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Thanks to weird beauty standards, Dia Mirza was told was told she was ‘too short’, ‘too pretty’, ‘too fair’ to be a model – she recently shared.
In an interview with Pinkvilla, actress and model turned producer and social activist Dia Mirza looked back at the early days in her career. She spoke of the time when she was told that she was ‘too short’ and ironically, ‘too pretty’ to be a model.
Her voice and thought process personally resonates with every woman, regardless of age. Hearing remarks like ‘you’ve gained some weight’ or ‘grown darker’ ensures that our self image becomes rather toxically intertwined with assigned beauty standards. We are expected to ‘age gracefully,’ thanks to all these universalised beauty ideals.
Though women are told that their minds and hearts are of equal value, we go our entire lives chasing a distorted vision of ‘perfection.’ Here, I say ‘perfection’ in air quotes simply because it is an idea that has never been relevant. It just doesn’t exist.
If make-up and fashion are subjective and a reflection of our self-expression, why is our individuality often burned at the stake and subject to otherisation?
Most crucially, beauty standards are the most blatant representation of patriarchy, especially as self-worth is often linked to physical appearances. A women’s value or idea of ‘perfection’ is thereby branded and on the receiving end of male chauvinism. Beauty is linked to youth and desirability. It is linked with the woman’s ability to not just appeal to the male gaze but find a man and start a family. Here she is expected to continue to play out this outrageous ideal.
Descriptions of women still remain confined to their outward appearances, rather than their intellect, mind and capabilities. And this is further used by the entertainment industry and the media in a rather negative manner. Women are expected to look, dress and behave in a certain manner. Which is also something Dia Mirza talks about in the video.
She tells the host how she was subject to a rather reverse experience. In a bizarre case, she was told she was ‘too fair’ to be a part of a modelling assignment. But what she faced was one of the rare bizarre cases. A number of women, especially, darker skinned women face stigma and bullying due to their skin tones.
Colourism and skin lightening, a now multi-billion dollar industry, have been reinforced over the years by brands like Fair and Lovely. Though buffeted in part by campaigns like #UnfairandLovely, these problems are still rampant.
They continue to propagate a warped representation of perfection and beauty standards on the vestiges of India’s colonial past and the regressive caste system. And that in turn, act as a double-edged sword against women.
Society’s primitive notions of perfect are yet again exposed in conversations and discussions about body image. On one hand the skin tone is a barometer for attractiveness and perfection. And on the other, the idea of ‘size zero’ is another factor reinforcing an inferiority complex in women too.
While striving for this illusory and elusive desire for ‘perfection,’ we often forget the things that help us feel good in our own skins. The idea of ‘perfection’ often makes us forget our own sense of self and expression.
Rather than fitting a particular idea, inclusivity carves out a new path when it comes to beauty. And offers us, first and foremost, a choice.
Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty covers concealer across a 50 shade spectrum and foundation shades in around 40 colours too. As part of a body-positivity campaign #LoveYourMarks, Bio-Oil launched a campaign to encourage its customers to embrace and care for their bodies. The advertisement featured women of different racial backgrounds and body types.
Indian beauty brands like Fae Beauty offer a wide array of homegrown vegan lipsticks for a diverse range of skin complexions. Their objective is to subvert the conventional beauty standards and broaden their customer base.
Maybe one day after all this talk about unsubscribing to beauty standards, we won’t just think it, we will all know it. And maybe, it’s time we stop striving for perfection and start accepting the differences that make each of us distinctly beautiful.
But till then, a small voice inside myself still sows the seed of doubt within me when I look into the mirror every day. Be it a famous personality like Dia Mirza, young girls still trying to find their sense of self and style. Or you and I, we all have the same stories and fear and continue to share and tackle them together.
Another issue that is currently cropping up is that of women sneaking off to beauty salons to get their hair fixed, their eyebrow and faces threaded or get their bodies waxed. Even in times of a global pandemic, women are conditioned to look their ‘perfect’ best. These stereotypes are often pandered to by media and the film industries.
Maybe if they were told that it is okay to look a little less than ‘perfect,’ we wouldn’t have women risking their lives to stick to the ideal of it. Or maybe if we were allowed to be something like ‘regular,’ women would still stay at home and not strive for perfection.
Picture credits: YouTube
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Shivani is currently an undergraduate political science student who is passionate about human rights and
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