the unfair project 4

Wawddup devis! Sorry I’ve been away. If you’re anything like me, you’re blue because the Elections are OVER. O.V.E.R. *sob!* I liked that big-ass red and blue studio you camped in, Arnab Goswami! I worried for your bowels and sleep deficit! I liked watching you heckle field correspondents for bytes, even as they went , “…b..but Arnab, he’s just entered the party office, nothing is confirmed yet! Nothing is confirmed!” I liked watching Congress spokesmen swear undying allegiance to the Family in tight, brittle voices. I liked– no, loved watching editors and senior journalists tear the Congress to tiny bits with sexy wordage, both Hindi and English. De-fang. Kinhkartavyavimoodh. Coalition of the unwilling. Janta Janaardan Ke Jazbaat. Dimpled duffer. Every night, Husband and I livestreamed the madness on our laptop. We don’t have a telly, but that’s okay. You can press Pause at a WTF moment in the proceedings to look at your fellow livestreamer and go, “Did this man just poop with his mouth?” or “Can we take a moment here to vomit jointly?” or “Did his mommy just yank him off the dais?” Also, you can play the drinking game anytime someone says ‘Development’. Huz and I don’t drink, but this is one of those times I wish I did.

That said, I’m going to miss you, Dr. Singh. You were a gentle, gentle man with the saddest eyes ever possessed by a head of state. You were also awesome and unfairly vilified, as anyone that’s stalked you in an unhealthy way read up on you knows. Few know, for example, that it was the Prime Minister who warned India about the tsunami, hours before it hit her coastline. Habituated to tuning in to BBC first thing AM, Dr. Swagmohan heard the warning, freaked and woke his Chief Secretary and got things going. That’s right. Our Sophisticated Meteorological Warning System was a sleepy sardar our Prime Minister. Obama didn’t see no polar vortex comin’, bitches! What you got to say to that, America?  His rags-to-RCR story is positively Dickensian. He quoted Urdu couplets and Victor Hugo in Parliament, and often silenced his detractors with a potent mix of erudition, radicalness and humility. Never a great orator, he wowed with substance and intent, giving hope to introverted nerds terrified of addressing crowds. He was a decent man, too decent, actually. Potatoes gonna potate and haters gonna hate, but he ruled. Sort of. Have you read this?

And now to beauty business, because my vote goes to gorgeous women who could seriously harm fairness creams’ bottomlines, were they to unite and advocate.

One of my favourite internet unicorns (=humans too amazing to be true) is Superwoman Lilly Singh. She’s a Toronto-based comedienne who pokes fun at brown fams, shady men and marriage. Wild Punjaaban alert! These aren’t the slickest videos, just home movies shot in her room. She wears a lot of graphic tees (win!), is totally smexy, and does her thing in a desi-meets-patois way that can be hard to get used to at first, but gets better by the video. I discovered her in the winter of 2012, and inspired, made a few videos of my own against a similar green background. These videos have such massive blackmail potential that I’ve had them sealed, shrinkwrapped in Kevlar, frozen into a block of lead and dropped into a secret ocean bed vault south of Sri Lanka.

That’s her, pouring ketchup into a jutti,

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telling us why we should marry her,

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and being the hot mess she is.

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I thought she was the perfect postergirl for The Unfair Project, because she’s not only chocolatey-gorgeous, but also the direct opposite of a manic pixie dream girl. The sort of girl you think says “Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive. But I’m just a fucked-up girl who’s lookin’ for my own peace of mind; don’t assign me yours.” (Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind). Sometimes, I think she’s a brown Tina Fey-

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Here are my favourite videos of her. She’s playing both her mum and her dad, obviously. 

Lilly’s parents react to Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball- 

Lilly’s parents react to her Youtube fame, and read the comments below her videos-

Lilly is a hopeless shopaholic-

Hooked, much?

On a total tangent, don’t you just hate it when they lighten obviously dark skin in ads? It irks me when an actor does the mandatory semi-orgasmic cheek rub with her bottle of magic cream, wearing floaty dress, loose chignon and skin whiter than Edward the vampireBlack women transform into women of indeterminate nationality/ ethnicity and Indian actors just look..sad. And white. And sad. It’s terrible. I read somewhere that the last image of a woman you saw- on a billboard, a magazine, the internet- is very likely photoshopped and stripped of any reality- curves, natural complexion, skin variations. Photoshop, you iz moron.

