Kaali Kali


Yash Shankar, the artist.

Dark is beautiful had a splendid opportunity to be a part of a solo exhibition titled “Kaali Kali”, by Yash Shankar that celebrated body positivity and diversity among women with the theme majorly focusing on skin colour discrimination. We love supporting and encouraging young artists like Yash who beautifully express their thoughts through their artwork. DISB has stood for celebrating diversity of all skin shades and body types ever since our inception and partnering with a like minded artist was refreshing. We leave you with a small excerpt on the young artist and what kindled her to do an exhibition that had been brewing in her mind for a long time.

Yash Shankar, is an undergraduate student of Applied Psychology and Global Public Health at NYU. She grew up travelling and moving from country to country with her family, and as she learned more about each culture, the one thing that stood out for her was the discrimination minority groups faced. Having faced discrimination  based on her skin colour from a very young age; from kindergarten to be precise and as she grew a little older it slowly became slut shaming and sexism. Talking about this she said, “I can’t remember a time at which I have been treated fairly for who I am. What was once blatantly offensive, became subtler and more widely accepted in society every day.  By the time I got to college, I realized that the society that I was now a part of, was built on discrimination; as was the society I came from. Everywhere I turned, I saw my culture being appropriated, and before I had the words to describe this, all I had was a feeling of discomfort at people manipulating a culture they didn’t fully understand. I had always known double standards to be a part of my life, but as I grew and further understood this, I started to realize I didn’t have to be okay with it. I could see my culture everywhere, but I could never see my people. India got independence from Britain, almost 70 years ago, but people of colour to this day remain trapped inside a system that constantly benefits from them but never works to benefit them.”

When we quizzed her about the exhibition she said, “I have been learning about race and feminism, I have realized that though I cannot be happy about my position in the world today, I don’t have to be sad like I once was. I can get angry. I can get angry for myself, and I can get angry for my people. But I also know anger is not the solution. I would rather steer all that anger positively and bring about a change in my own way. Doing this exhibition –an exhibition that celebrates the everyday dark Indian woman- has allowed me to take a small step in fixing an impossibly large problem. Working on these paintings has inspired me to fight for the freedom and opportunities that I deserve, and I hope that in the future women of colour can come together and support each other to do the same.

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When I was 5 years old, I lived in Bangkok and had no friends. When my teacher asked me what I would like the most, I innocently told her that I would, for one day, like everyone to ignore the fact that I had dark skin. Now that I’ve grown up, I don’t want to ignore that part of me anymore at all. I want to celebrate it and embrace it; one of the ways I achieved this is when I hosted an art exhibition in Chennai at Lakshana Art Gallery.I thank Dark is Beautiful for their support towards my cause and for readily partnering with me.”


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Dark is Beautiful at the Madras Couture Fashion Week 2016


From left Nimisha Philip, Preethi Kitchapan, Sahil Jain


Preethi Kitchapan DISB show-stopper

WOW as a movement has been voicing out the need to break beauty stereotypes of shape, size and skin colour. We have always been open to partnerships that will help take the message of the equality and dignity of all skin shades ever since the Dark is Beautiful campaign was launched in 2009. Recently, WOW was honoured to have been able to partner with corporate lawyer and designer Nimisha Philip at the Madras Fashion Week to celebrate the beauty of dark skin through her Be Audacious line of stunning women’s attire. Her flair for combining elegance with bold designs artfully and her passion for the cause made this a very unique and meaningful show. Let us take you backstage and into the heart of what makes Be Audacious a clothing line with a difference.

What’s your definition of fashion?

Fashion is an inspiration of identity, commodity and art, intertwined intangible material. It is an expression of your inner being, making your body a platform for display.Fashion has the function of culture, modesty, necessity and art to inspire emotion in its viewers.  This is the reason I love setting and following new trends in fashion as it has a capacity to inspire a sense of audacity, fearlessness and a spirit of awe!

What’s unique about your fashion?

I believe my designs are very personal to me and my clients. I cannot design if I don’t find inspiration from the client or if I am not helping them stand for something that is important to them. Every time I design for my clients, I write a personal message for them in the “Be Audacious” box, to inspire them to value that moment and aspire for greater heights. Each of my garments when sold will also give my clients the opportunity to contribute to the child’s life, as 10% of the profit will go to helping a disadvantaged child.

Why showcase women’s issues through your clothes?

