- What was it about the flawesome series that got you interested in sharing your story with us ?
News is that none of us are flawless and it was my desire to share my common place story so that it would make a difference to atleast one person.
- Give us a bit of your background for starters.
Unexpectedly arrived as the seventh child after a gap of seven years and weighed 10 pounds. Not much has changed in the physical realm – even now I look really healthy. Grew up in a simple home where academics were high priority as well as exposure to multiple activities while community engagement was also a priority. I put my hand in various activities in school and did relatively well in most of them. School and college were well invested years.
- What event/incident turned your life around or was pivotal to you?
I have had many a challenge that I have faced all through the years of my life though one of them could be a fairness cream and whitening cream concept defeating piece. It was in my mid-thirties that I suddenly began a journey of an auto-immune condition called “vitiligo”- the loss of melanin and of course your skin tone takes on a new shade- undefined by color schemes of cosmetic companies. Though I turned white quite quickly – it was interesting as my husband’s little boy day dreams of marrying a fair girl came true as he got a fair wife after 7 years into mariage. Look and feel chemistry definitely did not decide our marriage as the proof of the pudding is that we have held on together through it all for many years thereafter.
- What were the challenges you faced because of your condition and how did you cope and overcome them?
People and their questions were an unresolvable lot. Their curiosity was way beyond our comprehension. They were more bothered about my condition – both in good and odd ways. Personally, I could not look into the mirror for a year. And that’s the year my husband as an adult began to smoke cigarettes. The not-so right treatment that I received bloated me further. Use of any make-up and the like was hard as colours did not display the same on my skin. My hair turned 90% grey and it was strange to see a new – not so likeable you.
That’s when I turned to my faith and got the strength and confidence I needed and believe me in 12 months time I had a break through where I could stand in front of the mirror and look at myself and say to myself that I am beautiful and wonderful.
- Have you struggled with feelings of inadequacy?
I believe it was a struggle of accepting my physical condition and not one of comparison. So I used to just lie low and quiet without doing anything frontline except at work.
- If we asked you what some of your wildest dreams are, what would you say?
I desire to collaborate in the area of academics and work as an influence. This has become a reality now. I am able to coach those who cannot afford it and that has really taken off. I make others grow tall on my shoulders as I can’t grow any shorter(did not grow tall from 8th grade). I love making others look their best at my cost. I love people and help them to walk in freedom and fullness of life here on earth.
- What has been the greatest achievement and joy of your life so far?
My faith has been my greatest strength. My relationship with God has carried me through the greatest struggles of my life and has given me great joy.
- What is your advice to our readers today?
Focus on another even when you are going through pain and believe me “People are important” will become your mantra.
[su_box title=”About the author” style=”soft” box_color=”#f3f3f3″ title_color=”#000000″ radius=”5″]Jaya is a trainer and motivational speaker.
She resides in Mumbai with her husband Abraham. [/su_box]
“If only your nose was straight and sharp like your father’s…and if only your skin tone was a bit lighter..” These were the words spoken by my grandmother over and over again for much of the first 27 years of my life. A retired surgeon, a very accomplished one at that, she raised me up entirely on her own. She sacrificed everything to give me the best I could have in life and she did that exceedingly well. She is no more, unfortunately, and not a day goes by when I don’t miss her.
My Grandmother was a very elegant and classy lady, with beautifully sharp features and fair skin. She always knew she was a beauty! Truth. She was surrounded by the British during her childhood and hence was influenced heavily by their culture and ideology. She grew up with the notion that being fair with sharp features was the quintessence of beauty and she identified herself with that common opinion.
My gramma was my everything on earth. My only “go to” person. She introduced me to God, to fine dining, manners, character, inner strength and what not. To me, she stood tall, being the perfect role model as I grew up and needless to say, every sentence and every opinion that came from her, began to mould my thoughts and influence me.
I grew up believing in that very same opinion of hers that one needed to be fair with sharp straight features to be categorized as “Beautiful”! I thus developed a complex that i wasn’t any of that. I detested my tiny little nose. I detested my lovely ebony skin tone.
