Battling The Idea That Lighter Indians Are Prettier Indians

Image/Fair and Lovely

Eyes squinted, my 12-year-old self squeezed lemon juice onto her face, rubbing it in and praying she would wake up a shade lighter.

But she didn’t. And that’s okay.

As an Indian female, throughout my childhood I’ve grown up with the idea that light skin is ideal. Many Indian TV channels played ads for a skin-whitening cream called “Fair and Lovely”; Bollywood’s beloved actresses were usually several times paler than me. Even my own family shoved the idea down my throat by insulting how extra-dark my skin looked after running outside. My oblivious young self would often lie in bed and dream about how amazing life would be if I wasn’t so dark.

But a couple months ago, I created a short film titled Brown and Beautiful, which tells the story of an Indian girl who overcomes insecurity about her dark skin.

While planning the film, I knew I was being somewhat of a hypocrite by creating it - I hadn’t even overcome my own insecurity yet; I still believed lighter people were more beautiful. Still, I made the film anyway, because it was about a topic personal to me.

A couple weeks after finishing it, though, I realized I hadn’t thought disdainfully about my dark skin for a while. As if expressing myself through art helped me gain confidence, just like the film’s main character did.

Now, when I pass a mirror, rather than avoiding my reflection, I embrace it.