I am a practicing lawyer by profession and women’s rights issues is something very close to my heart since my 9th grade dream to be a lawyer, something for which I have voiced my opinion on several platforms. When the idea of “Audacious” was born, I knew that using fashion& design to drive home the message of women empowerment would be an interesting and fun platform.

What are the challenges you face?

I am still rather new to the industry, but have followed since I was a young girl. Since my childhood, I never liked being told what I can and cannot wear, and that’s also one of the challenges I will face in this industry.The Madras Couture Fashion week (Season 3) was my very first platform for me to display my designs on a public ramp; little did I know I would get this kind of fabulous response. It has really encouraged and also shown me that the fashion industry is no trivial game. They do what they do with tremendous effort, inspiration, investment and risk.

How do you juggle both roles of Lawyer and Fashion Designer?

It’s been quite an amazing journey so far, but with crazy amount of hard work and very late sleepless nights. I love both the fields so much and I wouldn’t want to leave either of them. Being a lawyer at one of India’s top law firm, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas is no piece of cake; it has long nights of due diligence and client expectations to be met. Adaptation and promptness play very key roles in balancing both. It also helps to have an amazing Partner as your boss, who gives you space, but expects work to be done when needed. I like to believe I get by with a lot of grace from God and a supporting family and friends who get on my bandwagon of craziness at any point in time. I really do believe when you value every person that helps you in your journey in life, anything can become possible.

What does the “Dark is Beautiful” campaign mean to you?

Vivienne Westwood said, “Art gives Culture.” I believe in clothing creating culture; clothing finds resolve in developing culture, modesty, simplicity, elegance, style, life – especially in glorious works of Indian colour and design. But when it comes to the beauty of your own skin colour, our definitions single out “fair” as the  option.

As a girl whose mother is gorgeously fair skinned and Dad handsomely Dark skinned, I always received different views on this topic. Luckily, both my amazing parents are broad minded when it comes to their daughters having their own opinion.When I came across the words “Darkisbeautiful,” my heart immediately drew my feet towards it. That’s when I met Kavitha and her team and put my name down to volunteer for both their campaigns: “Girl Arise” and “Darkisbeautiful”. After that day, it has been a series of amazing events.

What was your experience and how did the Madras Couture Week show champion the “Dark is Beautiful” Campaign?

I knew The Madras Couture Week would be a great platform to drive home to the fashion industry the message of Beauty Beyond Colour, especially when I saw that there wasn’t a single dark skinned model in my three weeks of searching. That’s when I knew my show-stopper had to be a strong, independent dark skinned model, PreethiKitchapaan, a gorgeous fawn skinned model and a mother to a lovely young girl.

Every quote and song I picked for each of the models was about women empowerment intertwined with the message “DarkisBeautiful”. I also had the opportunity to bring on board the powerhouse of a voice, Kavita Thomas, and amazing dancers of Aparna Nagesh’s “High Kicks- All Girls Dance Ensemble”. When they heard about the campaign they got on board in a heartbeat, without whom the ending of my show would not have been such a grand success. I was also helped by Sunil Menon, who was the show’s choreographer. Preethi’s attire was inspired by the fusion of Indian designs and the Egyptian queen Cleopatra, who was a dark skinned powerful queen of her time.

It was important to me to end of the show by stressing that “we have to rid ourselves with the pathological obsession of associating beauty to fair skin; [How] in a country with so many different skin colours we have to appreciate the beauty in each colour.” So all that said, all you lovely readers please go and “Be Audacious” in your lovely skins.





Dark on Fleek



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Dark is Beautiful launched in 2009, has had a cascading effect since its inception. It has stimulated and inspired the birth of many other campaigns which advocates against skin colour discrimination. As we (Women of Worth), were inaugurating our Dark is Beautiful Hyderabad Chapter, on the title “Beauty Beyond Colour”on 5th March 2016, at the InOrbit Mall, “Dark on Fleek” was brought to our attention. Smarna Ravela and Kollipara proud students of the Oakridge International School, Hyderabad, started this campaign as a part of their school community project. We invited the girls to come share their experiences and inspire the students present at the launch. We celebrate and encourage young girls like Shreya and Smarna who want to make a difference in the society by addressing sensitive issues like ‘colour discrimination’. We are proud to collaborate with them and here’s a small excerpt on what Dark on Fleek is all about.

