“Beauty is only skin deep” — the meaning of which I’d say is lost in the majority of South Asian society. In fact, if a person was a scorecard, which is usually the case when it comes to our hypercritical brigade of desi aunties, skin and its appearance would probably have the highest weightage of marks. Any sort of deviation from their standards, and you are forced to believe that your future holds no promise whatsoever. The standard being: fair, unblemished, porcelain white skin.
Over the years, numerous social media campaigns and the conscious woke-ness, and activism of the younger generation have been pivotal in denouncing and dismantling such prejudicial behavior within South Asian culture. Recently, Fair & Lovely, a brand that has long cashed in on our deep-rooted bias towards the dark-skinned, changed its name to Glow & Lovely after repeated backlash for propagating discrimination. No major feat really, but still a fair bit of progress.
Despite that, even today, if you turn over a page to the matrimonial section, or log onto a matrimonial website, you are likely to read a groom, or a potential mother-in-law (God forbid), advertising to seek a fair-toned, and hence, the naturally beautiful bride — ‘milky white complexion,’ if I may quote from my memory. If this is the sort of ridicule and embarrassment an excess of melanin gets you day in day out, one cannot even fathom the torture people with a skin condition have to go through.
British-Indian model, Jasroop Singh, treads a difficult path growing up, often finding herself traumatized with incessant harassment and bullying.
In an exclusive chat with Brown Girl Magazine, Singh recalls:
I went through a lot of stages in life where I felt what even is the point of it anymore. I went through a hard time in school; children would stare at me, make fun of me. Whenever we’d visit the temple in our area, the older women would start whispering to each other. There was this one time when someone said to my mom, ‘Oh my God, she had her whole life ahead of her’… as if this was the end. I was ashamed and confused. I would hate wearing revealing tops and dresses, and would just cover myself up with clothes and make-up.
Singh has Vitiligo, an autoimmune skin condition characterized by discolored patches of skin, predominantly white, in different areas of the face and body. It is unpredictable in nature and can spread aggressively or steadily over a lifetime. Vitiligo is not a life-altering disorder, but can be and is in fact emotionally draining, more so because of the abnormal gaze it attracts from the self-defining, ‘normal’ people of our society. Particularly in the South Asian community, where people refuse to understand and accept the dynamics of it and treat it as some sinister illness, deeming the individual a social outcast.
Although it’s rare for vitiligo to develop at a very young age, Singh was diagnosed with the condition at four years old. But like most people diagnosed with it, she also resorted to endless medications and intensive herbal treatments in an attempt to stop its progression or somehow reverse it.
I had started medications from a very young age and was taking a lot of different medicines for nearly eight years. We’d travel to India every year where I’d get herbal medicines. Those would be sometimes tablets, sometimes a drink that I had to take and sometimes just a powder. But it was one of the worst experiences of my life and it got to a point where I just had to stop because it wasn’t really helping me,
Singh shares, almost breaking down into tears.
Obviously, I was young, and my family and I didn’t know what to do and it seemed like the only option. But as I grew older, my family realized it wasn’t helping me in any sort of way. In fact, it was affecting my mental health; always making me feel so low, so horrible inside. So I decided that I didn’t want to take it anymore and just let the vitiligo do what it does. If it spreads, it spreads.
With immense support from her loved ones, Singh now wears her skin like an armour, embracing and celebrating the sharp white patches on her body as unique assets and symbols of a war she’s fought successfully against bigoted minds. In a year marked by more lows than highs, 2020, she chose to self-reflect, build her confidence, and dive headfirst into a profession she never even dreamt of.
Modeling never came to my mind as a profession. It was the kind of thing I would never take into consideration. Growing up, my cousins would tell me that I should really get into modeling but I always brushed it off because I didn’t like my skin; I didn’t feel comfortable at all. It was only at the time of the first lockdown in the UK, which happened at the start of this year, that I actually decided to give modeling a shot.
In like a moment, on this one day I took out a sleeveless top and a pair of shorts, went out with my family and realised how good I felt. I questioned myself that why have I been hiding all these years. And I should just stop letting the negativity and toxicity of people get to me.
During the lockdown, my confidence got even better. I had my first ever modeling shoot in July and it was for an Indian brand. It kind of just picked up from there and I applied for a modeling agency. I got into my first modeling agency in August, and I’ve been shooting since.
Still a novice in the modeling industry, Jasroop Singh has already been featured in Photo Vogue Italia and is the “first-ever female model, with vitiligo,” to shoot with one of U.K.’s leading Asian bridal magazines, Khush Magazine.
She affirms that industry experts have so far been very supportive, understanding that her skin is beautiful as is and not covering it up under layers of make-up. But I suggest, that in an industry that repeatedly comes under fire for being superficial, it is easier to become a mere poster girl for diversity and surface-level activism. She remains determined that creating and spreading awareness is what led her to model in the first place and will forever remain the core of her professional journey.
