Fans of Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai Bachchan were shocked to see a picture of her in Elle Magazine where her skin tone appeared to be whiter leading to condemnation from fans and the actress alike according to her friends.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan starred in the film Brides and Prejudice and according to the Mail Online report (Tamara Abraham: 31 December, 2010) is said to be the most beautiful woman in the world, yet despite this it seems that her natural skin tone is not enough for Elle Magazine.
Fans of the actress discussed their concerns on Twitter regarding skin lightening in India, which is said to be a major issue where lighter skinned Indians are perceived as being more successful and wealthy.
According to the Mail Online report, skin lightening products in India is now a multi million-pound industry aimed at young Indian men and women.
In a BBC report on Tuesday, 25 September 2007, by Naresh Puri Bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan came under fire from fans and campaigners alike for promoting a skin whitening cream.
In the advert an Indian man who has darker skin than his friends has no success with women until Khan hands him a skin lightening cream.
According to Puri, the skin lightening industry is worth up to £100 million in India and is making its way into the UK market.
Sikh Human rights activist Kiran Kaur described the arrival of skin lightening products in the UK as a step back in time. Actress Rani Moorthy has suffered from colour prejudice in India and even from her own grandmother who said that no man would ever want her because of her skin colour.
She said that skin lightening creams in India exploits the 5,000 year old caste system where light skin is associated with high caste and nobility and dark skin with low caste and low status.
Manufacturers of skin lightening creams exploit the old racial ideologies of European features as the highest ideal when it comes to beauty.
In October 2010 black supermodel Naomi Campbell spoke out against issues like this in the modelling industry (read Naomi Campbell speaks out against racism in the fashion industry)
Also, the infiltration of skin lightening products has also targeted females in the black community.
Alphonso Van Marsh, in a report for CNN Health in November 2007, said “Skin bleaching — using chemical or natural products to lighten skin color — is common practice in the Americas, Africa, across Asia, and increasingly, in Europe”.
Marsh added, “And as the UK’s Asian, African and African-Caribbean communities grow, so too — cosmetics industry experts say — does ethnic spending power for products promoted to lighten skin tone”.
Elle Magazine was also accused of lightening black actress Gabourey Sidibe in September last year. It can be no coincidence that magazines promoting a white skin ideal is contributing to the low self esteem among many women with darker skin tones. It is these images which fuels the skin lightening cream industry.
Just as the fashion industry must take responsibility for young girls with eating disorders they are also responsible for young males and females who feel uncomfortable in their own skin.
Skin prejudice is a disease and must be challenged and eradicated wherever it rears its ugly head. If that means parents of black and ethnic minority children must boycott these magazines and provide their children with better representations of self identity, so be it. Racism in all its unpleasant forms must be challenged constantly and this issue will not go away if we never challenge these perceptions.
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