Q How much have you actually thought about the colour of your skin?
A Not much when I was growing up, but a lot when I was in my twenties.
Q Were you ever subject to “colorism” – any sort of discrimination or singling out as the result of your skin colour? At school, or as a child?
A I didn’t notice it before, but when I was in college I played a lot of basketball outdoors and as a result, got very tan. A lot of people encouraged me to use beauty treatments to become fairer. Even now I get recommendations for herbal traditional remedies to lighten my skin.
Q Do you feel like there’s still a hierarchy of beauty based on skin shades?
A On TV and in magazines, absolutely! It’s all over and that translates into our everyday lives. Every beauty brand now has a fairness cream. What I find interesting about those ads is how most of the models are always foreigners. In my personal interactions I see it to a certain degree amongst men and women that I know: with some people it’s very apparent and with others it’s more insidious and creeps up on you. Earlier I’d take it personally, but over time I have realized that it has nothing to do with me. In my opinion it’s just another symptom of superficiality, so if you aren’t a certain size, shape, personality type (the always-sacrificing Mother India with a beatific smile on her face at all times but dying inside) and you don’t conform, then you aren’t beautiful. I also equate that kind of mentality with stupidity and it helps me to see people for who they truly are. I think it’s great to look after yourself and spend time looking good, but I also think it’s equally important, and an invaluable service to yourself and society, to work on yourself internally.
Q Ever been on the receiving end of ways to lighten your skin?
A Yes. I spend a lot of time outdoors, I love being tan, I love the healthy glow I get from being out in the sun. The girls at any beauty parlour I go to will recommend many treatments to remove my tan, but I now frequent one where they know that I like how I look, so they don’t give me advice on how to lighten my skin anymore.
Q Your prediction: is this obsession with fair skin is going to wane?
A Yes I hope so! I see it changing in Hindi cinema and people here in India seem to take their cue from there, so I hope it will peter out and, hopefully, in another 20 years India will not be one of the largest consumers of fairness products.