Posted on March 29, 2011

‘You Never See Dark-Skinned Girls in TV Ads’: India’s Top Models on How the Country’s Fashion Industry STILL Champions Fair Skin

Jennifer Madison, Daily Mail (London), March 29, 2011

Two top Indian models have spoken out against what they believe is racism against darker-skinned women in the country’s fashion industry.

Dipannita Sharma and Carol Gracias say they are losing out on top jobs because an increasing amount of Indian designers are casting lighter-skinned models.

Ms Sharma said that the whole country was so ‘obsessed’ with fair skin, that a shift in attitude would take years.

The 35-year-old, who is also a television star, told The Telegraph: ‘It’s not just the fashion industry, India per se is obsessed with white skin.

‘We will take another hundred years to completely get over it.’

She continued: ‘The industry doesn’t openly agree that preferring foreign models over Indian models just for the skin tone is racism. It has some kind of fairness obsession.’

‘One could have understood, if it was about getting supermodels of international fame or to work in India but that’s not happening, it’s just they want fairer skin on the Indian ramps.’

Ms Gracias echoed her fellow model in an interview with the Hindustan Times.

She revealed that she makes just $1,000 per runway show compared to top international models like Kate Moss and Adriana Lima, who can command between $20,000 and $150,000.

She explained: ‘The major reason for this wide gap is that Indian models are not valued so much when it comes to commercial projects.’

‘You never see a dark-skinned girl on TV ads and that’s where the lucrative work is.’

Everyone uses fair-skinned girls, people use skin-lighteners like Fair and Lovely. I don’t–maybe I would have been fair and lovely by now.’

Pranab Awasti, of Delhi’s Glitz Modelling agency, attributed the controversial issue to the country’s 200-year history under British colonial rule.

He told the Hindustan Times: ‘Indians in general have that inferiority complex, we have had a hangover about fair skin, since the British left India.

‘The idea of fairness is an Indian concept and it needs to change. It is an inherent thing in Indians to see white as beautiful and black as ugly . . . we have this concept in our minds that only fair-skinned people can be models.’

Others argue in an industry that worships size-zero, skin colour is not an issue and most local models are simply too curvy to make the cut.

Runway choreographer Tanya Lefebvre said: ‘The girls are not tall enough and have varying body shapes.’

Skin lightening controversy is not new for the Indian fashion industry.

Editors of Elle India were accused digitally lightening the skin colour of Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai Bachchan for the magazine’s December 2010 issue, reigniting the decades-long debate.