A couple of days ago, the leading UK media organization, BBC decided to write on Indian beauty pageants and its penchant for selecting women depicting a typical kind of “fair skin” beauty. The article claims that beauty pageants in India are dominated by all the fair skinned women and those with a darker skin colour aren’t preferred. India is a diverse nation, having won 2 Miss Universe crowns and 6 Miss World crowns in the past, of which majority aren’t the “fair skinned” beauties that an esteemed publication such as BBC is proclaiming.
The entire article is flimsily written at best, without an iota of research, completely focusing the attention on one Times of India newspaper clipping.
What is wrong with this picture? pic.twitter.com/61B23aYFr6
— Sameer Sewak (@Naa_Cheese) May 28, 2019
Based on the clearly whitened photographs and washed away effect of the newspaper printing, BBC has purported that “the pageant organisers are obsessed with fair skin.”
While talking about how over the years, the beauty pageants have gained popularity in India, BBC stated that many of the biggest successes have been women who are light-skinned.
This statement is far from the truth. Sushmita Sen was the first Indian woman to be crowned Miss Universe in 1994. She was a dark skinned beauty who won the title when she was a mere teenager. Thereafter, in 2000, Lara Dutta was crowned the Miss Universe. She too, is of a wheatish complexion, which is the typical Indian brown skin. Reita Faria, the first Asian woman to win the Miss World crown in 1966 was dark skinned, and so were Diana Haydon and Priyanka Chopra, the subsequent beauties to hold the Miss World crown.
Apart from these, other beauties including, Nicole Faria, Sushrii Shreya Mishraa, Noyonita Lodh and Shraddha Shashidhar, who have represented India at other international pageants and have won accolades are nowhere close to the “fair skinned beauty” category that BBC has claimed India to be obsessed with. All of them are naturally brown skinned, clearly nullifying BBC’s claim.
On the picture on which BBC has based its entire argument, the pageant’s grooming expert Shamita Singha stated, “This is not the skin tone of the actual pictures,” also adding that some of the show’s past winners like Nehal Chudasama, Srinidhi Shetty and Anukreethy Vas had darker skin. She also stated that the Photoshop team was told not to alter skin tone, but the appearances had changed due to a tight publication deadline and the newspaper print.
Apart from this, BBC has also claimed that Indian beauty industry on the whole is obsessed with the idea of fair skin and that only a few darker-skinned Bollywood actresses have been in leading roles in the movies. This statement is again completely baseless as all the leading actresses in the industry today, including, Deepika Padukone, Alia Bhatt, Lisa Haydon, Sonakshi Sinha, Kangana Ranaut, Priyanka Chopra, Vidya Balan, Shraddha Kapoor and many others have the typical Indian brown skin tone.
India is a geographically diverse country so it is obvious that differences will arise in the skin tone. That is why, a lot of beauties such as, Aishwarya Rai and Manushi Chillar, the Miss World crown holders and actresses such as Anushka Sharma and Kareena Kapoor are fair skinned as well. Priyadarshini Chatterjee, a beauty from the North-East region of India had represented the country in the Miss World pageant in 2016. Being multi-cultural and multi-racial, India has diverse looking women which all fall harmoniously within the big unified umbrella of the country, all of them getting equal opportunities to participate in the pageants.
While it is true that fair skin was preferred amongst the regressive families for social reasons, times have been changing now. However, this mindset had no effect on the Indian beauty pageants and film industry, as history has it, they have always viewed all kinds of skin colour arising out of racial diversity on an equal footing.
BBC by publishing such an article based on just one image is not only disparaging the beauty pageant organization in the country, but is also disheartening the thousands of dark skinned beauties who have pageant ambitions. By reading such articles, they may become discouraged and feel let-down, believing their skin colour to be a hindrance in their growth.