While much of the western fashion world has been recently grappling with the issue of size, this month's Vogue India presents another pressing topic that women in the most populated countries on the globe are constantly struggling with. While living in Thailand during an English teaching program, I noticed that every drugstore and 711 (which surprisingly, were on every corner) carried an extensive selection of creams, toners and tonics intended to bleach the skin. Thai women were obsessed with the notion that paler, lighter skin was the key to true beauty and therefore did everything in their power to try and change their olive tones, from using these lotions religiously to undergoing painful laser treatments. It was all very bizarre and, for me, a bi-racial American with Indian blood, I know many women saw my similarly olive-toned skin and believed it to be unattractive (I was even told this up front on a number of occasions). My travels through the rest of Southeast Asia taught me that women from all over the area felt the same pressures of appearing lighter and whiter in order to be considered beautiful.
On my last trip to India, my young female family members confirmed that the desire to be pale was common among their groups of friends, adding how envious they were of me and my half-caucasian skin tone. And that desire, is exactly what Vogue India is trying to combat with this month's issue featuring five cover models of varying skin tones and an editorial feature decrying he belief that pale skin equals beauty. "Every generation has its share of beauty myths. Perhaps it is time to bust this one," the editorial, called The Dawn of Dusk, states. "Time to say that as a magazine we love, and always have loved, the gorgeous colour of Indian skin…dark, dusky, bronze, golden – whatever you call it, we love it." This sentiment couldn't come soon enough since, like in Thailand, the skin-whitening market in India grew 18 per cent last year and is set to increase by a predicted 25 per cent this year, the New York Times reports. This is seemingly fueled by the constant parade of light-skinned Bollywood icons, who carry the most stock in Indian pop culture. "Skin colour matters a lot for women in India," Nirupama Singh, an expert on the sociology of fashion told the Times. "Fairness is a very valuable thing here, looked on as desirable. The fashion world can be a big agent for change in this area." Hopefully, magazine covers like this one will be the first moves toward changing Asian perceptions of beauty, from the upfront women in Thailand to my impressionable relatives in the deserts of Northern India.
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Article and Photo Source: Vogue.com, The New York Times
Photo Source: Vogue.com