"If you wanna be tan, just put on some bronzer, and if you wanna be fair, put on some powder," said actor Sara Ali Khan, speaking at an event in Bangalore.
The actor's statement single-handedly ended discrimination based on skin colour. Fair and Lovely went out of business, and women growing up in Indian households were stopped from being pressured into using home remedies for 'fairer' skin.
Or so we wish. Unfortunately, colourism can't be solved with a single statement by a celebrity, especially not one, which is well, completely tone-deaf.
Sara was speaking at 'We the Women' event in Bangalore, titled 'A Spark called Sara,' in conversation with journalist Barkha Dutt.
When a woman from the audience asked Sara if she liked going to beaches and being tanned, reminding her that dark skin continues to make women suffer, Sara promptly responded, "I love going to the beach and it has nothing to do with being tanned."
Yes, we get it. She loves the beach. But it doesn't end there.
She went on to say, "If you wanna be tan, just put some on some bronzer, and if you wanna be fair, put on some powder." If this wasn't tone-deaf enough, she added that "It's not the end of the world, and it shouldn't define you at all."
From matrimonial ads seeking 'fair, beautiful woman' to relatives advising young women to apply saffron paste, milk, turmeric and their ancient family secret recipe to “maintain your skin whiter and smoother” is proof enough that India is obsessed with fair skin.
The truth is, while some of those natural remedies do work, it does not even slightly lighten the pressure of meeting up to Indian beauty standards, nor the weight of being ridiculed and mocked for having dark skin.
But Sara Ali Khan had more advice. She says perhaps 'spray paint' would help you look dark, equating it to wearing pink nail polish.
When questioned by Barkha Dutt on the standards of Indian beauty, Sara replies that she understands that, but retorts by saying that "People won't change." She also adds that she could preach that, "All beauty is the same, but people won't say it." Her solution to the problem? You, yes you, who has been ridiculed for having dark-skin, used over-advertised and under-whelming products to lighten your skin, should have 'the confidence to be themselves, irrespective of what people say.'
She ends the question with, "There is a higher probability and success rate for you to attempt to change yourself, than the world, because they are not going to change."
Sara Ali Khan's statement comes at a time, when now, more than ever, people are finally beginning to accept that skin colour can't determine a person's worth. Brands are finally becoming more sensitive to 'unfair and lovely,' and we're finally (still a long way to go) accepting more dark-skinned women on big screens.
However, a multi-billion dollar makeup industry is still thriving based on making women feel insecure about their looks, and the sale of skin-whitening creams are still ever-increasing, and Bollywood is still using makeup to make actresses like Bhumi Pednekar darker, rather than giving the role to an actual dark-skinned actress.
Sara's statement makes it seem like discrimination based on skin colour is something that can just be ignored. As tempting as that sounds, not everyone has that confidence, and more often than not, that confidence is broken down at every step of the way - your classmates calling you 'Kali' on the school playground, someone making you the 'villan' in every play you en-act because of your dark skin, your family and relatives and 'well-wishers' suggesting remedies to 'brighten up your skin,' or the constant advertisements telling you that if you get four shades fairer you will ace that interview and get that job. And if that isn't enough, you should get fairer, else nobody will want you.
Colorism in India isn't just prejudice, it's almost dehumanizing. You're constantly told success and achievement in life only happens to fair-skinned people, and god forbid, if you're more than four shades darker than the colour of flour, you're probably too dark. Nowhere else in the world does 'wheatish' exist as an adjective, and is used to compare skin complexion to "the pale golden colour of ripe wheat; light brown."
It is unbelievable to have grown and lived in India and not know about India's obsession with light skin. Sorry Sara, this was a huge disappointment.
You can watch the entire interview below, starting at 33:31.