Dark is Beautiful

Kavitha Emmanuel   |   October 27, 2014 


An ideal Indian woman! Who is she? She is tall, slim, with well-defined features and FAIR!  

I often wonder where we inherited such blatant ‘wanted: fair brides’ sort of racism. It is estimated that more than 50 percent of Indian people have darker skin tones. That the Dravidians are dark skinned people is an obvious fact. How they got to buy into the notion that “fair alone” is beautiful is unsolvable. Why haven’t we opened our eyes to see beauty that is evident in our own people?

Many trivialize the issue saying that in a country that is battling graver issues like poverty, terrorism, crime and abuse, an issue like skin colour bias is of no importance. But why should we wait till we eradicate these graver issues to address an issue that exposes our primitive prejudices? I often wonder if the issue of skin colour is deeper that what we think it is.

Based on the Global Village Theory, if we were to shrink the whole world into a village of 100 people, 70 of us would be coloured! And we are a nation made of up people with different shades and colours of skin – from yellow to light brown and darker shades of brown. To set ‘fair’ as the norm of beauty is "Un-Fair."

We often conclude that our worth is based on what we do or how we look. And for many of us, especially women, what we see in the mirror – or what we think we see in the mirror – shapes much of our identity. Added to these notions are our society’s norms on how a girl or a woman should look and behave. Media sends us confusing messages about who we are and what we should look like often capitalizing on the norms that are already found in our society.

The Dark is Beautiful campaign is all about spreading the message that beauty is beyond colour. We are all citizens of one nation– tall or short , men or women, children or adults, Fair or Dark. Why make a big deal about skin colour when you are beautiful just the way you are?

Our focus for the campaign is to address the toxic belief that a person’s worth is measured by the colour of their skin. We do not plan to delve into the reasons why this belief exists. We want to look beyond that and seek solutions to change prevalent attitudes against dark skin.

People often ask me what prompted me to initiate this campaign. If you take a look at those widely circulated fairness shade cards, I am an ‘inch’ above what people might call "dark" (yes, they have invented a measuring scale for skin tones!). I belong to the category of lighter brown-skinned people.

I have to admit I haven’t been the victim of any life-changing discrimination from my fairer counterparts. But I have often felt the pressure to preserve or save the colour of my skin from the sun so I don’t get darker. I still hear comments like, “You were a fair baby, but now you have become so dark. Have you been roaming in the sun?”

However, the reasons that propelled me to initiate the campaign were the real life stories of my friends and women I have counseled. I know girls who have been rejected by potential marriage partners, subtly denied jobs and abused by husbands and in-laws because of their skin colour. I have seen children face rude remarks and given nick-names for being dark skinned. I have felt like crying alongside a mom who couldn’t hold back her tears as she talked about how people differentiate between her two children and show preference for the fairer one.

One story that stands out is of a friend who was willing to marry a man in a wheel chair. She chose to see the person beyond the disability he suffered. To her surprise his family rejected her because, as they say, “she lacked colour.” I know girls who carry the scars of rejection for years and find it difficult to believe that they are of value.

I was not born a Dark is Beautiful campaigner. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the Change that you want to see.” Any change that I want to see has to begin with me. Campaigns bring awareness. Campaigns are not to judge people. I chose to become a campaigner against skin colour bias because I want to create a world free of skin colour bias for our children.

The Dark is Beautiful campaign is an awareness initiative that is trying to wake people up to the reality of beauty in all skin tones. John Keats said, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” For us today, a thing of beauty is work forever! It’s the "get fairer, get slimmer, and get younger" kind of syndrome that is driving people crazy - leaving them feeling tired, unloved and unlovely.

What makes a person truly beautiful is more than just what is seen on the outside. We need to let values like kindness, acceptance, helpfulness, tolerance, integrity and honesty regain their rightful status in our world.

We would like everyone to see the image of the Creator in all people irrespective of their gender, skin colour, caste or social standing. It’s time to change what we see on our TV screens. It’s time we change what we teach our children about their skin colour. It’s time to challenge what we traditionally see on our matrimonial columns.

Let’s together pave the way for an India that helps people truly celebrate who they are no matter their skin colour!


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Kavitha Emmanuel is passionate about campaigning for issues concerning women, children and the underprivileged. Kavitha finds great fulfillment in helping women realize their dreams and live up to their full potential. She founded Women of Worth (WOW) with a vision to empower, train and motivate women to 'Be the Best They can Be'. She is always looking for opportunities to create avenues for change that will make the world a better place for women.

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8 comments on “Dark is Beautiful”

  1. I can totally relate to this post. For as long as I can remember, I have been teased by my peers about my skin colour.Girls in my class who had the pinkest complexion anyone would have ever seen, were often heard complaining loudly how they had only stepped out of their homes for a minute or two and had 'tanned' immensely, when to our eye, we couldn't see any difference.

    Later, as adults, when we started appearing for interviews at hotels and other places, many of us weren't selected for the next round only because we weren't fair enough. It was disheartening to say the least. I can never forget the nights that were spent hugging pillows and cradling boxes of tissues.

    Even now, while commuting by the metro rail, we often get to hear other girls say,"Dekh, kitni kali hai"(Look, how dark she is). Its as if there is absolutely no escape from this mindset. No matter how many times we tell ourselves,'dusky is the new fair', it simply doesn't cut it.

    1. to boldena, mai apne maa/baap ko choose nahi karpaya is liye mai kali hoon
      too tho man ka andha hai usko sudhar do

  2. True and how! As I read the post it brought back a million childhood memories when i was bullied because of my skin colour. As soon as I was born, a relative refused to carry me in her arms saying "ye to kali hai". My mom heard the comment while she was still in the hospital bed after the delivery. Since then she has always wanted me to look perfect and I have always been rebellious. I never have accepted looks to be a parameter of beauty and never will. In fact, I have always believed dusky is sexy!

  3. the Song of songs 1:8 says 'Dark am I, yet Lovely.' - By these words God comforted me. When all others told me I was ugly, God told me I am Lovely. I am Beautiful

  4. hi. kavitha
    so happie to read your post,I share your thoughts. as I have faced the same dilemma in my childhood. But then I found an identity in God.and everything changed.
    by the way, I am a die hard fan of your album 'Rise India Rise'. I really love your work. especially the work by 'WOW'.

  5. That was a good one. Without mincing words, I would like to say I was totally abused in childhood coz of my colour tone. today, I am proud of what I am , I have over come the insecurities etc, but when I think about myself as a child, I feel sad for that soul. To make matters worse, I have a sister who is super fair.. So I have been there, seen it all, heard it all. The instances are too many and unfortunately, they are engraved in my memory (thankfully without bitterness).

  6. Dear All,

    I am truly happy to hear your comments. Skin colour bias is a real issue. The more we talk about it , the more people become aware of how this affects people deeply. Please know that the Dark is Beautiful Campaign exists to offer support and be a voice to those who have felt discriminated against because of skin colour. We are a nation of 1.2 billion shades of beautiful! Let's pass the word around and say NO to skin colour bias.

  7. So what if some people find lighter skin more attractive? There's nothing wrong with people having their own personal preference. You say on one hand that "Dark is beautiful" and on the other "What makes a person truly beautiful is more than just what is seen on the outside. ". So it just proves that your real problem is an inferiority complex when other people prefer lighter skin over darker skin. Not that you really want to emphasis on other qualities otherwise you would have titled it as "What's inside is beautiful".

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