I’ve always been slightly darker. My father was from Pondicherry while my mother was from Uttar Pradesh. I inherited my father’s skin colour to a certain extent. My friends would often say, “Your mom is so fair and pretty. What happened to you?” A lot of my friends at school were fairer and sometimes I’d overhear other parents making some comments about skin colour.
I never had to hear any colour-related stuff from my own family - immediate or extended. Skin colour was never an issue whether I was with my parents and brother or with my aunts, uncles and cousins. Nevertheless, I felt conscious and insecure. This insecurity was based on comments I received and reinforced by TV, magazines and newspapers, all of whom extolled the same standard of beauty - fairness. Whenever I would see advertisements for fairness creams on TV, I would compare the model’s complexion to my own - not in a way that was complimentary to me. Growing up in North India made it even worse.
Puberty brought the usual stuff with it - pimples and oily skin. It didn’t help that I’ve always had a problem maintaining a healthy weight. So, on top of being dark, I was also pimply and overweight. My confidence levels were below zero. I even started measuring my self-worth on how I looked and was depressed for a long time.
I’d love to be able to say that it was some flash of inspiration or something that I read or heard that changed my mind. In reality, it was years and years of slowly changing and learning to accept myself. It definitely helped that my family never made a big deal about my skin colour. To them it was absolutely normal.
Today, I don’t really care what the shade of my skin is. I’m more focused on having skin that is healthy. I take care of it and have my skin care routine, but, beyond that, I try not to waste headspace on things that I can’t change and I’m proud to say that I have finally accepted my complexion for what it is and even see beauty in it.
However, what really bothers me is how many little girls see these fairness and whitening products on TV and feel that there is something lacking in them. The media really needs to take the onus and change the way they project beauty. One part of this is celebrity endorsements. Each time a really popular star endorses a fairness or whitening cream, they are telling a nation full of little girls and boys that fairness is the only standard of beauty. This needs to stop. Movie stars such as Nandita Das and Kangana Ranaut have already taken a step in the right direction - the former with the ‘Unfair and Lovely’ campaign and the latter by refusing to endorse fairness products.