Modeling is definitely the career path I want to go down. I am not just in it for the sake of it, I want to raise awareness. I want people to know that they shouldn’t be ashamed of being different or just for having skin problems. It might not be vitiligo; it could just be acne or any other skin issue. I want them to know they are beautiful in their own way; you don’t have to, or shouldn’t have to, hide your skin because of what other people think. You should always just be yourself. And it’s the one aim in life I will never forget no matter where I am in the future.
Singh has set her foot in the right direction because it’s high time that people of our culture and community stop stigmatizing aspects of an individual’s physical and mental appearance, and start creating a space for realistic beauty standards.
There is a myriad of people with vitiligo, and/or other skin-related concerns, who are now in a much later stage in life but still feel hesitant and insecure to speak for themselves. They have lived their entire lives, clutching at straws to survive the ominous stares. So to see Jasroop Singh, at only 18, shatter age-old views one photoshoot at a time is undeniably inspiring. To add to that, she looks gorgeous doing it. After all, beauty comes in all forms, shapes and sizes.
Indiaspopup.com — USA’s premier online destination for luxury Indian designer clothing and accessories — is a global platform for South Asian fashion. It curates inclusive, embracive, and conscious trends and styles from the heart of India to its global shoppers. Founded by Archana Yenna, the company honored South Asian women from various walks of life who are leading the path for future generations. The luxury retailer hosted a ‘Power Table’ dinner at Armani/Ristorante in New York City with South Asian women leading the change in fashion, entrepreneurship, media, entertainment, and journalism.
At Indiaspopup.com, we empower and celebrate women through authentic South Asian fashion and community contributions. As we celebrate Women’s Day, we remain committed to sharing inspiring stories of South Asian women achievers and changemakers. Our recent ‘Power Table’ dinner in New York City celebrated remarkable women — trailblazers of South Asian heritage, inspiring the next generation of female leaders to dream big and chase their aspirations.
Yenna honored these women for breaking stereotypes and spreading positivity on body sizes, health, confidence, and skin tone. Through her work with Indiaspopup.com, Yenna hopes to help women feel beautiful, confident, and feminine, and make progress toward positive change. In a series of photos shot in New York City’s Baccarat Hotel, dedicated to the quintessence of luxury and excellence, Indiaspopup.com produced a high tea-themed photoshoot to celebrate its honorees. The women wore avant-garde clothing donning some of India’s most prominent designers while sipping tea, dining on canapés, and enjoying one another’s company. Exemplifying Indian royalty, the women championed one another and the power of sisterhood, and shared what womanhood meant to each one of them.
During the two-day festivities, Indiaspopup.com announced their partnership with Sakhi for South Asian Women, an NGO that represents the South Asian diaspora in a survivor-centered movement for gender justice. Sakhi applies a trauma-informed, culturally responsive lens with a long-term commitment to mobilizing a future free from violence. Yenna pledged to donate a portion of sales from the month of March to the organization.
Sakhi for South Asian Women is grateful to Indiaspopup.com for uplifting and investing in our work with survivors of gender-based violence. Nationally, 48% of South Asian Americans experience gender based violence throughout their lifetime, and at Sakhi, we have seen a 65% increase in cases over one year. This support will help us address the overwhelming need in our community and continue our commitment toward a future of healing and justice.
— Kavita Mehra, Executive Director at Sakhi for South Asian Women
To learn more about Indiaspoup.com visit their website.
The results are in — the Pantone Color for 2023 is here — and it looks like Viva Magenta will be ruling runways, the streets, and (even) your wardrobes.
Viva Magenta is a deep shade of red, and Pantone describes it:
Brave and fearless.
It’s meant to be celebratory, and joyous, and encourage experimentation. If you were thinking of toning it down a notch with your wardrobe in 2023, it’s time to think again. It can really be your time to shine in something bright and colorful!
Aprajit Toor, Arpita Mehta, and Rahul Khanna break it down for you — what to wear, how to pair, and everything in between. Their takes on the Pantone Color for 2023 are simple but they’ll help you make a bold statement anywhere you go!
Take a look at what they have to say.
Rahul Khanna of Rohit Gandhi + Rahul Khanna:
Viva Magenta is a color that suits all skin tones. It’s a color for all occasions; women and men can both wear this color with [the] right styling. Cocktail saris, jumpsuits, and reception gowns are some great options for women whereas, for men, the color has started picking up a lot lately. Men have started experimenting with their looks and we as designers have more options for men as well. Recently, we made a custom-made silk velvet fit for Ranveer Singh in the same color. Apart from your everyday clothing, Viva Magenta is also going to be the ruling shade for the upcoming wedding season.
The best way to do Viva Magenta in your everyday wardrobe is to go top to bottom in [it]. Be it in co-ord sets or a kaftan or any comfortable outfit. It’s such a bold & beautiful color that it looks the best when it’s self on self rather than teaming it up or breaking it with another color.
Viva Magenta is a very powerful and empowering color that descends from the red family. It is an animated red that encourages experimentation and self-expression without restraint; an electrifying shade [that] challenges boundaries. One can easily incorporate this color by picking a statement footwear, bag, or jewelry in Viva Magenta which can be paired with neutral or monotone colored outfits.
