I was so excited to do a natural photo shoot with a dark-skinned South Asian woman. I believed it was so important to do this. How many of us have South Asian descent friends who do not see themselves as naturally desirable? Or particularly sexy just in some jeans and a tee? This partially stems from our childhoods. I remember as a young girl- the closest I got to a Disney star I could relate to was Vanessa Hudgens and the only Princess who looked remotely anything like me was Princess Jasmine. She was not even of my heritage as she was Middle Eastern. However, I think part of it, a much larger part, stems from the society grew up in.
Growing up in Sri Lanka one thing I noticed was that while any “foreign woman” (not even necessarily caucasian, just not South Asian) was praised for her unique beauty the opposite treatment was given to Sri Lankan women.
Are looks are dissected and critiqued, any hint of our sexual selves is slut-shamed to silence and we are treated as if we are frigid. It is all about restrictions. They do not like our darker lips but scowl and call us insecure for wearing lipstick. They mock us for our baby fat but call as “attakottay” when we loose it. God forbid we have an opinion about something.
That does something to a woman’s psyche on a deeper level.
It makes you feel ever so slightly inferior to women of other skin tones and ethnic backgrounds. There unique traits such as freckles are glorified while your raven black hair is not. Their light eyes colours are seen as sexy, while you try to change your chocolate brown eyes to something it is not. We have all been there.
Even today the progress has been slow; Indian beauty bloggers like Kaushal beauty while stunning cannot represent us darker ladies, my childhood Princess is being whitewashed in the film remake and there is shockingly still no South Asian who has become a Victoria Secret Angel.
People love to tout off models Ujjwala Raut and say we have representation. As so beautifully put by one of my Belleboss women Amira Desai- usually the main reason these women make it is because of their “ambiguous casting”. In other words, they could pass off as something other than Indian or South Asian. In a world which shoves fairness creams and photoshopped images of Priyanka Chopra’s lightened armpits in my face – is it any wonder that on most days I feel more like an afterthought than the main attraction?
Has Instagram and social media moved the needle for us women? I remember the time before Instagram where I never saw women with my skin colour pose natural makeup in front of the camera. It was always with caked makeup, over-lined lips and heavily kohled eyes
. Even today on Instagram- when we look at photo shoots South Asian women are hardly portrayed as natural beauties. Sometimes in my head- I feel that category is resolved for blond haired- blue eyed women. Even now.
So now it is my daily mission to remember the following motto
” confidence is sexy. You are a golden barbie- sunkissed and glossy- ready to conquer the world. It’s time to be the main actress in your own life. “
And since you have read this far then let me in on your secret… you do not need a saree, dupatta and kohled eyes to feel confident. While it is great to be proud of your culture- I see too many South Indian girls on Instagram clinging onto “traditional looks” because they think that is the only way they can seem unique. You look just as good as the next girl in the white tee and jeans. No makeup. No add-ons. Just you x Happy Belated Birthday Varaniya. Thank you for modelling for me.