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Whether it is the East or the West, diversity in skin colour has created a hierarchy of beauty. Sudanese model Nyakim Gatwech was recently asked by an Uber driver in Minneapolis, US, whether she would agree to bleach her skin for $10,000. Closer home, actress Tanishththa Chatterjee was “roasted” for being dark-skinned.

Commercials for fairness creams are similar to ones for washing powder: Take something dark (read, dirty), use product, make your world whiter, brighter and happier. Breaking this stereotype are women from the city, who are proving society’s beauty standards wrong by flaunting their gorgeous, dusky colour. But were they always so confident in their skin? Mirror checks out…

‘Colourism’ much?

The world is rife with various -isms. Racism and sexism often get a ton of attention, and for good reason. But colourism is another damaging practice that can make some people feel like they’re less worthy than others. Recollecting her first tryst with colourism, actor Shraddha Musale says, “It is quite unfortunate to see that even school kids differentiate based on skin tone. No one is born with such bias. They pick it up from their parents and society. I was called Curtly Ambrose (the West Indian cricketer) for being tall and dark,” she says.

Given that society is generally more critical of women’s looks than men, colourism affects women more. And just like racism and sexism, colourism is often present in advertising where looks play a major role. For model Sanskruti Suthar, too, criticism started in school. “Kids made fun of me by calling me ‘kaali’ in front of the class. No matter how many times I complained to teachers, the kids never stopped making fun of me. They would also tease me, asking ‘Are you a South Indian?’, exposing their racism too,” says Sanskruti, 22.

Civil engineer and former research assistant at IIM Ahmedabad, Anushree Jain says, “I have been called ‘kaali’ by both kids and relatives. These taunts were so hurtful I would end up crying. I felt ugly because I did not conform to someone’s idea of beauty. While in college, I have been called names and told that I belong to a particular ethnic group because of my skin tone.”

Down and out

Shraddha, 33, says, “I would hide and avoid people who teased me. Every single taunt ate into my confidence. I used to cry myself to sleep. This changed when I moved out of the city and joined college. I was a Miss India participant, and my experience changed my outlook. I learned that my skin colour did not matter, that I was awesome. The world taught me that attitude is what takes you through. I found people who appreciated my beauty and it changed my perspective.”

Sanskruti’s pillar of support was her mom. “I used to come home and cry. My mother helped me get over it. She asked me to ignore such talk, work hard and achieve success that would silence all the criticism,” the model says. Friends and family support is everything when you’re dealing with negativity, says Anushree, 25. “Despite being emotionally hurt, I never thought of giving in to the negativity due to my close friends and family who constantly made me feel beautiful and loved.”

Gaining confidence

Did the women ever give a thought to conforming to society’s conventional beauty standards? “When I started studying in college, I thought of getting a fairness treatment. However, good sense prevailed and I decided against it. Last year when I went abroad I realised people their love dusky skin. They spend hours sunbathing on the beach just to get the skin tone I have,” says Sanskruti on how she came to terms with her skin. Anushree reveals, “As I grew older, I started to understand my heritage and my uniqueness. I am very comfortable with myself today. I know I am different and I am very proud of it.” On making her ‘weakness’ her strength, Shraddha says, “I realised I needed to embrace what I have because every person is born beautiful. I surrounded myself with positive people. I know who I am, and the gifts I have so I have learned to cherish it.”

Is fair lovely?

“We were ruled by the Britishers for centuries and they have shaped our idea of beauty and success. An average India is not fair. We have every spectrum of skin colour yet, even today, parents with dark-skinned daughters worry about not finding good life partners for their kids. I would prefer a healthy and clear skin to having a fair one now,” says Shraddha. Sanskruti says most Bollywood movies are made by North Indian directors and their ‘beauty standards’ are reflected in the films that are lapped up by audience.

“Every other actress except Bipasha Basu is fair. Even those with darker skin tone like Kajol grew ‘fairer’ with each consecutive movie,” she says. Kathak dancer Dhwani Emmanuel, 36, thinks it is a gender thing. “We have created a culture that values beauty above all other — for women, at least. Men are valued by their success.”

Taking it positively

Dhwani prefers to silence her critics with her work. “I feel women are pretty much a one-note instrument. Society says, you’re hot, or you’re not. Physical appearance is a primary scale of value and we have to acknowledge that this is an unfair and unreasonable way to run things. I never tried to fit in the society or give in to the standards set by the society. I just follow my heart,” she says. So how does one react to such comments, “I never cared about them. It is about how you carry yourself, it is about aesthetics and not colour,” she adds. Shraddha sums it up, “Kuch toh log kahenge, logon ka kaam hai kehna. Selfconfidence trumps all stumbling blocks.”Read more at:cheap prom dresses uk | formal dresses uk

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