Sheetal Mallar

Photographer and former model

Q How much have you actually thought about the colour of your skin?
A I haven’t really thought about my colour, but living in India you’re constantly made aware of how dark, or light, your colour is. Whether it’s a positive or a negative comment, it’s something that sets you apart.


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 In school it’s more obvious because kids react openly. I was called “kali kalooti” in school and “a dark horse” in college. While modelling, I didn’t get many of the advertising jobs because I was too dark. I was shortlisted, but rejected in the end, especially for skincare and cosmetic brands. That’s odd considering we live in a country that’s predominantly dark. But I was termed “exotic” and so did well on the runway. Slowly things changed, very slowly.


Q Do you feel like there’s still a hierarchy of beauty based on skin shades?
A Less today, but many of our movies still openly do “gori” and “kali” songs.


Q Ever been on the receiving end of ways to lighten your skin?
A I have been on modeling jobs where they’ve applied a lighter foundation on my entire body to make me look lighter than I am. When I objected, I was told that it’s what the client needs to sell the product.


Q Your prediction: is this obsession with fair skin is going to wane?
A I think, eventually, this obsession with fairness will wane with the newer generation, but probably not with the older ones and traditionalists. I hope we can celebrate what and who we are regardless of colour.