Over the past week, several Bollywood celebrities spoke out on social media in support of Black Lives Matters. But statements of protest against racism from stars like Priyanka Chopra, Sonam Kapoor, Deepika Padukone and Disha Patani was immediately met with backlash. They were called out for their hypocrisy when they’ve actively perpetuated colourism, defined as discrimination against individuals with dark skin colours, by profiting off skin-lightening creams.
Sharing a lengthy Instagram post condemning the death of George Floyd, Chopra wrote, “End this race war here in the US, and around the world. Wherever you live, whatever your circumstances, NO ONE deserves to die, especially at the hands of another because of their skin color.”
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There is so much work to be done and it needs to starts at an individual level on a global scale. We all have a responsibility to educate ourselves and end this hate. End this race war here in the US, and around the world. Wherever you live, whatever your circumstances, NO ONE deserves to die, especially at the hands of another because of their skin color. On May 25th, George Floyd was pinned down by the neck by a Minneapolis police officer and died. He laid there, fighting for his life, struggling to breathe, and other officers just stood there and watched. The officer has now been charged with murder. George, I am praying for your family. ❤️ Text “FLOYD” to 55156 and sign the petition. #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd
The star also issued a statement on Twitter alongside her husband Nick Jonas, who tweeted the following: “Pri & I have heavy hearts … The reality of the inequalities in this country, and around the world, are glaring. Systemic racism, bigotry and exclusion has gone on for far too long, and remaining silent not only reinforces it, but it allows it to continue… The time to take action is NOW. It’s no longer enough to say “I’m not racist”. We must all do the work to be ANTI racist and stand with the black community. In our first step towards our continued efforts to help fight this fight, Pri and I have donated to the @eji_org & @ACLU… We stand with you and we love you. #BlackLivesMatter #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd.”
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Here's your rac*st Pri selling skin whitening creams in India pic.twitter.com/O5P7cwqIUt
— Ali Baloch ✌🏿✌🏾✌🏻 (@maXes_MB) June 3, 2020
Like her Instagram post, the statement was also met with criticism on social media. Not only was Chopra called out for remaining silent against the violence and discrimination in her own country, India, she was also criticized for supporting a cause that she’s profited from. Over the years, Chopra has been the face of several skin-lightening beauty products from brands like Pond’s and Garnier. One of Chopra’s ads was even a part of Hasan Minhaj’s recent Patriot Act monologue where he talked about how South Asian communities are complicit in their racial prejudices. He pointed to the word kala which translates to black, and how that has long served as a derogatory term. “If someone in your family is dark-skinned, we clown them and call them kallu [a variation of the word kala]. Our Bollywood stars do skin-whitening commercials so we don’t look black,” he stated. Turns out, some of the stars who are speaking out against racism are the same ones perpetuating the idea that fair skin is more beautiful.
Chopra is just one of the Bollywood stars being called out for her performative wokeness. Actress Disha Patani posted a photo with the caption, “All Colours are Beautiful.” The responses to the tweet swiftly pointed out her past ads with tag lines like, “The only cream that gives you 10/10 fairness.”
Maine kaha hypocrisy ki bhi…. pic.twitter.com/9jXfEfn28r
— Manish ➐ (@Man_isssh) May 31, 2020
Similarly, Sonam Kapoor shared a quote from Desmond Tutu on her Instagram stories, but also stars in an ad for L’Oréal Paris White Perfect with the slogan, “Flawless. Spotlight. Pearl perfect whiteness.” Like Kapoor, Deepika Padukone was also criticized for her selective activism, who pointed out that it seemed opportunistic at best.
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— anti pigeon (@aluminiummaiden) May 31, 2020
Skin-lightening creams from popular brands like Fair & Lovely—often cloaked under words like “fair” and “brightening”—are a part of a greater problem that has long equated lighter skin with greater social status and economic mobility in countries like India and Thailand. It has led to people risking their lives by bleaching their skin using questionable and often illegal ingredients, and undergoing dangerous treatments. Brands continue to capitalize on these fears—the skin-whitening industry was said to be valued at $8.3 billion USD in 2018. While it may not be a priority here in North America for people or for marketers, many of the skin-lightening products that are popular abroad are available here too, and can often be found in beauty supply stores.
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Overall analysis Fairness creams in India have evolved over the years, from being fairness creams to now using euphemisms like “skin brightening/ whitening”, or “lightening creams”. Most brands no longer want to be associated directly with being termed as 'fairness creams’. So now we have brands selling “HD glow”, “White beauty”, “white glow”, “fine fairness”, and so on. Over the years these companies have turned their attention towards the Indian Men, who are now trying to be "fair and handsome", and have dedicated power white ranges for them too. The hunt for fairness: Neutrogena fine fairness: Could not locate it on their global websites but it is available on Amazon and other sellers:https://www.amazon.in/Neutrogena-Fine-Fairness-Cream-SPF20/dp/B00BSPOXMW/ Ponds have a white beauty range: The range includes products like anti-spot fairness cream which is available on affiliate websites like Amazon and Nykaa. On their own website could locate just the White beauty cream. https://www.ponds.com/ph/products/collection/white-beauty/day-cream-for-normal-skin.html* Loreal white perfect day cream: Apparently reduces the melanin level in the skin, gives a rosy appearance to your skin and is suitable for all Indian skin types. "reduce skin darkening and boost anti-spot whitening for a brighter & younger look"https://www.lorealparis.co.in/products/skin-care/day-cream/white-perfect-clinical-day-cream/ Recently, Procter & Gamble skincare brand Olay announced that it will no longer retouch skin in its advertising by 2021 because it reflects an idea of beauty which is almost impossible to achieve. The statement was made during an event in New York. In March 2019, Olay also came up with a creative campaign #FaceAnything with @masabagupta @kubbrasait , @lilly, @bikewithgirl and @_payalsoni_ #Fairandlovely #prejudice #racism #fairskinobsession #fairnesscreams #kalagora #flawlessskin #hdglow #whiteness #complexion #skintone #shades #pearlextracts #microcrystals #ayurveda
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Bollywood actor Abhay Deol, who’s long been critical of his peers endorsing skin-lightening creams, tweeted, “Now that ‘woke’ Indian celebrities and the middle class stand in solidarity with fighting systemic racism in America, perhaps they’d see how it manifests in their own backyard?”
Internet activism is great, but only if you’re *also* willing to walk the walk offline.