Isn’t it weird that the perception of Beauty is determined (by some people) by the amount of melanin pigment your body secretes? Time is an age-old proof that beauty has always been equated with fairness. The lesser the melanin, the more white you are. And the whiter you are, the more beautiful you look. So the skin should be as white as possible. This witless concept of ‘beauty’ is deep-rooted within the minds of people since ages. However you may try to uproot it, you will always find a vicious seed sown long time back in some mind or the other. The endless obsession of people for fair skin is often considered as a symptom of the British colonial hangover.
How it feels to be a dark-skinned girl in India
One day when I had worn a light make-up and appeared before my family, my own aunt complimented, “Oh! How beautiful she looks, isn’t it?” After a small pause, she continued with a pitied look on her face, “If only she were a little fairer, she would have looked more beautiful.” This remark literally sounded as if all the beauty I possessed got spoiled just because of the slightest mistake that my skin is dark. Suddenly, my maasi retorted, “What is in a color? She is so beautiful that her skin color doesn’t even matter.”
I remember I didn’t mind my aunt’s words at all, because I know my self-worth. I am lucky to be raised in a family which has taught me that fair skin is not a marker of beauty, but a beautiful mind is. I have been loved the way I am since childhood, in fact, loved much more I must say, which encouraged me to escape this vortex of prejudice since a very young age.
But colorism has tampered so many minds in India due to which people, especially girls, fail to realize their self-worth. I have seen girls literally hating their dark skin, and fruitlessly struggling to lighten it. I have also seen mothers smearing their daughter’s faces with homemade pastes only to make them fair. Even some of the matrimonial ads too demand a ‘fair’ complexion, and sometimes ‘beautiful’, which is most often synonymous to being fair. Isn’t it a little unfair? Honestly, I have hardly seen fair-skinned people struggling to darken their skin. The obsession for fair skin has overlooked the beauty lurked within the darkness of one’s skin.
Celebrating the darkness
Some global campaigns like unfair and lovely, dark is beautiful and many more have been launched to fight colorism and celebrate the beauty of dark skin.
Pax Jones, a 21-year-old photographer and a black woman from the University of Texas, launched the ‘unfair and lovely’ campaign with some other women in social media. Named after the fair and lovely brightening cream, this movement was started to break anxieties among women by embracing their dark skin tones and celebrating its glory. Jones had created a photo series of beautiful images of two of her South Indian classmates, sisters Mirusha and Yanusha Yogarajah, who looked really stunning in their beautiful dark skin. The campaign encouraged dark-skinned people to post their unedited raw images on social media to celebrate their beauty.
Another such campaign named ‘Dark is beautiful‘, was launched by Kavitha Emmanuel, founder-director of Women of Worth, in 2009. This campaign meant to glorify the beauty and diversity of all skin tones using slogans such as ‘Stay UNfair, Stay beautiful’. Nandita Das, an Indian actress, director, and social activist was also involved in the Dark and beautiful campaign, and said in an interview, “I see a lot of young girls completely losing their confidence, having a great sense of lack of self-worth, low self-esteem purely because they are not fair. When I supported this campaign, I was amazed by the overwhelming responses I was getting to it. And I was shocked by the kind of stories from young girls saying they could never wear different colors because they were told they were too dark to wear”.
“I would not trade my skin for anything in this world. If I had to come back in another life, I would still choose to come back as a black girl”, says Olivia Sang, a Kenya based fashion model in a video clip from the official page of this campaign in Instagram.
Dark is Divine
The prejudice of dark complexion didn’t exist earlier in Hindu mythology. Some of the Hindu deities were also dark-complexioned like Lord Ram, Lord Krishna, Lord Vishnu, and Mother Kali to name a few. Draupadi, the princess of Panchali born out of the fire was also dark in color and her skin shone like bronze. Colorism is thought to have rooted in the human race, even though its origin is still not defined. Colorism in India reinforced due to the British colonial rule, thereby encouraging the supremacy of white complexion over the dark.
A Chennai based photographer Naresh Nil came out with a Facebook photo series titled ‘Dark is Divine’ in December 2017. This initiative aimed to celebrate darkness in a unique way by portraying the divine aspect of darkness. This two-month project focussed on re-imagining the Hindu mythological deities as dark-skinned individuals. Models with dark and dusky complexion were handpicked for this project to bring out the beauty and, most importantly, the divinity that lies within the darkness.
Dark is beautiful!
In my opinion, Beauty is a subtle and divine aspect of your soul which can never be judged by something as superficial as your skin tone. It is not confined to any specific set of parameters which will notify you how beautiful you are. Possessing a dark or dusky skin tone is as beautiful and divine as having a fair one. Dark is beautiful when its naturality is not tampered by application of any whitening skin products or unnatural bleaching. Dark is beautiful when it is respected for being dark. When you are comfortable in your own skin, or you can say, in your own dark skin, then Dark is beautiful.