December 31, 2013

Celebrating "YOU" in 2014!

By Kavitha Emmanuel | Director of Women of Worth

Design Props: 6 pm Designs

Celebration has always been the mood of this campaign!

While we battle toxic notions of beauty based on skin colour we need to remember that celebrating who we are is the first step towards bringing about change in our environment. This has always been our underlying emphasis – to celebrate people for their innate worth and value. 

Photo by: Anu Anna Jacob
Looking back at the year gone by makes me wonder. We have done a lot as a campaign, but have we actually made a dent yet in expunging the belief that fair skin alone is beautiful? 

I am grateful for all the attention this campaign has received. But I believe we have a long road to tread. And the walk begins in our own homes. 

It begins with us, our parents, our grandparents, our in-laws, and others who influence our choices and lifestyles. It begins with us choosing to not judge people based on skin colour, or use hurtful nicknames, or compare siblings of different skin shades, or choose your life partner based solely on his/her skin colour. 

And if you witness someone judging or being hurtful because of skin colour, don’t shy away from a conversation that would challenge them to think differently.

December 27, 2013

The Colour of Christmas

by Aaron Sathyanesan | neuroscientist and Dark is Beautiful supporter

What skin colour did Jesus have?

This question, I believe, is at the storm-eye of a scandal for the ages.

Recently, this scandal made the rounds in media outlets, social networks and the uttermost parts of the blogosphere. It started out as a reaction to an article in Slate magazine about a case for why Santa Claus or Father Christmas should be an inclusive figure rather than a jolly-old white dude. Here’s how a talk show host reacted to the article during an on-air discussion:

Jesus was a white man, too. It's like we have, he's a historical figure that's a verifiable fact, as is Santa, I just want kids to know that. How do you revise it in the middle of the legacy in the story and change Santa from white to black?

Foot. In. Mouth.

Apart from the fact that this talk show host wanted so dearly for children to “believe” in Santa, there’s a white elephant in the room (pun intended), trumpeting its heart out for attention.

December 10, 2013

Thinking About Beauty

A Philosopher’s View

By Ajoy Varghese | A Dark is Beautiful Supporter

Humans not only perceive beauty, but also have the unique ability to describe it and to judge it.

The “Dark is Beautiful” campaign has an underlying assumption— that Beauty existsIt is a clear reference to the ubiquitous existence of beauty in our world. It is also a bold challenge to social attempts to fracture beauty. One attempt to do so is by pitting one skin colour against another. The campaign asserts that that beauty is not contained in one colour but in many— individually and together. The campaign also asserts that beauty is not skin deep.

Prior to the Dark is Beautiful campaign, when was the last time you actually heard a public debate on beauty? Not likely that you did. Not surprising, either. It’s easier to use a TV ad to assault your senses than to present a logical argument to challenge your reason. 

I recently heard a male celebrity protest that he had every right to choose his skin colour. How can you argue with that? Except that when a personal preference is advertised as a public good, it has made itself a subject of public scrutiny and judgment. So, if a celebrity says that endorsing a product is his right, then the public has an equal right (and I think, an obligation) to judge it. Else, his personal preference must be parked within the confines of his own thinking.

November 27, 2013

Surviving Discrimination - The AJ Franklin Story

“Though She Is Dark, She Is a Nice Girl”
By AJ Franklin | A Dark is Beautiful campaigner

Growing up, I was teased by classmates for being a crow, urged by relatives to apply fairness creams and finally, when it came to marriage, I was told in advance that people would expect lots of dowry from my family because I'm dark. 

According to most of my relatives, we had to enlist me in a matrimonial services provider, so we went to a suitable one and I filled in a host of forms. On each form, after the basics, there was a slot for skin colour. I went ahead and ticked the box that said “dark complexioned.” 

The person in charge read the form and made a funny face at me, as though I had made a stupid mistake. She pointed at the skin colour box and said, “Please change that to ‘wheat complexioned.’” 

