Shanel Chellaram

Fashion & lifestyle strategy consultant

Q How much have you actually thought about the colour of your skin?
A I give the colour of my skin very little thought. I don’t think it requires much attention except for health reasons. I love spending time outdoors and try to go away to the beach as much as possible so my skin colour varies naturally depending on the time of the year.


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 grew up in Spain, where being tan is considered beautiful so I actually received many compliments on my “golden” skin tone. Being in India, however, I was always aware that darker skin tones are often considered undesirable. I simply did not give it much thought and it never bothered me. I’m currently focused on a project, Glamrs, a digital beauty network, where we create video content for young Indian women such as skincare and makeup tutorials, and at Glamrs we’re constantly approached by women who think they’d be happier if their skin was lighter. I understand why this is a concern but I feel the priority should be to have healthy, glowing skin and that, fortunately, is not dependent on colour.


Q Do you feel like there’s still a hierarchy of beauty based on skin shades?
A I feel there is an increased awareness about the issue, so the hierarchy is slowly tumbling as more beauty icons embrace their natural skin tone. However, fairness is still a selling point for many brands so, as long as we continue to promote it, we will be perpetuating the current ideal. An interesting fact is that the products referred to as “whitening” in Asia are often the same as what we know as “brightening” or “illuminating” cosmetics in the West.


Q Ever been on the receiving end of ways to lighten your skin?
A Let’s not forget that pigmentation issues such as uneven skin tone or dark spots are a common problem, specially for Indian skin. Many of the cosmetics we refer to as “lightening” are, in fact, used worldwide to tackle these issues. At some point or another I’ve used some of these products, for a specific purpose, and I use sun protection daily. The difference, however, is that I have never considered these products for whitening purposes, and the aim was never to make my skin fairer!


Q Your prediction: is this obsession with fair skin is going to wane?
A I think the question is whether we, as a community, want it to wane. The industry behind skin lightening products in Asia, including India, is estimated to be valued at $10 billion by 2015. The key is to eliminate the stigma associated with dark skin so that fair skin is just one more choice and not the only one.