When in school and college, I have heard teachers and seniors compliment me saying, “You are a black beauty!” . I chose to not believe them.
Unfortunately for me, my grandmother was the only critic who told me the “truth” and everyone else lied to please me!
I also happened to not be a cosmetic- loving gal. My skin was very clear naturally and i felt that was the only good thing left in me and that i should protect it and hence never applied makeup on my face. I’m glad and eternally grateful that i never went after Fair and Lovely, the then most popular brand or any fairness creams for that matter.
In 2013, I had an opportunity to visit Brasil. It was one of the best times of my life.
During my stay there I had countless number of people , including absolute strangers, the young, the old, men and women, walk up to me saying, “Você é muito linda. Sua cor é bonita!!” (You are very beautiful. Your colour is beautiful). I am not exaggerating when i say “countless”. It was overwhelming to have strangers in a restaurant or at the metro station walking up just to say they thought i was beautiful! Initially it was my bestie who had to translate every time somebody approached me with this compliment. Poor thing, she must have gotten tired translating for me during the initial days when i was not familiar with their language. After a few weeks though, this sentence became very familiar to me and i learnt to say “Obrigada” (Thank you) in response to all those who walked up to me.
I visited most of the coastal cities in Brasil. One common thing i noticed was that the people spent hours on the shores applying sun screen lotions and sun bathing just to get our dusky skin tone. They find our tone so beautiful. I thought to myself, “Why have I and all the Indians been brainwashed all these years by media, family, friends and cosmetic companies into thinking that dark is not beautiful. This is absolutely crazy!!”
That brought an end to my thinking that being fair was beautiful. I began to embrace my complexion and everything about me completely. It took an experience in a strange land for me to know and understand what it was when God said I was His Masterpiece!”
Remember, the grass will always look greener on the other side. The only thing that will keep you content is appreciating your own uniqueness and consciously making a shift in your mind to accept who you are created to be and celebrate the remarkable handiwork that you are. You are absolutely stunning just the way you are!
[su_box title=”About the author” style=”soft” box_color=”#f3f3f3″ title_color=”#000000″ radius=”5″]Anita Esther Joseph is a multitalented dancer, singer and freelance photographer.[/su_box]
We exist in a time where information is more easily accessible than ever before. Along with information, we are often bombarded with opinions, and at times it can be hard to discern the difference. One of the areas this difficulty arises in, is in defining beauty. Not only are we often presented with fake images as the truth, but we are also presented a fixed notion of what can be considered beautiful in the society we live in. This becomes increasingly problematic when what is considered beautiful is influenced by businesses who seek to profit from people’s insecurities.
Dr. Gail Dines concisely puts this idea across as “If tomorrow, women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business.” It may appear quite simple when you consider that all industries depend on demand for the growth of their businesses. But unlike in the case of food, these industries seem to create an artificial desire and pump in their products to try to fill that void. These industries are built on the insecurity of women, and they position themselves as trying to help women attain happiness and success. They do this by equating a particular standard of beauty with prosperity and affluence in all aspects of life, be it career or romantic. Often this standard is one that is unattainable, allowing a constant stream of purchases in the hopes of improving their lives. When the idea of beauty remains something unattainable, basing one’s self worth and happiness on this idea is damaging. It may seem impossible to truly be satisfied with oneself.
Instead of chasing this idea, maybe the answer lies in redefining beauty. To pushing its boundaries beyond what society tells us, to include our own definition of beauty. In this, lies a choice. We can either accept the definition of beauty presented to us, and continue to be dissatisfied with our appearances and critical of those around us. Or, we can choose to see the beauty that exists around us. We can choose to see beauty in confidence and smiles. We can choose to accept that society’s definition of beauty is not the only one. We can make our choice based on what we want for ourselves, not on what others want for us. But one must remember, that beauty is not the ultimate goal. Colorism is not only a problem because it values one shade of skin over others, it promotes the idea that people, and women in particular, should base their self worth in their physical appearance. Health, knowledge and kindness are far better parameters on which to measure self worth. So, it seems to me that if we want to be more satisfied with ourselves and self confident, there is a twofold task before us. We must redefine what beauty is to us, to include more than unattainable standards, and simultaneously recognise that our worth does not lie in our physical appearances.
