'What's wrong with this picture?' - Miss India line-up sparks colourism backlash

Francesca Specter
Yahoo Style UK deputy editor
Previous Miss India contestants Koyal Rana (left), Jhataleka Malhotra (middle) and Gail Nicole Da Silva pose for a photograph during the Grazia Young Fashion Awards 2014 ceremony in Mumbai. [Photo: Getty]

This year’s Miss India line-up has got people talking about the country’s fixation with light-coloured skin.

In a now-viral post, Twitter user Sameera shared a page from the Times of India, which featured a collage of the contestants for the this year’s Miss India.

Also known as Femina Miss India, the pageant, which takes place next month, is a feeder for Miss World, one of the “Big Four” major international pageants.

But its latest line-up has sparked a row over “colourism” – a prejudice against darker skin tones.

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The user captioned the post with a simple question: “What is wrong with this picture?”

Fellow users quickly commented on the women’s similarity, most noticeably when it came to their skin colour.

People are saying they all have the same very pale skin shade – despite Indian skin tones being hugely diverse across the country.

Historically, Miss India winners have been pale-skinned, such as 2015 winner Noyonita Lodh.

Indian actress Priyanka Chopra, who won the title in 2000, was something of an anomaly, as she was considered “too dark”.

India is notorious for its obsession with fair skin tones, with an estimated $432 million worth of skin-whitening products purchased annually.

Indian actress and Former Miss World Priyanka Chopra performs at the Pantaloons Femina Miss India 2009 contest. [Photo: Getty]

What’s more, in a poll of nearly 12,000 people conducted by the country’s leading dating website, Shaadi.com, skin tone was considered the most important criteria for selecting a partner.

There are, however, movements to change this culture. For instance, actress Nandita Das fronted a “Dark is Beautiful” campaign in 2013 to promote dark skin colours.

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 21: Miss India Noyonita Lodh participates in the 63rd Annual Miss Universe Preliminary Show at Florida International University on January 21, 2015 in Miami, Florida. [Photo: Getty]

In 2014, the Advertising Standards Council of India issued a set of guidelines to ban adverts that depicting darker skin as being inferior.

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The Miss India contest isn’t the first pageant to provoke concern about national beauty standards. Someone on Twitter compared the pageant collage to an image which of Miss Korea contestants, which went viral in 2013.

At the time, people speculated the photo was an example of South Korea’s plastic surgery craze.

Equally, the exclusively light-skinned contestants reflected another Asian culture where whiteness is considered the highest beauty standard.

In other more positive pageant news, last December Angela Ponce made history as the first transgender Miss Universe contestant.