By Nimisha Thakore
In December, Bollywood actress and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai Bachchan graced the latest cover of Elle India with a noticeably paler complexion.
Bachchan might sue the magazine if there’s any proof of digital lightening, according to the Times of India.
The Times reported a source close to her describing her frustration:
“Aishwarya’s first reaction was disbelief. She believed that these things don’t happen anymore. Not in this day and age when women are recognized for their merit, and not for the colour of their skin. She is currently verifying this skin-whitening allegation. If there is any proof of this, she might even take action.”
This isn’t the first time Elle has found itself in hot water because someone in the editing bay did a little over-clicking in Photoshop. American Elle came under fire in September for allegedly lightening cover girl Gabourey Sidibe’s skin.
At the time, editor-in-chief Robbie Meyers denied any tampering in an interview with E! News.
“At a photo shoot, in a studio, that is a fashion shoot, that’s glamorous, the lighting is different. The photography is different than a red carpet shot from a paparazzi,” she said.
Optimistically, that very well could be true. Sidibe’s magically “lightened” skin looks like it could potentially be the results of overworked makeup and glaring studio lighting. Maybe that’s the case for Ash, too, although one glance at the Elle India cover and you’d never know an Indian woman was gracing it.
But there are, of course, greater issues here besides Elle’s alleged over-editing.
There’s the issue of why Bachchan has made it so big in the first place. Take a look at any famous Bollywood actress and you’ll notice a common feature: they are all of them significantly paler than the average Indian woman.
The skin-lightening industry continues to boom and expand in India, but the phenomenon appears to know no bounds. A recent study found 90 percent of women entering clinics in Arizona for mercury poisoning were Chicanas using skin-lightening products, according to Colorlines.
It seems some of us colored women (and men) are dying to be white – literally.
Perhaps it’s a slight controversy and one that to many might seem unworthy of outrage. Maybe it’s easy for naturally light-skinned Indians like Bachchan (and, admittedly, myself) to complain about skin-lightening controversies and products like Fair & Lovely.
But a preference for lighter skin is undoubtedly and unnecessarily prominent in so many cultures that “little” things like this do, in fact, matter. The deeper, culturally and socially ingrained issues here can only be fought by bringing down an industry that for some inexplicable reason continues to thrive.