I started to think about this idea of redefining beauty when I first joined college. One thing I hadn’t expected, was how this turned out to be an entry into an immensely positive community. I remember having conversations with my friends about how beautiful the people around us were, and not beautiful in the way society conventionally defines it. These conversations with my friends helped me see that when I started looking beyond conventional beauty in the people around me, I started to feel more beautiful as well. I believe that developing this sort of positive dialogue, by complementing the people around you instead of commenting about them, and looking for beauty rather than looking for flaws, goes a long way in building your own happiness.
[su_box title=”About the author” style=”soft” box_color=”#f3f3f3″ title_color=”#000000″ radius=”5″]Sneha is a 19 year old who is currently pursuing her B.A Economics in Azim Premji University in Bangalore. Because of her interest in pursuing a career in development, she is currently interning at Women of Worth. [/su_box]
When I stepped out in the sun, my skin breathed, long, life giving breaths, as it bathed itself silly in the slanting, loving sunshine. But, I never truly enjoyed the sun, as I should have, for a fear nagged at me. I’ll tan, I’ll become darker and I won’t be beautiful. So, I ran back into the home. From a little girl who was afraid of the sun, yet loved it like something terrible and scary should be loved, to a young woman who calmly tucks her hair behind her ear, exposing herself more to the sun, almost delighted at the browning of her skin, almost able to hear it like the crackling of a fire, I have come a long way.Everything good, beautiful and divine was fair. All the leading ladies in the films were fair, the angels printed in my textbook were fair, the darkest girl in the class was made very aware of her complexion, and even the brides of my family applied foundations that were nowhere near their shade of skin. The wheels of beauty hurled towards one destination, and that was “to be fair.”
To be fair was a prerequisite that few of our genes failed to fulfill, to be considered beautiful. It broke us down on a level that was much deeper than skin. It broke us down in places where we regretted belonging to a community, to a skin colour, to a race and to an ethnicity. We could be bestowed with the most striking eyes, full luscious lips, a shock of lustrous locks and the perfect nose, but we would still be the ones who were “Beautiful, but dark.”
We smiled coldly at these ignorant compliments. The society was apologetic for us. The kindness killed me. When I looked at a girl, dark like me, older than me, approaching the ‘age of marriage’, I sought solace from her. But, I didn’t get any. I got fear, I got an outpour of woes and I got from her an attentive ear to any “homemade fairness packs” that my mother might know. If the societal apology and kindness killed me, the victim’s self-blame scarred me. I knew my pride wouldn’t survive a hit so savage. So I did the only logical thing one does, when threatened, at least the only logical thing that wouldn’t brand me a coward. I fought.
I fought balancing on the strong shoulders of my friends and family and the edge of my pride was sharp. I still stand, poised, clutching my pride, waiting to see if someone would call me “Beautiful, but dark.” In this stance, I chant my prayer.
I am dark, a shade darker, and three tones deeper
I am dark, not wheatish, and not dusky, I am dark
I am dark, as you accused me to be, making generous excuses for me
It’s okay, I am educated
It’s okay, I am rich
It’s okay, I have the hair to make up
It’s okay, I can sew and stitch
Thank you, but no thank you
Why console me for something I am not crying about
Why console me for something I guffaw in pride about
Don’t make excuses for me, for I am perfect as I should be
I am finally dark and anything else, I don’t want to be
So let me be.
I’ll toss my head and walk in arrogance
Arrogance I’ve earned,
I’ve slain your ignorance
I, the collective hurt pride of all the dark skins
My fight is undeserved but fight I will
Because the hurt is undeserved
And I won’t take it.
Zeenath is one of Dark is Beautiful’s ardent supporters who lives in the beautiful city of Hyderabad with her family. She hails from an orthodox Muslim household where her upbringing involved spending a big chunk of her time with books that preached the most unorthodox ideas between their covers. The effect of the reading and writing culture became an evident part of Zeenath’s life which she describes in her own words as, “in an ‘inhale’ and ‘exhale’ like fashion, I switch between the two throughout my day.” Professionally, she interns at an auditing firm as part of her Chartered Accountancy program and aims to trudge to the other end of the tunnel in a couple of years.