And there you have it — three ways you can easily take a vibrant hue and turn it into something you can wear every day. Take cues from these top designers on how to wear the Pantone Color of the year and get started! We’d love to see how you style Viva Magenta!
Ever since we can recall, the Cannes Film Festival has been a merger of movies and glamour. On one side, there are hand-picked films — ready to premiere and make their mark in the world of entertainment — and on the other, audiences and paparazzi alike are served epic moments in fashion.
The festival, aimed to preview upcoming films from all over the world, invites a wide variety of guests that span the film fraternity, of course, but more recently, has opened its doors to many digital content creators, including renowned South Asian creatives.
With a more vast guest list comes a more recent debate: Cannes is a film festival and not a fashion showcase. Kickstarting the debate this year was none other than ace Bollywood director, Nandita Das, who in an Instagram post shared:
Sometimes people seem to forget that it is a festival of films and not of clothes!
In short, Das wants Cannes’ narrative to continue to focus on films.
But of course, there’s been a paradigm shift in the guest list over the last few years; this shift has allowed talents from various industries — including lifestyle content creators, entrepreneurs, etc., who showcase their work in fashion and beauty like fine masterstrokes — to walk the carpet and represent their craft, making space for others in their industry.
Influential names like Dolly Singh, Kaushal, Diipa Buller-Khosla, and Shivani Bafna — all of whom made a raging impact on the red carpet this year — weigh in on the significance of representing South Asian artists/influencers on the red carpet, and how they feel they’ve been part of this paradigm shift at Cannes Film Festival.
I believe that each step we take at events like Cannes sends a powerful message of diversity, cultural richness, and artistic excellence. Representation matters, and the presence of South Asian creators on the red carpet at Cannes helps broaden the narrative of beauty, talent, and creativity. It allows us to showcase our unique perspectives, narratives, and contributions, ultimately contributing to a more inclusive industry. By actively participating and making our presence felt, we help create more opportunities and spaces for South Asian creators, encouraging others to share their stories with the world.
Since 2015, the first time I walked the red carpet, till this year I have always been invited by L’Oreal Paris, one of the main sponsors of the event. It has always been such an honor to be invited to the festival through the makeup brand that I have been using for almost two decades, and, before my social media career began. Personally, I feel a sense of acknowledgment from such a prestigious brand, and its head office teams that sponsor Cannes Film Festival, and value the work I have done and continue to do as a South Asian content creator within the beauty space. Makeup, hair, and beauty will always play a big role within the film industry and it’s something I have always created my content around which is why I am proud to attend.
This is a proud moment not just for me but also [for] my peers and the entire content creator ecosystem given that we have reached such new global stages and presence. Of course, as you said, such film festivals, once considered as an exclusive hub for a congregation of the finest acting talents have, in the last few years, opened their arms to more people from the entertainment industry.
This is not just a sudden phenomenon with a burst of Indian creators at the festival this year but there is increased participation from non-film and non-South Asian celebrities across various spectrums from different sides of the world. Along with the many filmmakers, actors, producers, etc I also met some amazing influencers and entrepreneurs from other sides of the world. It’s amazing to represent India and celebrate and champion the advent of the digital ecosphere on such a prominent platform.
The confluence of actors and creators signified the amalgamation of traditional cinema and new-age digital influence, highlighting the transformative power of creative expression and how festivals like Cannes have become more forthcoming and progressive in their approach.
Cannes, like any other prominent festival, boasts of a red carpet that is synonymous with fashion and glitz, and I wanted to use this opportunity to represent all the amazing Indian fashion designers on the carpet besides, of course, attending the screenings. As someone who is just not an influencer but also an actress, I thoroughly enjoyed all the red-carpet screenings and meeting like-minded film talent from around the world at the event. At some point in the future, I would like to be attending Cannes for a film I’ve featured in.
Creators are often placed into boxes of where they belong and the rooms they can be a part of. Being on the red carpet dismantles the ideology that there’s a cap on how far we, as creators and as a South Asian community, can go and what we can achieve.
The Cannes Film Festival has always been viewed as the epitome of a glamorous event — everyone who attends looks like they’re living their best lives. I used the platform to share an authentic message of what the experience felt like for me. To represent all of us who doubt our potential, experience imposter syndrome, and are nervous to find their place, yet continue to push through to achieve their dreams!
As the first Indian American influencer to walk at Cannes, I hope I can inspire young women to confidently ask, ‘Why not me?’
There’s no doubt that the Cannes Film Festival is centered around films, and continues to be a unique space for the global film fraternity to bring their art and showcase their aptitude. But, creators like Bafna, Singh, Buller-Khosla, and Kaushal — a special shoutout to Raja Kumari for being instrumental in paving the way as well — have their own set of responsibilities to fulfill upon their invitation to the prestigious event. Their will to represent their South Asian identities, celebrate their industries, and continue to hold space for their peers makes their presence at Cannes more than just clothes.
All images in the featured photo are from the influencers’ Instagram feeds.