If you’re a Sri Lankan and haven’t heard of the brand Fair and Lovely, you most definitely have been living under a rock. Ever since we were little kids, it’s been grilled into our minds that to be beautiful you must be fair. The stereotypical beautiful girl is someone who is fair, slim, has long straight hair, someone with the perfect height. This is the definition any Asian would give of what a beautiful girl should look like. Aunties would tell you to apply different creams on your face to change your complexion, your grandmother would force you to eat fruits not because it is healthy, but because it would make you fair and kids would ask you why you were so dark. Every billboard, every advertisement, every flier had perfectly flawless girls with creamy white skin and every girl looked up to them, because well, society believed them to be perfect.
At present though, we see this mentality being changed very slowly. We all know that Europeans and Americans find tan skin more attractive and spend a lot of time and money to darken their skin tone, where as in Asia, people do the exact opposite. While the women of the West spend time on tanning beds, women of the East bleach their skin. But in a time where everyone follows the Western culture faithfully, we now see people very slowly starting to accept that people can still be pretty with tan or dark skin.
#unfairandlovely is a movement founded by three college students; Pax Jones, Mirusha Yogarajah and Yanusha Yogarajah from University of Texas, Austin. A photo series was done by Pax Jones featuring the Yogarajah sisters to appreciate their dark skin and to educate the society to combat colourism (holding lighter skin tones up as more beautiful). The hashtag #unfairandlovely soon started trending on social media with dark-skinned beauties proudly posting their pictures and sharing their stories on how society harassed them for their skin colour.
Their movement caused an unexpected stir, especially in India. People complained about how their partners and their parents would reject them because they weren’t “fair enough”, how marriage proposals specifically requested girls who are “fair in complexion”, how workplaces would reject them because they didn’t look good for the role. Even celebrities joined in with Bollywood director and actress Nandita Das releasing a video addressing the discrimination based on skin colour happening in India. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_LlWPEvJOY )
In more recent stories, we see that the crown for Miss World, Miss Universe as well as Mrs. World 2020 have been awarded to women who are not white skinned, with Sri Lanka’s very own Caroline Jurie winning the title of Mrs. World 2020. The crown for Miss Universe was given to the beautiful Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa and Miss World was bagged by Jamaica’s Toni-Ann Singh. According to CNN, this is the first time that all the main beauty pageants such as Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, Miss America, Miss Universe and Miss World have crowned black women as their winners.
Now that the world is changing the standards of beauty, it is time that we, especially the South Asians embrace our skin colour, whatever it may be and accept that beauty is more than skin deep. It is what’s within that matter.
Written by –
Rtr. Azfa Azhar