! Beautiful, rather. We must take pride in being born with a shade that is deeper, more intense than others. White, black or brown, all are unique, all are beautiful, and most of all, all are human. To show bias over color, body, or hair, is not just insensitive, it is unacceptable. They say, ‘beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder,’ and as long as we behold only a certain type as beauty, the world will never cease to set such unrealistic beauty standards for us.

With 29 states on the map and numerous religions drawing breath within the same country, we can’t and shouldn’t shy away from the features that every part of the country lends to its people. Fair is beautiful, so is dusky. Big eyes are gorgeous, so are small ones. Straight hair are pretty, so are the bouncing curls. Slim is sexy, so is curvy.

We don’t need to be told to apply besan, chadan or fairness creams on our face to become something we are not. But, others need to be told how none of it should matter when we  measure what beauty is. Last we checked, that is what these pageants yearn to promulgate - diversity, confidence and a strong belief in bringing change. Where is all of this in the picture above?

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