I asked why, and she rolled her eyes at me and said in Tamil that it was standard procedure for any girl of my “karuppu” skin to tick “wheat complexioned” to boost my chances of “catching” a groom.

November 15, 2013

Who’s Behind the Dark is Beautiful Campaign?

By Kavitha Emmanuel | Director of WOW

The success we have had so far with the Dark is Beautiful campaign is because of people like you who have believed in this cause and lent their support wholeheartedly. We have gone this far as an NGO with very little resources. This is a people’s campaign, your campaign!

Many have asked, “Why target only Emami's Fair & Handsome, and not other brands?” Some have even wondered if we are supported/sponsored by Emami’s competitors!

To clear the air, we wish to inform you that Women of Worth and the Dark is Beautiful campaign have no relationship, financial or otherwise, with any cosmetic brand. We share the same conviction about every brand that is promoting fairness products through unfair advertising, which we believe endorses the toxic belief that fair alone is beautiful or handsome. Our intention is NOT to deface organizations, corporations or people. We are ALL responsible to lead change.

The WOW team has been working tirelessly to make this campaign what it is today. Lydia Durairaj, our campaign manager, builds bridges with people and keeps all the moving parts moving. Magda Tewes is our student coordinator and a graphic designer.

The rest of our core team is made up of committed volunteers:
Photography and Design: Zippora Madhukar
Design: Shalomie Tewes and Joanna Williams
Editing: Deepika Davidar
Writing and New Media: Marsha and Joy Christina
Cartoon Artist and New Media: Anju Sabu

Get On the Bus, Baby

Dark is Beautiful is celebrating 1.2 Billion Shades of Skin Colour on Saturday, November 16, in MUMBAI. Join the colour madness at these locations:

Point 1: GATEWAY OF INDIA. Pick up at 9:00am
Point 2: MARINE DRIVE. Pick up at 9:45am
Point 3: CHOWPATTY. Pick up at 10:15am
Point 4: HILL ROAD. Between 2:30 and 3:00
Point 5: BANDSTAND. Between 3:00 – 4:00

Volunteers can join the celebrations at these venues. Artists, Musicians, Dancers, who would like to be a part of the event and share their talent to raise awareness - musicians, host a sidewalk gallery, or learn more about the campaign - can come directly to Bandstand. 

Volunteers who would like to join us on the bus can contact Lydia at 0 99403 58429 or Magda at 0 96772 53180

Here are the values of Women of Worth (WOW). We encourage volunteers to adhere to the following:
  • We value all people based on their innate worth. Skin colour, physical features, caste, social standing or ethnic  origins do not determine a person’s worth
  • We do not endorse cultural or traditional practices that strip people of their freedom to choose and to be who they are
  • We believe in showing our discontent or disapproval in a respectful and peaceful way
  • We do not believe in or approve of violence, vulgarity or unethical practices to achieve the campaign’s goals.
  • We do not believe in judging people for existing attitudes towards skin colour but would like to promote change of attitude through discussions, dialogue, petitions and partnerships
  • We believe that change is possible. Even those who have overlooked or endorsed the issue of skin colour bias in some way can still turn around and lead the change.
  • We are on the look out to build bridges rather than to burn them. We are always open to connecting, networking and partnering with individuals and organizations who seek to lead the change 
  • We believe that media is a powerful tool which if used rightly can bring positive change in a society
  • We are not against the advertising industry but stand up for change towards responsible advertising
  • We believe in building unity in diversity and endorse the celebration of all skin tones from white and wheatish to dark and dusky. 

November 7, 2013

Surviving Discrimination - The Lydia Marsha Photo Story

By Lydia Marsha | A Dark is Beautiful campaigner

"You don't have to be model to inspire people that dark is beautiful, you can be a role model everyday in your life just by being yourself" - Lydia Marsha

Words can hurt. I get teased for being dark skinned even now, at 25. Relatives do not see how I feel when they compare me with my siblings: "they are Fair and beautiful. You are Dark but beautiful.” It takes a lot of strength to overcome the small, insignificant word like “but.”

November 1, 2013

Let There Be Light!

