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This Lipstick Is For The Fair, Fairer And The Fairest

Posted: January 31, 2015
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Why do skincare and beauty brands feel the urge to use only fair and thin models? Don’t other women use their products too?

This recent Loreal TV advertisement set me thinking.

The Indian version shows Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor and Freida Pinto, all looking snowy white what with their white costumes, the background and lo! their complexion.

The ad also shows a glimpse of the US version. There they had 75 year old Jane Fonda, 54 year old Julianne Moore, French actress Laetitia Casta, an Ethiopian-born model, maternal health advocate,  Liya Kebede, Russian model Natasha Poly, Zoe Saldana, among others. Now isn’t that a bunch you can call “women”?

Same brand but different outlook. Can I ask why? Is it because they think Indians are narrow-minded when it comes to seeing older and darker skinned women wearing cosmetics? I was imagining how the ad would have looked if they had Rekha, Hema Malini, Nandita Das, and models from different ethnic backgrounds, all in the ‘elite’ company of Aishwarya and Sonam. Wouldn’t it have been the perfect picture? Loreal would have surely got a few more buyers with that ad.

Why do they think that in India only fair skinned women and that too who are in their 20s, buy lipstick? Ok, Aishwarya is in her 40s but she is the ‘Miss World’. It is not just with one brand. In how many shampoo ads do you see women with curly hair or middle-aged women? They all show thick straightened hair. (What if they are all computer graphics?)

Age and dark skin a taboo

Stereotyping isn’t just an issue; it is also about these products and their ultimate selling point. It all comes down to the thinking that creams and moisturisers ads look good only on fair skin. This may have to do with a fear that if they show dark-skinned models using this cream, no one would find these products attractive and then there will be fewer buyers.

Is that really so? When I come to think of it, maybe they find it hard to find dark skinned actresses who are famous. In Bollywood, actresses with dark or wheatish skin prefer looking ‘fair’ in photographs and will never admit that they are not ‘fair’, nor will they talk about their skin colour in public.

Let us voice our opinion

This bias and myopic view might not go away easily but it is high time the women of India come together and voice their opinions. It is time Loreal (and other brands too) realise that their products are also used by women who have dark skin or curly hair and who aren’t too tall or thin but who are ‘normal’, who are just women.

Once they realise this, they may change the script of their ads and their thinking and who knows, that might even increase their consumer base?!

Image used is a still from the TVC

Rajlakshmi Kurup is a freelance writer. An introvert most of the time, she loves some

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