Miss America’s Skin is “Too Dark” to Win in India?

Miss America’s Skin is “Too Dark” to Win in India

Indians and Indian-Americans took to social media to assert that Miss America Nina Davuluri’s skin is “too dark” to ever win an Indian beauty pageant. Some even said that her skin is too dark to allow her to become a contestant. Comments of this nature flooded Twitter and Facebook, and the commenters were pointing out that India’s “obsession” with “fairness” would prevent Davuluri from being considered a beautiful woman there.

Indian magazines routinely carry advertisements for “skin lightening” creams and tout the beauty of “fairness,” which is what many Indian people call the characteristic of light skin. Numerous American and Western companies take advantage of this idea by creating and pushing products designed to lighten Indian women’s’ skin. Companies such as Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, and L’Oreal are guilty of this practice, and ads for their skin lightening products can be seen in Indian media, including on television and in magazines.

The idea that someone’s skin could be “too dark” is a very uncomfortable concept to many Americans and most consider it to be a racist way of thinking. Many Indian people pointing out the issue on Twitter indicated their disgust as well. Tweeter Suitablegirl expressed her feelings in a two-part Tweet which read: “What’s interesting is Miss America Nina Davuluri would never win pageants in South Asia because she’s be too dark to be considered beautiful…& the same is true for all of those Indian American USA pseudo-pageants held here, as well. No darkies allowed in winner’s circle.”

Other Tweeters were quite blunt. Commenter @satishkolls said “Newly crowned Miss America Nina Davuluri is too dark to win Miss India in India.”

Indeed, some India folks who move to the United States have expressed surprise at Americans’ penchant for tanning beds, saying that their Indian peers would be “horrified” to find an Indian woman consciously choosing to darken her skin. Many Indian people are raised with the idea that “fair is beautiful” and “dark is ugly” and sometimes this concept is even repeated within families, such as from mother to daughter. Indian women with darker complexions are made to feel as though they are inferior in looks to their lighter-skinner counterparts.

Some activists in India have condemned the selling of skin lightening creams and have called for them to be discontinued. They say that such products “encourage the caste system” and ruin girls’ and women’s’ self-esteem, which can lead to mental health problems such as depression, anxiety or even suicidal thoughts. Technically, the caste system has been abandoned in India but many feel that old, ingrained attitudes that harken to the caste system still exist.

It is somewhat ironic that one of the questions during the Miss America pageant was about television host Julie Chen having surgery for “Asian Eyes.” This question was given to Miss America Nina Davuluri, to which she replied, “I don’t agree with plastic surgery, however I can understand that from a standpoint. More importantly I’ve always viewed Miss America as the girl next door. And Miss America is always evolving… I wouldn’t want to change someone’s looks. Be confident in who you are.”


By: Rebecca Savastio


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10 Responses to "Miss America’s Skin is “Too Dark” to Win in India?"

  1. Jake Wheeler   January 12, 2014 at 10:15 am

    I’m Caucasian. I was born into the world like everyone else. I didn’t invent this mortal coil.Somewhere along the line, the word fair took on two meanings: light skinned and good. When a group of people are bickering and somebody says something like “Hey, hey hey! Let’s be fair about this!”, what they are really saying is:C’mon everybody! Lets act like Caucasians. The expression “That’s not fair” translates into “Act Whiter”

    I have a Mexican girlfriend. We argue politics. I used to like to say “I’m White-that doesn’t make me Christmas” Lately I’ve changed my mind and I now sarcastically refer to Whites as La Raza Navidad–The Christmas Race, because that’s how the world sees us, as the givers, the sharers, as the people who have to give a country away. The idea of whiteness being rightness, of “fair” being “good” is embedded into the very language we speak. I didn’t invent all this, kids, I vote for a world where justice is perceived as people being blue, just as blue as my blue blue eyes 😀

  2. WhatIThink   September 23, 2013 at 4:12 am

    It is all white supremacy. In America they need the Indians to feel at home so they can bring more of the brains from India to America as the new “model minority” because, in this white supremacist world view, the minorities already in America, black folks, don’t cut the mustard. But in India itself, white supremacy is in full force because the beauty industry itself is nothing more than an arm of white supremacy teaching the world that white skin is the standard of beauty that all other people need to imitate.