By Kavitha Emmanuel | Director, Women of Worth

This Diwali let’s take a pledge to esteem all people based on their innate value and not judge them based on their skin colour. In celebrating skin colour diversity we give back to people the dignity they deserve. In the past this was not seen as a serious issue. Dark skinned people were expected to take negative comments about their skin colour in their stride and not make a big deal of it. But this Diwali let’s make a big deal of letting our nation know that radiant comes in every colour. 

This Diwali let’s decide to lead change! 
There’s something we can all do to celebrate 1.2 billion shades!

October 30, 2013

Join the Thunderclap!

You've probably asked yourself: What is Thunderclap?

Thunderclap is a new website that will allow you to join a group of people and tweet or post a facebook status in support of Dark is Beautiful at the  EXACT SAME TIME, creating a wave of attention. 

Imagine it to be a social network flashmob! 

So, follow the link below and click on Support with Facebook, Support with Twitter, Support with Tumblr - or all three! Then click the Add My Support button. 

On November 7th, a tweet or post will appear on your chosen social media platform urging people to sign the petition to end unfair advertising:

So get ready to make some more noise:

October 6, 2013

Dear Malaysia, Will You Dare to Be Colour Blind?

By Sai Tharshini Varathan | A Dark is Beautiful Campaigner

I come from the wonderful and multicultural land of Malaysia. Malaysia is filled with diverse people that are generally friendly. But often, I get to hear a lot of painfully discriminatory comments because of my skin colour, I used to feel hurt and wondered what was so wrong in being dark? 

I was once told to go to the temple and pray for a new face; to ask the Goddess for a better and fairer complexion. Of everything I have been told about my skin colour, this was the comment that really hurt.

October 1, 2013

The Old Has Gone, The New Has Come!

By Kavitha Emmanuel | Founder and Director of WOW

It’s amazing to see how the Dark is Beautiful Campaign has gone viral. The WOW team was taken by storm. We are grateful to all our supporters for standing up with us to address this age-old belief that ‘fair alone is beautiful’.

Yes, it was our initiative BUT it has now become YOUR campaign.

September 22, 2013

My Shade of Beautiful

By Rebekah Paul | A Dark is Beautiful campaigner

If only life were as easy as Jimmy Kimmel’s “Meet My Best Unfriend” Facebook Challenge:

“You are dark but photogenic.” – Unfriend

“Your sister is lighter skinned than you, no?” – Unfriend

“You’d have been a great looking guy. Tall, dark and handsome.” – Seriously? Unfriend

“Karuppi” – Unfriend AND Report Abuse

“We’ve written wheat-ish as your complexion on the marriage bureau form” – UNFRIEND… wait… what? I can’t really unfriend my parents now, can I?

August 20, 2013

Who Is The Real Enemy?

By Kavitha Emmanuel | Founder & Director of Women of Worth

Photo Credit: Zippora Madhukar Photography
Have you ever wondered where skin colour bias originated from? I have. And frankly speaking, there is no simple answer. Skin colour bias is so much a part of our culture that if we tracked it down to see the real enemies it would possibly point to all of us, our families, our extended families, our society, our ancestors etc. 

We are all guilty of either propagating or tolerating this age-old bias. Most people are unaware that such a bias can actually affect people in a deep way.

Photo Credit: Zippora Madhukar Photography
A campaign like, ’Dark is Beautiful’ (by Women of Worth) has as its core mission the task of exposing the issue, educating people on its effects on society and encouraging those who have experienced trauma because of skin colour bias to regain their confidence and self-worth.

Since our petition on to ‘take down’ Emami’s discriminatory “Fair and Handsome” ad, many have asked us the question: Why not other brands? Why only Emami? Why only Shah Rukh Khan?” Are they the only ones who are guilty of ‘unfair advertising’ or responsible for skin colour discrimination? 

Not at all! If we had chosen some other brand’s ad, we still would have faced this question. Change has to begin somewhere. 

