Millions of people all around the world use skin-lightening creams with the hope of being more attractive, getting a better job, and earning a higher standard of living. The global spending on skin-lightening products will be $31.2 billion by 2024.
Not a lot of people are feeling comfortable in their skin, clearly. Also, who hasn’t heard unfortunate stories from our country where dark skin is a liability.
Dark skin is considered undesirable, and not just for women, keeping in mind that fairness creams for men are endorsed by Indian mega stars!
Renee Kujur from Chhattisgarh was also a victim of the dark skin stereotype while growing up, and even after she entered the modelling profession.
Her first encounter with the name and shame was when she was merely three-years-old.
Dressed as a fairy in a beautiful dress and striking wings, Renee participated in the fancy dress competition. As soon as she walked up to the stage, the crowd booed, instead of cheering until the little girl walked away sobbing.
“Dekho dekho kaali pari (oh look, a black fairy),” the audience repeatedly shouted this line, demeaning Renee.
This was one of the many incidents that Renee has been a victim of. Another instance she distinctly remembers is from her initial days in modelling.
For almost a year, she remained unemployed because of how she looked.
I had no job for a year and was frustrated. Then, I made my portfolio from my savings. I started circulating it and got nothing but rejection. People made fun of my flat nose and complained about my dark skin. I was always told that only fair models were needed, she tells India Today.
Since she started late and the fashion industry prefers young models, Renee was forced to hide her actual age, “People usually want younger models.
I started my modelling career at 28. Agencies rejected me only because of my age without even meeting me in person,” she recalls.
Besides facing the colour bias, Renee also had to dodge casting couch experiences.
They told me all models are into prostitution. I won’t become a model unless I pleased clients. Being dark had already killed my chances, she tells the Hindustan Times.
On occasions when she did finally got offers, photographers would tell the makeup artist to lighten her skin tone by 3-4 times. In addition to that, her images would be photoshopped.
The humiliation continued until one of her friends noticed the uncanny resemblance between her and pop star Robyn Rihanna Fenty.
Not wanting to get her expectations high, she laughed it off. But soon, more people started noticing. With time, she gained popularity in the glamour industry.
Photographers would tell their clients that I resemble Rihanna. That way, it was easier to convince them. No one could deny that Rihanna wasn’t beautiful. That sort of worked in my favour. Those who had called me kaali and unattractive had to take back their words, she says.
She is immensely grateful to Rihanna, who turned out to be a blessing, “If I resemble her, how can I be unattractive? That’s how our mind works. I don’t know where I would have landed without Rihanna,” she says.
The obsession with skin colour begins right from the time we are born. Relatives and friends engage in constant comparisons. Advertisements, series, songs, and movies further fuel the notion that fair skin will help land your dream life partner, job and life.
While there have been many people like Renee who are coming out and smashing this stereotype, it is a long way to go before India whole-heartedly accepts everyone equally and eliminates discrimination.
This story is part of The Stereotypeface Project, an initiative by The Better India that challenges 26 stereotypes, which continue to exist even today. We are showcasing these stereotypes through all the letters of the English language alphabet.
Stereotypes exist everywhere — they are passed down over generations. Instead of embracing and celebrating what makes us unique, we stand divided because of them!
We’ve unconsciously learned to stereotype, now let’s consciously #EndTheStereotype.
Visit www.stereotypes.in to know more about the campaign and support the effort!
How can you support this campaign?
1. Follow this thread on Twitter or Facebook
2. Re-Tweet / Re-share the stereotypeface that you would like to put an end to
3. Use #EndTheStereotype and tag @TheBetterIndia
Featured Image Source: Instagram
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)