On the outside, India might be a country of homogeneously brown people, but on the inside, people fall within a broad color range — from dark brown to almost white. Unfortunately, this diversity in skin color has created a hierarchy of beauty — a hierarchy that tells you that the light-skinned people are the epitome of beauty, while the dark-skinned people fall at the bottom. I was unaware of this until I was in the sixth grade when I found out that my dark skin could put me in a tough spot and stunt my self-esteem. My light-skinned classmates ridiculed the color of my skin.
The incessant casting of fair, North Indian or even European leading actresses has only reinforced the notion that in order for a Tamil woman to be deemed beautiful and worthy, she must have light skin. What an expectation for a generally darker skinned race, eh? Needless to say, this mindset has detrimentally affected many girls who grow up watching these films. To make matters worse, there are some men that unashamedly ask for "fair brides". This is not to state that women do not commit acts of shadeism, as it is common for some Tamil aunts to exclaim, " OMG you have tanned!
If you saw the world through my eyes, then you would believe as I do that Beauty comes in every size, shape, color, creed, gender, and shade of skin. I believe the inner-spirit and character of a person are far more important than what someone looks like on the outside. But I also believe that there are no restrictions to what makes someone "beautiful" on the outside. As an American-born Indian woman and a dark-skinned woman at that I have spent my entire life hearing about how "Fair is Beautiful. I have witnessed my fellow Indian youth stare in the mirror over the years and dislike the face staring back, because they too have begun to judge their own beauty and self-worth by the shade of their skin. Skin colour bias exists in every community, but I am especially concerned with the way it permeates my South Asian community. And, I have an even more intimate understanding of this issue as an Actress in Hollywood. It began many years ago, when I was in consideration for the lead role on a film being produced by a major Hollywood television network.
I realised that half the world made such an effort to get what I am naturally blessed with. The Soup interviewed 14 Indian women, all of different ages and professions, on their experiences about how they were treated for having dark skin. At that time I put it down to geography and lack of understanding. However, now I realise there's a larger problem than geography if I can't find a deodorant that doesn't want to kill the melanin in my underarms. Nearly every cosmetic is pushed to the hysterical tune of 'Lightening Whitening Brightening', even Shah Rukh Khan wants me to believe that fair is handsome and the other day someone made a cream that would whiten our vaginas. Which is why Soup interviewed dark-skinned women who are very happy in their skin," she added. These feelings haven't changed over time either, so the idea of trying to be fairer completely contradicted everything I love doing the most. Skin colour has never been a cause for concern in a superficial external way, it's definitely a marker of identity for me but I suppose I haven't had any insecurities about it.