Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Why L'Officiel India's New Cover Unveils India's Dysfunctional Beauty Image

The new L'Officiel India cover totally eeeeked me out. In my mind the photoshoot probably went something like this: Ten girls. Cream and beige tone dresses. 'Now pout.. breasts out.. sexy sexy year'. And it's a wrap. 

It's neither brilliantly styled nor is it an amazing concept (especially for an 100th Anniversary issue) but I don't usually go in on covers I don't like. As usual, it seems as if L'Official was cashing in on star power - in numbers. Yes, Priyanka Chopra and others are in this picture somewhere. But you'll probably have to look closely. (Update: Priyanka isn't in here like original news reports suggested but I don't blame them for being confused).

This is exactly what freaked me out. All these women - some even successful and smart - look the same. So similar that is scared me. The nose jobs scared me. The skin tones, or lack there of, scared me. THE COVER IS SCARY. 

Source: Pinkvilla

The problem with Indian female beauty is bigger than an addiction to plastic surgery and fair skin. It's insecurity. In a nation of diverse races, languages, religions, and yes, skin color, we have defined beauty as one image - the white girl. Indian women aspire to look white but are told to 'act' Indian. But this cover doesn't reflect the definition of Indian beauty outside of India - Lakshmi Menon, Freida Pinto and Padma Lakshmi are just some examples of how NRIs (Non-Resident Indians as the Indian government defines us) are changing the image of Indian women worldwide. The question is: will women in India follow?  The issue isn't just insecurity of a women's own natural beauty, it's a societal issue in India. If beauty is redefined, will it destroy the system and the way we've defined it for centuries? Will the elite - who thrive on social structure - allow females from all walks of life to be defined as 'beautiful'?  Clearly this runs deeper than we all think. But the history is the past and it's funny that while the rest of the world - including westerners - have embraced diverse images of beauty (and natural beauty), Indians have decided not to follow suit. Indians don't want to follow but this might be the time for an exception.


  1. ...but...its The Iconic 100th Issue....there's your validity!!!! Sarcasm gets me through the day =/

  2. Totally agree with the whole Look White Act Indian thing. Grandmas pointing to the fair Indian girl with no features saying they are sooo pretty whilst the real stunner is ignored just coz she's dark. I reckon L'Officiel could have stood 10 white dummies with wigs and nobody would be able to tell the diff in this cover! Lol! I prefer the real chocolate girls. White choc is yuck!

  3. I have to disagree with you on India is a home of different races; we aren't different races, we are an ancient population that hasn't changed much for 10,000 years and it's a population that "naturally" has light and dark skin.

    As I try and explain to white americans, south asians as a "race" meaning a population that remains isolated, naturally have light and dark skin, just like white people have red, brown, black or (rarely) blond hair.

    I don't think Indian-Ams are told to look white. For many Indians I don't think white people look attractive. What we are told is to look like our light skin Indians. So I'm dark skinned but my cousin is light skinned and she's got what in South Asia is considered the better beauty component.

    Such a shame that cover, and on such an important anniversary, doesn't have the diversity of beauty that is India - you're right - they all look the same - which isn't white but the light-skinned Indian gal. Nothing wrong with light-skinned but we've got far more people with rich dark and medium complexion, many current amazing models, so it would have been cool to have those beauties on there.

    1. Actually when you are told to look like your 'whiter' indians, this 'white is better' mentality was passed down from British-era. It was when the British began to promote their beauty as 'superior' that our definition of beauty changed.

      Many races make up India (apparently some studies show about 7) but you are right, we are one. The British Raj tried to classify us by race, as they did in parts of Africa, but that was abolished.