As a lover of Indian cinema, Arabic food, baking, literature and her south Indian lifestyle, Zeenath is a charged up young woman who tries and gives her best in everything she sets her eyes on and doesn’t stop till she emerges successful.
In her account “Do Away with the ‘But’” she bids an adieu to the clichéd “But” that frequently takes a free ride on most of our compliments given to the melanin-rich, hoping that her prayer chant would break the spell and liberate our minds so that the memory of its existence does not haunt anymore.
During the month of March, we celebrated “Fear to Freedom” on our Dark is Beautiful Facebook page. What better way to connect with one another than sharing each other’s experiences eh? WOW applauds each and everyone who chose to change the narrative that typically follows fear. Here are a few stories that we gathered from all over India.
Fear to Freedom #1 This story resonated with many of our followers. A central theme that rose from the discussions highlights the legally banned practice of dowry continuing to mar dark skin complexion.
My name is Jyoti and I write this on behalf of all the Jyoti’s out there.I was born into a middle-class Bihari family in Jamshedpur. I am an Engineer by profession. I have skimmed through thousands of profiles in search for a bridegroom, but I didn’t find anyone who shares the same beliefs and values as I do. My parents were worried and feared about my marriage because I am dark and if a girl child is dark, it is completely unacceptable here. But recently, they found someone for me and fixed my marriage. Everything seemed fine in the beginning because my parents had already told them of my complexion and they didn’t say much. But one fine day the grooms family called my parents and stated very indirectly (since they are compromising on a fair daughter-in-law for me),“ We just have one son and after your daughter gets married, everything we have will be hers so pay for our son’s expenses now.” My parents were ready to pay for his expenses because they loved me and wanted me happily married. But when I heard it, I was annoyed. So, I called up the guy and asked him about it. He said,”We shouldn’t get our heads involved in this matter.” I was even more annoyed and said no to the guy. Why should I pay up because I am dark? It doesn’t make me any less of a human. I will certainly marry when I find my right match. A man who looks at my heart and not my outward appearance. Until then I refuse to put a price tag on my skin colour.
Fear to Freedom #2 Savitha received a lot of support from the DISB community spurring her on to break free from fashion norms and experience the joy of colours. We agree.
Model in the pic: Mary Smrutha Paul (DISB Ambassador, Hyderabad)
I do not know why you like to pick on my skin colour all the time. This is how God chose to make me. But you always make a big deal out of it. If I slap some red lipstick on, you say, ” You look ugly….. you think you are a foreigner or something?”. If I choose to wear a yellow heel, you say, ” What are you thinking? Are you out of your mind?” I still remember coming back home one night so excited after getting myself a beautiful lime green Lehenga and you smirked and said, “Give it to your sister, She’s gori hai na?”(Isn’t she fair?) I can’t even begin to explain how I felt that day. I felt so shameful. The fear of approval gripped me. I love fashion, I love dressing up in different colours. I can’t live my whole life wearing just maroons and blue’s can I? I am dark and what’s wrong if I wear bright colours? It’s time this kind of demeaning attitude changes!!! If I don’t even have the basic right to dress the way I want to and express myself sometimes I wonder what am I even doing here!?
– Savitha, The Stressed Out Dresser from Delhi
Fear to Freedom #3 Celestine wrote to us raising this fascinating question:
“Do each and everyone one of us secretly have a colourist inside of us?”
Colourism: A form of discrimination which is based on the individual’s skin colour, with the person who has the lighter skin tone, treated more favourably.
Celestine adds, “Editing pictures became a routine. It’s like I didn’t want to be myself until I realized I was being a colourist myself.”
Do we in our minds often paint ourselves to a skin colour we think we would look perfect at? Is that why filtered images are a huge fad? Has media successfully tapped into all our inferior complexes, flaws and fears, slowly but steadily somehow tricking us to believe that we all to a certain extent have to look like someone else to be accepted?
Celestine says, “Now that I have learned to see beauty in a different light, I feel I look much better without editing my images because that’s me in my authentic self and not a copy.” And we second that Celestine!