The word ‘petition’ actually means ‘request’ or ‘appeal’. By posting a petition we are actually requesting Emami and Shah Rukh Khan to ‘lead the change’. 

August 14, 2013

A New Operating System

By Arpit Jacob | A Dark is Beautiful campaigner

Arpit Jacob says we need to rethink the way we talk with kids about skin colour— at school, at home and in the media.

Photo Credit: Zippora Madhukar Photography

I’m Arpit:

user experience designer
gadget geek
30 years old
and happily married.

During my school days in North India, a few of my classmates gave me other labels: kalia (black) and hapshi (negro).

August 5, 2013

Colour Me Bright Red, Emerald Green, Orange, and Pink

By Sudha Menon | A Dark is Beautiful Campaigner

If you have grown up in a dark brown skin, like I have, you have possible heard this sentence many times in your life: " She is dark but smart", " She is not dark, just dusky. And, very intelligent". "She is nice. A little dark, but nice..."

I grew up in an age when being dark was a horrible fate. Being dark meant either being noticed because of your dark colour or worse still, ignored or neglected to such a point that you begin to feel you don't exist. That people can't see you.

 Growing up, I remember the best years of my childhood were spent in clothes that were shades of either grey or brown so that I felt I was a mouse that disappeared into the background. Dark people could not carry reds, blues and greens was the thought back then but every time loving family members brought me yet another grey or brown dress for my birthday, my heart broke a little more.

If you look at photographs from my childhood you can spot me immediately. I am the girl in the corner of the frame, angry eyes staring down the photographer, almost willing him to make me look lovely, despite the drabness of my clothes.  In many ways , I think the colourlessness of my clothes made affected my personality for a long time. I was a shy kid with few friends and I became a rebel to boot, possibly to get some attention for myself. 

July 31, 2013

Shah Rukh Khan, Let's Be Fair

By Pamposh Dhar | Dark is Beautiful campaigner

We are bombarded by print ads and TV commercials all day long. So much so that we hardly pay heed to them any more. But when “King Khan” himself shows up on the TV screen in our home, we sit up and take notice. He is India’s most popular star, the heart-throb of millions. In TV interviews, and even in most of his films, he comes across as a down-to-earth, sensitive man. We love him for that.

But now, with the Fair and Handsome commercial he is making some of us very uncomfortable. A few friends find my views objectionable. Mostly this seems to stem from the feeling that SRK is a superstar, someone we adore, and therefore someone we cannot possibly find fault with or give advice to. Our love for SRK inhibits us from criticizing him, but let’s face it – the Fair and Handsome commercial sends a clear message that to be handsome or successful you must be fair. 

July 28, 2013

Fair & Handsome, Meet Dark & Confident

A chat with David Livingstone

Sales pitches for fairness products suggest that a man needs to lighten up to get the job, to get the girl, to get more out of life. Twenty-nine year-old David Livingstone says that’s “hideous,” and in this interview with Dark is Beautiful, he offers his own take on what it means to be fair.

July 22, 2013

In 30 Seconds You Can Say NO to UNfair Advertising

By The Dark is Beautiful Team. 

“Fair and Handsome” and Shah Rukh Khan: We don't want ZYADA; we've had ENOUGH of fairness products and “unfair” advertising.  #disbcampaign #darkisbeautiful

June 5, 2013

Surviving Discrimination: The Mary Smrutha Paul Photo Story

By Mary Smrutha Paul | An UNfair & Beautiful contributor

I've endured a lot when I was younger and in school. While studying in an International school, I was made fun by my classmates. I'm skinny and dark, and adopted. I used to be laughed at all the time. The boys used to say that I looked like a Somalian refugee. I understand they were pre-teens and were just bullying girls, but that affected me a lot.

May 25, 2013

Being Dark Or Black Is NOT The Matter At All

By Pooja | High School Student

A Book Report on The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh

Kalla was a very smart boy. He was only 11 years old but he keeps saying that he is 17 or 18  or 19 years old. People would still believe him even when he say, "I am 20 years old," because he had broad arms, strong muscles, and he was a tall boy. 