“Dark on Fleek”, is directed towards the precious women of tomorrow, (girls of various schools) aiming to show them that it isn’t just looks that determine beauty. The slang “fleek”, is popular amongst the students and means perfection or “is awesome”. They aim to convey to the students that they don’t need to go by society’s ideals of perfection, but just need to be their own unique and amazing selves by embracing their colour with pride and confidence and showcase their real worth by showing others who they are in personality, talent and abilities.

This project also hopes to give students a voice. A voice to express themselves and also educate them on this issue. Having undergone discrimination on this front themselves, they understand that an abyss of damage has been done by the oodles of fairness cream commercials and movies that regularly bombard our television screens. Their primary goal is to address the damage and educate students on how to overcome the episodes of discrimination that they have encountered.

Dark on Fleek as of now is a small community and under the guidance of Women of Worth,  they are hoping to encourage and bring along many other girls, who would like to volunteer and help raise a stronger voice against skin colour discrimination and harbour a colour bias free environment on school campuses in the future.

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Shreya Kollipara on the right: I’m passionate about writing, and I write to promote equality in all spheres of our society by bringing awareness and change in the attitudes of people, wherein, we learn to break free from all the boundaries set by men in terms of caste, creed, religion and colour.

Smarna Ravela on the left: As a State-level footballer, many people have expressed their concerns over my increasing tan and have asked me to consider giving up my passion and also recommend an array of whitening cosmetics. That’s why we felt the need to start Dark on Fleek, which will help and educate students on skin colour discrimination and excel beyond it.

Standing Proudly in the Sunshine

By Sharon Muthu

The Sunshine Paradox

It was a beautiful, sunny, typical Southern California day. After a couple weeks of cold and rainy weather, it was a joy to see Los Angeles back to its usual balmy splendor: Flowers blooming, the sweet scent of summer in the air, and Californians overjoyed to be outside, wearing their light breezy attire, adorned in sunglasses, and sipping iced coffees.


Stand Proudly in the Sunshine

I had been craving the sunshine for many days now, and couldn’t wait to get outside. I hurried to throw on a loose-fitting t-shirt and workout pants, and practically ran to the front door, my little doggy trailing close behind me, his tail wagging uncontrollably. With child-like joy, the two of us headed outside. That first breath of summer-like air was heaven, perfumed with jasmine and fresh-cut grass. The glorious California sun hit my face for the first time in days; warm, bright, soul-soothing. I smiled, breathing deeply, and shut my eyes to soak it all in.

Suddenly I heard a nagging voice echo from somewhere deep inside me, full of fear as it abruptly eclipsed my happiness: I better put a hat on & stay in the shade, or my skin might get too dark.

Using Positive Self Talk

“Whoa! What was that?!,” I thought, alarmed as my eyes sprung open. Immediately, a stronger inner-voice overtook the nagging one: “STOP! Sharon Muthu, you get that negative, old, toxic, incorrect thought out of your mind now. You know that it has no validity. You are smarter than that. You are braver than that.”

Whew. I stood for a moment truly shocked, because thoughts like that are very rare for me these days. I’ve come to embrace and love my dark skin over the years. Yet there it was; The horrible result of old-world conditioning that was somehow still lingering in the back of my mind, sneaking up on me like a knee-jerk reaction at the very mention of the word “sunshine.”

I was grateful for the voice of truth had come to my rescue. I had to tell myself, “These negative thoughts are toxic and false. I will not perpetuate such nonsense for myself or anyone else. I am smarter than that. I am braver than that. I will enjoy this long-awaited sunshine because it is natural and beautiful. And, whether or not my skin turns darker remains irrelevant, for I will still be beautiful, regardless.”

And once more, grounded in this absolute truth, my little dog and I set off for a long morning walk, happily drenched in the Southern California sunlight.

Colourism Buried Deep Inside Me

As I walked on, I reflected on the momentary inner-conflict that had just occurred. What was that voice of doubt and shame? When did it begin? Why does it sometimes rear its ugly head even when I’m feeling so happy and confident about myself? Why do I continue to face the demons and battle the ghosts of my childhood?

I am still my six-year-old self hearing my South Asian community elders telling me to, “Always keep out of the sun if you don’t want to be dark.”  I am still the twelve-year-old adolescent girl being bombarded by ads for creams and scrubs, promising beauty (and ultimately, validation) by virtue of lighter skin. I am still the twenty-year-old young woman who hears others saying condescendingly, “Sharon, you’re very dark, but still pretty enough.” And, today, I am a grown woman who is deeply affected by the constant battles of racism & skin-colour bias that plague every culture, at every level of society.

sharon-for-blogA Little  Sunshine On Your Face

My friends, change begins with us: It begins within our own families, within our communities, with how we teach our children. But, most importantly, it begins within our individual minds.

