“Fair and Lovely”, what does the name suggest? Fair and lovely is an Asian brand, with the sole purpose to make an individual’s skin lighter. It is highly predominant in India, a place where I spent three years of my life. It has many brand ambassadors, a few of them being famous actors like Yami Gautami, Shah Rukh Khan.
On the website of Fair and Lovely, it proclaims that its message is to provide “hope to millions of women around the world, especially in Asia, who desired fairer and even-toned skin, for how it made them feel about themselves, and for how it made the world see them.” For how it made the world see them. Just repeat that again. For how it made the world see them. Racial inequality, sexism, are very predominant global issues right now. However, colorism still largely exists in countries all around the world. India, my home, a place held dear to my heart, has had many fascinating achievements, but combating colorism is not one of them. In 2013, Fair and Lovely generated over $400 million per year, gaining more money than all other skin-whitening products combined. What’s worse, renowned actors endorse the brand. In the Bollywood film-industry, there is an existing preference for fair-skinned actors over darker skinned actors. Even though India is a country majorly made up of brown people, people within India have this perception that individuals with lighter skin tones will have more opportunities for better education, better marriage proposals, and a better life in general. One of Fair and Lovely’s advertisements show that a woman was only noticed, and thus able to marry the man of her dreams, when she had lighter skin. This is the attitude many matrimonial websites uphold, and is thus transferred to the general public.
I remember constantly being offered, by friends and family, to try out Fair and Lovely. I didn’t completely understand then, and will never understand, the need to change skin color. This mindset, seemingly normal to a large majority of India’s population, is detrimental to an individual’s wellbeing. Namrata Das, an advocate against Fair and Lovely, has launched “Dark is Beautiful” and even though it is a small step, it is a step in the right direction. There are other campaigns such as Unfair and Lovely, which aim to combat underrepresentation of dark skinned people of color in media and make people of color feel included.
Greater, more visible change will only occur when large cosmetic industries feel pressured to remove degrading products, and include more diverse skin tones. However, as Namrata Das said, “I want to believe that every little drop fills the ocean. At the very least, this campaign is triggering some thought.”
Through this, at least I now know, and if I could tell eight year old me I would, that
I am Unfair and Lovely.
Cover image by Fair and Lovely