“This one is fairer than the other one,” as two Indians casually converse over not the shade of a foundation but the skin tone of an infant. In the land where we use Diversity as a poster child for the world to awe at, India’s understanding of beauty is immensely acute and this fixation is increasingly becoming worrisome.
Our colonial history, years of in-built casteism, and obsession to Americanized globalization, the concept of ‘Fair & Lovely’ has a sustainable breeding ground here. Colourism is reinforced in every generation as it is readily embraced by all classes and creed: a ‘milky white’ skin is displayed as a trophy and any other skin tone suffers under several bleaching procedures. Instead of revolutionizing ideas of beauty as diverse and vibrant, the multi-billion dollar beauty industry is dipping its toes in white-obsessed India for lucrative opportunities. According to a report (June 2017) released by Global Industry Analysts, skin lightening global spending are projected to triple to US $31.2 billion by 2024. The bleaching syndrome, hence, is a problem worldwide.
So when Rihanna’s all-inclusive makeup line Fenty Beauty was launched this past week, its impact shook the beauty industry. After two years of development, Fenty Beauty introduced its products of highlighters, foundations, lip gloss, primer, concealer, brushes and tools. The star of the show is 40 different shades of foundations that cater to deeper side of the spectrum which was constantly getting swept under the rug by an assumption that “they won’t sell.” At her launch event, Rihanna shared her goal for creating such a line, “I wanted things that I love. Then I also wanted things that girls of all skin tones could fall in love with. That was really important for me. In every product, I was like: ‘There needs to be something for a dark-skinned girl; there needs to be something for a really pale girl; there needs to be something in-between.’” Though Rihanna is not the first one to challenge the narrowness of beauty industry (e.g. Maybelline’s 40-shade Fit Me foundation line), her widespread celebrity status has powered her dream through.
What India’s beauty industry is failing to understand that their approach to beauty is outdated and demeaning. Rather than introducing affordable all-inclusive foundation shades, it is voluntarily choosing to remain as a part of the problem. They are still fixed at the point of an Americanized globalization which promotes fairer skin. With Indian youths becoming financially independent, they are increasingly becoming both conscious and confident consumers. Kavitha Emmanuel, who is director of Women of Worth, launched ‘Dark is Beautiful’ campaign in 2009 to educate people about skin-color biases and promote inclusivity.
Beauty is more than our Fair & Lovely or Handsome.
Beauty, after all, is diverse and vibrant.
Let’s accept and grow.