Fear to Freedom #4 starts with skin pigmentation, name calling and bullying, but ends with accepting the so-called-imperfections that make us uniquely beautiful.
My name is Natasha and I am from Telangana. You know everyone of us have some form of fear or the other. Mine stared back at me every time I looked at myself in the mirror, more so that the very thought would make me not want to see my reflection (sighs). I had dark pigmentation around my lips and chin so it used to look like I was having a moustache and kids in school started calling me Mushtasa. It used to make me feel like I was never worth it. I always thought how beautiful the fair skinned girls were and how life was easier for them at least in this aspect. As all these feelings grew louder I started disliking myself. Over the years, I have come to realize that the worst form of rejection is not other people rejecting you but you rejecting yourself. So today, I can boldly say, Mushtasha or not, I am proud of my dark skin (and the flaws therein, that makes me human I’d like to think) and I have learned to love (it was hard trust me but not impossible) myself the way I am. A huge shout out to my parents for helping me through this phase.
P.S “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.” (And love yourself ) – Harvey Fierstein
Fear to Freedom #5 radiates courage. Many of our readers were inspired and encouraged to follow her example as they face life’s challenges
Hi! This is Shirley from Hyderabad and this is my story.
I spent 10 years of my life in self-criticism. Like a princess locked up in a tall tower, because I felt like I was cursed for being born dark. Growing up with a complexion like this was not easy. Where do you look for comfort and consolation when your own family thinks you are born with a skin colour different than them? When your own friends start teasing you and name tagging you as “Black”? Not being chosen for anything because people look at your complexion and not your personality? Eventually, you start believing you don’t have the right to feel pretty or beautiful. In a country where it is common to be born in this shade, I was being shamed for the very same. But all this made me step back and look at the sunny side of life. My parents and my close friends helped me believe that I am beautiful inside out. The moment I believed I am beautiful, I saw that life was beautiful and what others thought of me slowly became irrelevant. Like they say, “What doesn’t break you makes you stronger”. So don’t let this(skin colour discrimination) ever stop you. I did not let it stop me.
Fear to Freedom #6 reflects on the attributes of inner beauty while showcasing that beauty is so much a social construct which needs to be redefined by the individual and not a tube of fairness cream.
Hi Facebook, This is Yasha Aluru and I am from Telangana. This story is about a good friend who is worth so much more than she knows. The beautiful lady in the picture is Sai. She joined as a maid about three weeks ago.
I was applying some sunscreen one morning and as she was cleaning she asked me curiously “Amma (Madam), what are you applying?” I told her its sunscreen. She asked me again, “ Is that how you become white? I used to be darker. My brother and sister are fair so how can I become like them?”
I could see that it took her courage to ask me that question and I knew I had one simple responsibility towards her.I had to remind her that it was she (and not her fairer brother or sister) who helped her sick mother, she who stayed by her cousin’s side every day while her kidneys slowly failed, and it is she who takes care of her little one all by herself because she loves him unconditionally. I had to tell her that her beauty cannot be bought in a zillion tubes of fairness creams. Her beauty was a gift that she honed into the worthy human she is.
“Hey, Sai. If you start coming to work this late in the day, it will get very sunny and you will turn darker”, said my mother yesterday. Sai smiled and looked at me….a look that said, “Now is that really so bad?”
Fear to Freedom #7 reminds us that the society continues to struggle with skin colour bias. But are permitted to question, challenge, and ultimately, show by our actions, that skin colour bias can be overcome.
My name is Keerthika Gummadi , I am from Hyderabad. I live in New York at the moment and will be back in India for good. When I think of returning back to India, there’s this one thing that constantly troubles me. Meeting relatives who I know will urge me to try the latest fairness creams and treatments. I often wonder why am I being bullied for something I am born with? Why can’t I be accepted the way I am? I am worshipped for my tan in the foreign land but looked down for the same in my motherland. I have always had people walk up to me and say, “You are beautiful despite being dark”. I don’t get it!!! What does skin colour have to do with being beautiful? Beauty lies on the inside, doesn’t it?