I can tell you from experience, it does get easier. The more I reaffirm these truths for myself each day, the more it becomes effortless to do so. The more I help to spread awareness, the more awareness I receive in my own journey. The more I see beauty in others, no matter our similarities or differences, the more beautiful I feel within myself. And, suddenly, those negative thoughts fade from my mind more quickly than ever before.

So, raise your voices loudly and proudly: We are ALL beautiful, just the way we are. And, I promise you – A little sunshine on your face won’t ever change that.

About the Author:

Sharon Muthu is an actress, voiceover artist, and singer, based out of Los Angeles, CA. She serves as the “Ambassador to Hollywood” for the international awareness campaign, Dark is Beautiful. She strongly supports and encourages the rise of ethnic diversity in Hollywood, and she hopes to be a prominent part of the next chapter of South Asian talents being featured in mainstream American entertainment.

Love the Skin You’re In

The ‘Dark is Beautiful’ campaign’s focus last year was to start city chapters in India. So far, we have been able to successfully initiate conversations with some of our ardent supporters in Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. We have even managed to do awareness events and workshops in these cities. 

petition Drive

At this point, the most active and happening city chapter is our Mumbai Chapter. We have always felt welcomed in the city and have built great friendships and partnerships in the last year alone. From the lecture at St. Xavier’s College, to the presentation at the Kahani Karnival, the city is all set to tune in to the ‘Dark is Beautiful’ mission of celebrating ‘beauty beyond colour’. 

Today, I want to introduce to you one of our Mumbai Chapter Coordinators. We met Hazel Correa for the first time in Mumbai during our petition delivery trip in September 2013. Though I couldn’t spend much time with her then, I got to know her during my subsequent visits to Mumbai. Last year, when I approached her about being a part of the Mumbai Chapter, she willingly and promptly said ‘yes’! Since then, the WOW team has enjoyed working with Hazel. 

– Kavitha Emmanuel | Founder and Director, WOW

 Love The Skin You’re In

I was probably around six years old when I distinctly realized there was a difference between my siblings’ skin tones and mine.

I’ve tried hard to recall if I came to that understanding myself, or if it was because of what I had heard people say. My guess is that it was the latter. I was very young when I started getting picked on about my skin colour. Sometimes it was name-calling, sometimes I was excluded from games, and sometimes I just stayed away to avoid being hurt. I didn’t like my skin and I wondered why I was darker than my siblings. I wasn’t happy with the way I looked.

hazel_blog1If it weren’t for my older sister constantly telling me that she loved my skin, and saying she wished she had my skin colour, I would probably be a very different person today. There were days when I’d come home crying. I would be upset about something some of the other kids had said to me; but my sister was always my safe haven. She would explain to me that it didn’t matter what the others thought. It was important for me to know that I was special, unique and perfect in my own way. Her unwavering support and reassurance is why, in time, I learned to not only accept the way I looked, but to love it!

As a child, things started to change when I was about twelve. I began to play sports competitively. The better I got at sports, the more popular I became. My parents encouraged me to participate in more activities. I competed in elocution and singing contests. Competing, and winning went a long way in building my self-esteem.

Going to college broadened my horizons. I met people from different parts of the country, and eventually different parts of the world. Exposure to different people, and different ways of thinking helped me evolve into the person I am today. Diversity is an amazing thing.

Today, I am happy, healthy and grateful for the life I have. My self-worth isn’t based on how I look. I don’t buy into anyone else’s perception of beauty. My wish is for each of you to be comfortable in your own skin. When you feel secure and positive about yourself, you’re bound to be naturally radiant.

When I learned about the ‘Dark Is Beautiful’ campaign, I knew immediately that I wanted to get involved. I wanted to be a part of a network of like-minded individuals who spread the message that ‘beauty is beyond colour’.

Beauty is natural. Beauty is grace, confidence and radiance. Beauty is what YOU want it to be.

About the author:

IMG_20140928_093018Hazel works in Governance and Internal Communications for Alcatel-Lucent. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from Loyola Institute of Business Administration, Chennai and a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from St Xavier’s College, Mumbai. A native of the city, she is a ‘Dark Is Beautiful’ Mumbai Campaign Coordinator.