• South Asian cultures have an unhealthy obsession with fair skin. But these girls are taking a stand. (Instagram)Source: Instagram
As part of 'Reclaim the Bindi' week that runs from March 8 to 14, three University of Texas students are using the event to also shed light upon another issue close to many South Asian people, the unhealthy cultural obsession with fair skin.
Shami Sivasubramanian

11 Mar 2016 - 11:48 AM  UPDATED 11 Mar 2016 - 11:49 AM

India, China, and several South Asian cultures have an unhealthy beauty standard: that fairer skin is better. 

But even with the diaspora spreading far and wide, the mindset hasn't changed. Young girls and boys of Subcontinental and Asian descent are encouraged to stay indoors when it's sunny, to exfoliate often, and to use products to maintain a fair skin tone. 

These South Asian countries have a large market for skin-lightening creams, with ads claiming to brighten skin tones by several shades appearing all too frequently in mainstream media. Even popular western brands like Nivea, Dove and Vaseline sells products marketed with fairness enhancing qualities in these countries.

But one brand dominating the market is the Indian 'Fair and Lovely' a fairness "vitamin" cream.

Above is a still from a 'Fair and Lovely' television ad. Notice how the woman's expression changes from sad to happy as her skin tone brightens?

The brand also has a men's version of the product, 'Fair and Handsome'. These creams are endorsed by several top celebrities, adding to the turmoil and insecurity faced by many dark-skinned youths of these cultural backgrounds.

So three University of Texas students decided to take a stand, publishing a photo series on Instagram titled 'Unfair and Lovely'.

The project began when one of the three friends, Pax Jones, took photos of Mirusha Yogarajah and her sister Yanusha.

The photoshoot featured the two dark-skinned sisters confidently embracing both their western and South Asian cultures. They wore fusion clothing - Indian outfits with western accessories and vice versa - and posed powerfully for the series.



“We decided to name the series Unfair and Lovely in order to address the hyphenated identities of people of colour in the West, and colourism in the black and brown communities,” Mirusha tells PRI.



Their campaign resulted in the hashtag #unfairandlovely trending on both Instagram and Twitter, with several dark-skinned women showing solidarity by sharing their own selfies.

The movement leverages support from the current 'Reclaim the Bindi' week which takes place until March 14. The week advocates against the cultural appropriation of the Hindu custom. 

The campaign also coincided with International Women's Day on March 8.