He lost his family when he was a 11 years old. His mother gave him a bangle when she was about to die. He was to ask for a woman called Ma Cho in the city. She was annoying lady. She kept Rajkumar's name as Kalaa because he was dark. 

I have a friend; she is dark. Her mom and her family always annoy her and ask her, "why are you like this? See how others are!" "You are dark," her mother would say.

April 9, 2013

Surviving Discrimination: The Sreeja Raveendran Story

By Sreeja Raveendran | An UNfair & Beautiful contributor

Yes, I have been called mean names in school on account of being dark.
Yes, I have been rejected in the matrimonial space by parents of several non-eligible bachelors.
Yes, I have not been chosen to occupy the front line of dancers for a show.
Yes, I have been reminded of my colour several times at my workplace.
Yes, I have been asked at beauty product stores if I needed a fairness cream.
Yes, I was asked to cut a cake during my farewell at work which said, ‘Goodbye Blacky.'
Yes, I have created content for a fairness cream.

March 17, 2013

Surviving Discrimination: The Chandra Vadhana Story

By Chandra Vadhana | An UNfair & Beautiful contributor

Right from childhood I developed a BIG inferiority complex because I was dark. 

I had the privilege of being schooled at one of the best convent schools in my locality, despite being born in a middle class family. In fact, I was one of the darkest in my class and hence the most "un-preferred" for any on-stage events. And that made me shy away from getting on the stage, even when I was sure of my capabilities. 

I used to cry and shout at my mother for giving birth to me dark. She was actually fairer and I used to be jealous of her beauty. But she was a woman of substance. She always motivated me and instilled great strength in me. Her belief in me made me realize that i can achieve anything in life and that my abilities are never connected with my skin colour.

January 5, 2013

Not Fair!

By Kavita Emmanuel | Founder Director, WOW

Each year on Independence Day I get to recite our National Pledge: ‘India is my country and all Indians are my brothers and sisters. I love my country and I am proud of its rich and varied heritage. I shall always strive to be worthy of it…”

Are we really proud of our varied heritage? Do we accept each other as fellow citizens on the same level barring differences over caste, creed, and particularly, colour? Is skin colour bias an issue in our country?

The answer is obviously ‘yes’! And I would not be completely wrong to assume that skin colour bias is more pronounced among the educated and the most forward sections of society.

Brown Girl In The Ring

By Zippora Madhukar | Photographer and WOW CORE Member

Vivacious, animated, a go-getter, vibrant – all these words came to mind when I first met Aparna - a professional dancer who challenges the norms of what a dancer should look like in our country.

Aparna Nagesh is the founder of Showstoppers INC, an arts promotion and event concept brand and the founder of High-Kicks, Chennai’s first and only all-girls performance crew.

Aparna spent 12 years building her foundation with John Britto’s Dance Company (Photos by Zippora Madhukar)
She has now been in the dance and entertainment industry for over 14 years and she loves it to the core.

However, Aparna knows that it is not easy to hold your own when performing in a field where what you look like determines how far you will succeed – especially when you are not fair, tall, slim and therefore not ‘beautiful’.

Be Yourself: Be Dark, Be Beautiful

By Lydia Durairaj

Have you witnessed any of these statements or realities around you:
• Buying Double-whitening-action cream to get fair in three days?
• Not casting fair-skinned actors to play the role of a housemaid, the evil nemesis, or the outcast?
• Families looking out for a ‘fair bride’?
• Making pregnant mothers bathe in milk and saffron and eating lots of nuts so that the child is born with fair skin; and if that doesn’t work, then buying the double-whitening-action cream?

These ideologies have not changed since the days of our grandmothers. For generations now we have been saturating in the belief that dark skin is undesirable – to the point where we, consciously, start to discriminate and create divides between the fair and dark skinned people.

Even in the 21st century, when issues like poverty, hunger, and war are ravaging our lands, we have contributed to the booming half-billion-dollar skin whitening industry.

Advertisers play on our insecurities and market products that endorse discriminatory philosophies