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And now for my Superwomen- none photoshopped, all fabulous.

15. Vasundhara, Singer. Likes weird books, crazy people, vintage advertisements and fussing over her population of stray adoptees.

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When was the first time you became aware that you weren’t fair, and how did you deal with that knowledge?

I became aware of not being fair in my early teens in school. But that knowledge didn’t give me anything to “deal” with. My family never spoke about colour and, as a kid, my sense of self came from the things I did and not from how cute I looked doing them. Music was also a big part of my identity and took up a lot of my time. I had a LOT of buddies. So I didn’t feel insecure or threatened or unwanted because I was dark.

I clearly remember how quickly, in summer, the skin on my forehead would burn blue-black leaving lighter patches on my eyebrows. And I’d go about showing it to my friends and laughing over how I resembled a Doberman.

When did your first ‘I’m beautiful, actually’ moment happen, and how did you nurture that realisation into self-love and confidence? Also, what do you think of fairness creams?

I really don’t consider myself “pretty”. I don’t check the boxes for typical prettygirl. But somehow I’ve always been ok being this boy-woman that I am. I’m 28 and I’ve never coloured my nails. My hair is everywhere! I’m comfortable with my sexuality. The men I have liked have never run away shrieking. I have had some fulfilling partnerships. So all is well I guess.

I have, since childhood, been attracted to dark skin on both men and women. I like big thighs and wide hips and thick lips. They are all super sexy. I wonder if this is how MANY more of us would naturally feel if we hadn’t been conditioned otherwise.

Fairness creams are plain stupid… and they actually make me very angry.

What is your beauty regimen?

Wash face. Step out.

Balm, at best, in winters or dehydrated summer days.

Do un-fair women have an unfair advantage over their fair counterparts?

The un-fair ones, especially the ones who were born lighter skinned, are awesome fun. They have probably travelled or spent time out in the sun doing things other petrified pretties might never dare do. They can have better conversations. They probably are good at many things and have mutiple hobbies. They make better companions. They are often “naturally” confident and humourous. . . And that’s an unfair enough deal for those who rely on skin tone to feel good or worthy.

I think dark women are totally hot.

Nerdydevi notes- 

Vasundhara, I gaze upon your beauty like a baby Merida. Yes, this is true. No, I am not ashamed.

ImageWe were at school and college together, but Vasundhara and I never really met. I heard her a lot though- she belonged to the Lady Shri Ram Choir of Sexy Female Voices That Defied The Laws of Acoustics. When she took over, you stopped fiddling with your phone and listened. And slow-clapped in your head. And listened some more.

Vasundhara makes sweet music with Adil Manuel, and has been featured in a whole bunch of prestigious rags- Vogue, Indian Express, Mint and whathaveyou. Jazzinindia.com says that “..their musical spectrum spans Jazz Fusion, Funk, RnB, Blues and Gospel.” say that it spans Smooth, Godawesome, Beautiful and Surreal. Have I just invented some genres? Maybe.

I do have one particular memory of Vasundhara. While we nervously milled about in gauchely-wrapped saris and geisha-grade makeup ouside the school gates, waiting for the Farewell party to begin, in walked an immensely tall girl, shoulders thrown back, strides long and lazy, chin at a cool sixty degrees to the ground, adjusting her blue (or was it white?) wrap, oblivious to craned necks. Like some sort of idiotic human-dictionary hybrid on Auto-Assess, I remember thinking two words. Languorous, and Glamazon.

I’m glad to see that hasn’t changed. Vasundhara, encore to your fabulousness and then some more. Thank you heaps for doing this! Much love.

16. Rachna Bahadur, Management Consultant. Likes dark chocolate, sugar cane juice, culinary adventures, Mumbai in the monsoons, PG Wodehouse, working out.

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When was the first time you became aware that you weren’t fair, and how did you deal with that knowledge?

Don’t really remember. It was never a big deal. My mom’s very fair but dad’s a deep chocolate. I just thought it was natural to be the color that I was- you know, a little bit of both.

When did your first ‘I’m beautiful, actually’ moment happen, and how did you nurture that realisation into self-love and confidence? 

My family would always tell me I was beautiful. Period. Not “despite” my skin color. I’ve been more focused on fitness and healthy skin rather than being “beautiful”. Plus, I find poise and elegance in women much more attractive than some people’s definition of beauty.

What do you think of fairness creams?

