The Uproar

Rare and Lovely

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Rare and Lovely

Somya Thakur, Social Media Director

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When summer comes along, most people are either looking to get tan or avoid a sunburn. Then there’s me, trying to find shade while wearing a hat and quite a bit of sunscreen. I’m looking to not get tan (I haven’t ever gotten a sunburn because I’m #melaninblessed), and my main objective has always been to never get any “darker.” At first, I convinced myself that it was simply because I didn’t want to buy another foundation, but then I started to really think about it. Why was getting darker so bad? The first inkling of a reason to pop up was the thought that I don’t want to seem like I’m not pretty. Sadly, I’m not the only one who thinks like this; many Indian men and women have these ridiculous ideals ingrained into their heads. Lighter skin is so obviously preferred in India that it is infuriating. Something as minuscule as growing a shade or two darker can effect my — and other American Indian girls’ — self-confidence.

There is no denying that India as a whole prefers lighter skin. In India, these were codified in the caste system, the ancient Hindu classification in which birth determined occupation and social stratum. At the top were the Brahmins, priests and intellectuals. At the bottom, outcasts were confined to the least-desired jobs, such as latrine cleaners. Your caste may have been determined by more than your occupation: the darker you looked, the lower your place in the social hierarchy. If you take a mere glance at the Bollywood industry, the biggest film industry in the world, you see that an overwhelming majority of those actors are not representative of the Indian public. In other words, they’re all pale skinned. Bollywood actresses like Kareena Kapoor or Aishwarya Rai, who are looked up to as role models for younger women, literally endorse skin lightening creams. Lakme, India’s biggest makeup company, doesn’t even bother making shades that are even somewhat tan. Their recent launch, Karen’s Kapoor Khan “Shades of a Diva,” is barely inclusive. Based on the number of shades provided, there must only be 6 types of divas. 

You might think that by not living in India, this set of ideas wouldn’t have carried over into first generation Indian lives — unfortunately, that is truly not the case. Still are the days when we may be compared to our siblings or relatives who look “better” because their skin is lighter or when we hear a snide comment about our skin getting darker ever since we joined some after-school sports activity.

I wanted to know how things like this affect the self-confidence and self-worth of some of the American Indian girls at North Allegheny. I spoke with Esha Vaidya on her opinions. “Discrimination based on skin color happens all too often — especially in Indian communities,” she said. “Many people still believe that lighter skin tone is better than darker skin tone — that you can’t be the lead in a play or a movie or a model if you have darker skin. Not only does this bring young girls down and make them doubt themselves, but it’s also so untrue! Everyone is beautiful and have the potential to be whomever they wish — regardless of their skin color.” 

Juniors Varsha Kaveti, Neeti Cherukupalli, Eshani Chauk, and Anjana Suresh expressed similar opinions on this topic.

“Growing up, I myself have never been the direct victim of hatred towards my skin color,” said Eshani Chauk. “But I’m not the fairest Indian you’ll meet, which often sets me apart from the others Indians I know. So, I sort of self-imposed a disappointment of my skin’s darker shade. But why was this belief instilled in me? Whenever my family and I would visit India or my mom would watch the Indian TV channel at home, an advertisement for skin lightening cream would never fail to show up. Every actor and actress in Bollywood movies are the epitome of fairness, and everyone strives to be them. This sort of fair skin promotion is detrimental to the growing generation of Indian girls because it makes it seem as if only fair skinned Indians are favorable. We as a community of young brown girls never learn to embrace ourselves for our true selves. We’re told to stay out of the sun, use all the chemical-filled skin lightening lotions, and that only fair-skinned women are favored. And that’s probably why I didn’t like that I was on the darker end of the spectrum at first, but my parents never complained and even encouraged me to be comfortable with the fact that I was not as fair as the Indian expectations, and eventually I learned to love my skin color.”

“When I would watch Indian TV, the ads about Fair and Lovely would pop up so much with a really fair Indian actor or actress advertising the product,” said Varsha Kaveti. “Obviously everyone loves these actors, so they want to look like them and be lighter skinned and ‘pretty.’ I was so brainwashed, and I felt the same way as a kid, so I would use it like so much when my dad bought some for me in India.”

“In my experience, I’ve seen colorism developing over time like anything else,” said Neeti Cherukupalli. “Being an Indian-American, I haven’t felt I’ve been affected with this issue personally, but I can most definitely attest for the fact that this issue still prevails. I think what concerns me most is that even though we live in such a progressive and developed time, it’s almost petty to value such trivial aspects of humanity. In my opinion, the color says nothing about a person. Therefore, because it serves no purpose in defining the nature of a person and is something one cannot control or change, I strongly believe colorism is one of the worst ways to go about living in a society.”

“Personally, I’ve never really thought too much about how light or dark my skin was, and I’ve never really wanted to change anything about it, but I do think a big part of this issue comes from a few little things that I’ve seen around me growing up,” said Anjana Suresh. “Whenever I would travel to India to visit relatives, it was always sort of hinted at that — but never really explicitly stated in my case — that I should try to put some powder on your face to make my skin lighter or that a darker complexion would almost make me look more impoverished, in a sense. One of the big things that stands out is that people are never really content with how they look. Indian ads on TV always advertise products for lighter skin to make people look more white, but here in America everyone wants to be more tan.”

Overwhelmingly many newer generation Indians seem to be fighting back with social media campaigns of their own emphasizing self-love, shining a new light on what is to come for the future generations. Hopefully, we can pass down the idea that being your own self is enough to get the love and appreciation that you deserve — not the color of your skin tone.

About the Writer
Somya Thakur, Social Media Director

Somya Thakur is a junior at North Allegheny Senior High. Somya loves to listen to a large variety of music, especially movie soundtracks. She is a part...

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