VOGUE India X Kendall Jenner

Recently, out of sheer boredom, I was starting down at a magazine aisle in IGI airport, where ridiculously inane tabloid headlines and pictures of an imposing zigzag splitting happy-looking couples covered the rack – but only one cover managed to dominate. The gleaming, glossy center of attention was propped up, piercing through my eyes, making me feel uncomfortable in my own skin.

There the cover was, constantly reminding me that my brown skin, curvy body and thick lips were just not good enough.

I’d like to start by saying that I fully understand and acknowledge that as a socio-economically privileged non-resident Indian, I have definitely not faced the brunt of the devastating effects of the permanent colonial hangover the empire has left us – one of their many parting gifts.

But as a young brown woman, an Indian woman, it bothers me that VOGUE India, a so called progressive, liberal and most importantly, feminist magazine, decided to celebrate its 10th anniversary by parading Kendall Jenner, a flag bearer of white feminism and intersectional racism. Jenner, by the way, was hot off the Pepsi commercial gaffe, where she and Pepsi managed to commercialise and trivialize strong, pure movements such as Black Lives Matters and the Women’s March.

Oh! – Let’s not forget, she still hasn’t issued a simple apology.

When my melanchochic eyes loom at the Glossy VOGUE cover, Kendall draped in chic black lace, collarbones daintily out, it reminds of my uncle asking me whether I hadn’t washed my face the night before as it was looking grimy and dirty – not ivory-like and unpigmented.

It wasn’t looking white enough.

“Ato Kalo kaano lagche toke?” (Why are you looking so black today?)

I was looking ugly and unkempt because my skin was looking particularly brown today.

Looking at the cover also brings back haunting memories of relatives telling me that I looked as pretty as a Meimshahib, which translated to ‘white girl’.

Was my beauty only justified when I resembled a white woman? Could I not looking beautiful and still be a brown skinned woman at the same time?

What VOGUE India doesn’t recognize is that when you are willfully choosing a white woman to cover an Indian magazine, you are inadvertently, yet essentially sending a message to all Indian woman: You aren’t really attractive if you don’t have fair skin.

The incredibly frustrating issue with VOGUE India is how they incompetently tried to justify their decision by using pathetic statistics. Telling us that 90% of the covers already feature Indian models and therefore giving the coveted spot to a white woman is a frankly ridiculous and a woefully insufficient explanation.

I’m not disappointed in Kendall Jenner. I’m disappointed in VOGUE India.

By plastering a white woman on a coveted issue of an Indian publication, read predominantly by Indian women, reminds us of the narrow standards of beauty that have ravaged Indian women for eons.

By placing Kendall Jenner, a privileged white woman on a cover of an Indian publication, they are essentially being fixated on the same archaic concept of beauty.

When publications such as VOGUE India give preference to white woman over brown woman, it is reminiscent of how Indian woman feel outside of India – marginalized, stereotyped and unattractive.

Outside of India, Indian women are stereotyped as hairy, submissive, with thick accents and slated for an arranged marriage.

Once, someone in London had the audacity to tell me that I smelt like curry.

I shouldn’t feel marginalized and unattractive in my own country.

Publications such as VOGUE India should use opportunities to celebrate all types of Indian beauty so that Indian woman are able recover from the colonial hangover and remain confident of their beauty – no matter how many relatives describe us as wheat-ish or the number of sales assistants hounding us to buy the new and improved whitening and brightening skin cleanser, we should remain confident of the fact that we are strong Indian woman, proud of our bindis, headscarves and melanin.

 

Antara Dasgupta is part of the Editorial Team at I RISE magazine, and a Chemistry student at King’s College London.

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irisemagazine

I RISE Magazine is an online platform dedicated to showcasing the stories, talents and trials of women of colour and non-binary people of colour in educational institutions. Our aim is to collectively represent, lead the way and inspire ourselves and future generations.

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