    Indians have been educated under this system and therefore believe that “ancient white Aryans” brought their culture and arts to India when this has been exposed as a bold face lie created by white supremacists. These same peoples shut down most forms of dance and theater practiced in the temples of India for thousands of years because most of the faces and performers were black. Go back to the photos taken by the British in India of the Davadasis and other temple priests or dancers and you won’t see any pale faces. This nonsense that black Indians worshipped white skin is simply a lie. But the British needed to remake this ancient system to support their agenda of white supremacy. So they took the arts and theater out of the temples and put it in British Dominion Films (the name says it all), British India Theater company and so forth. All of these institutions are the forerunners of Bollywood and the Indian arts and theater companies. All of which are based on a white ideal of beauty and have absolutely nothing to do with actual Indian historical standards of beauty.

  3. Laxmi Prasad   September 20, 2013 at 6:36 am

    India is an EXTREMELY racist society.
    Overwhelmingly run by high castes from education (virtually all teachers), to the legal field, government, bureaucrats, politicians, businessmen, and most dangerously the media which paints everything as fair and balanced…completely untrue. It is a very oppressive society that suffocates the lower castes.
    Most of the Indians that venture abroad are high caste and gained the ability to do so from extreme oppression of other castes in India in schools and social spheres.
    Most of the Indians commenting on social media are higher caste (lower castes rarely have the means), and therefore the picture is further skewed by the higher caste propaganda. Expect the higher castes will not like this post.
    It is also an extremely gender biased nation. Women have little to no say in anything. Those women who dare say anything are rich and high caste and their perspective is again biased by the high caste outlook.

  4. Shachi   September 18, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    Well written Rebecca! You have it right. Having being born and brought up in India it’s really sad that culture and society measures beauty by how fair or dark one is. Its racism amongst our own selves. Its great that someone of Indian heritage has won and its also sad that there are comments made that she is too dark to be considered a beauty. It does not matter who has written this article, because what is written is TRUE.

  5. rishi   September 18, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    The issue is not whether Indians are taking pride that someone with roots from Andhra Pradesh won Miss America – the issue that Indians need to reflect on is why is there no one in positions of glamour in TV ads, movies, beauty pagents that have darker skin – even though the vast majority of the country has darker skin.

  6. bharati   September 17, 2013 at 11:14 pm

    Dear Victor

    Mostly, Indian news laments about NRIs who have done something wrong and usually tucks away into obscure corners any good deeds.
    “We’re always first in line to claim credit even when the connection is weak.” seems incorrect to me. RGupta was in the news nonstop altho his good deeds are HUGE and the crime rather trivial (IMHO). White folks like Marc Rich, the biggest tax swindler, were easily pardoned in the US!

    “People in India are happy that someone of Indian-heritage won Miss America.” Why does that bother anyone?

  7. Rebecca Savastio   September 17, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    I am white but I have Indian family members. The information for the article was partly informed by their thoughts and advice, so I feel perfectly comfortable with what I wrote, thanks.

  8. Victor   September 17, 2013 at 7:14 am

    I’m an NRI and I’d like to say that Nina Davuluri is an American. She was born and brought up in America. Indians should stop jumping to claim her as one of their own. We’re always first in line to claim credit even when the connection is weak. Why are Indians feeling proud because a girl born and raised in America won the Miss America?

    This “white person” made a good point. How many Miss Indias have had dark skin? How many dark skinned Indians make the stage for the Miss India competition? Nina would never even have made it to the competition, let alone win Miss India. How many dark skinned Indian actresses do you see on the screen? The Miss India competition is for white people, not normal Indians.

    One final fact: This is a beauty pageant. The competition and its winners and losers are inconsequential and pointless.

  9. Naveen   September 17, 2013 at 6:55 am

    There will hundreds of tweets and facebook comments on the win Miss America Nina Davuluri’s but selective picking tweets and forming an general opinion about Indian thinking is not good. It is an insult to the country. Nina is mane India proud and most people in general will be very proud about it. She is receiving more coverage in India than here. If you want to form an opinion about a country as big as India then you should first live there to understand its culture and thinking.

  10. Harold   September 17, 2013 at 5:20 am

    I don’t know why but I always find it discomforting when white people write articles on things they know nothing about. People in India are ecstatic that someone of Indian-heritage won Miss America.


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