I DON’T think about fairness creams. Do any of them even work? Even the (M)ad people have no new angles left to explore. I wish you had asked me what I think of cosmetics counter saleswomen in Indian department stores. Ma’am thoda glow toh chahiye na…

What is your beauty regimen? 

I switch skin care products between summer and the cooler months because of having the most troublesome combination skin but use Kiehl’s Ultra Facial cleanser throughout the year. Through the summers I use a Clinique toner, mattifying/pore minimizing moisturizer and CC cream with SPF 30++. I only wear black gel eye-liner (Bobbi Brown) and a tinted lip balm (Clinique Chubby Stick in Bountiful Blush if you care) to work. If I’m feeling fancy in the evening I might use some blush (Bobbi Brown in Tawny- have to love everything Bobbi Brown because of how natural the shades look). I end the day with a clean face and a few drops of Estee Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair Serum. Sounds like a lot in print but believe me I don’t spend more than 10 minutes a day on my skin!

Do un-fair women have an unfair advantage over their fair counterparts?

There are very few colors that we can’t wear- yes, even neons work!

Nerdydevi notes- 

Rachna and I went to the same school. She was a certified nerd, but not in a way you’d imagine. Because she wasn’t just book smart- she was smart smart. Let’s just say that if she landed on the sets of The Big Bang Theory, she would turn their tired tropes around. Hot nerd? Yes, entirely possible. A nerd that shines in a social setting and doesn’t self-combust from nerves? Absolutely. A beautiful girl who integrates and differentiates for fun- and also rocks lip gloss? Heck yes. You get the point.

Rachna is also an incredibly nice person, and I remember her for a kindness she once did me. The hostel intercom was out of order, and my folks were waiting in the lobby. These were cellphone-less days, so they didn’t know how to reach me. Rachna trekked it to my room to tell me they were waiting. I was later told she was one of the eight-odd girls who had been requested.

The first picture is from her wedding. Does she not look insanely beautiful? Rachna, thank you oceans for doing this. My love and best wishes!

17. Uma Nair, Marketing Professional. Likes ginger tea, flowers, mountains, books, music, good food, interesting conversations, being busy but mostly being lazy ☺

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When was the first time you became aware that you weren’t fair, and how did you deal with that knowledge?

I must have been around 5. My best friend then was super fair and I, for the life of me, couldn’t figure out why. Why was she fairer than me? I believe the conclusion I drew was that my mom just didn’t do a good enough job of bathing & cleaning me up. In my mind, I had reasoned that the darker skin was just dirtier skin. After many failed attempts at ‘cleaning up’ I gave up. Also the fact that no one else in my family, other that 5 year old me cared about my skin color ensured that I stopped caring too.

When did your first ‘I’m beautiful, actually’ moment happen, and how did you nurture that realisation into self-love and confidence? And what do you think of fairness creams? 

I don’t think that there is any ‘one’ such day. I was a bit of a late bloomer and the realization that I am kinda attractive happened in my early 20s when I got attention not just from men but women too (straight, mostly).

I like to be well turned out and believe that you look good when you feel good. But I also think that the reverse is true as well – dressing up & looking good helps me feel better on a bad day.

Skin color has never bothered me and so I have never really thought of it as an issue… But I am quite aware of the fact that for women in many communities in India, being fair comes with entitlement. Lighter skin color then becomes currency or means to a good life. Fairness creams & the advertising around it unfortunately perpetrate this point of view.

What is your beauty regimen? 

I currently use an unbranded, hand made, neem face wash picked up from the Dastkaar Mela. Otherwise I use ‘Purity Made Simple’ by Philosophy, or Himalaya Neem face wash. I moisturize my face with ‘Hope In A Jar’ by Philosophy.

Most days I am makeup- free except for kajal (Maybelline Colossal) & lip gloss (Mac’s tinted lip conditioner). If I need to dress up, I do up my eyes a little more (Colorbar eyeliner, Chambor powder kohl, Victoria’s Secret mascara & kajal). Ive recently discovered lipsticks and so far have all of 2 shades that I use – Melon Sorbet by Chambor & Ruby Woo by MAC (which, by the way, is the best red lipstick for Indian skin).

Do un-fair women have an unfair advantage over their fair counterparts?

Outside of Asia, we have the most sought after (read exotic) skin tone 😉

Nerdydevi notes- 

Uma was a happy discovery. We shared a room at an office offsite, and I fell in love with her story, of which she is the brave and fearless heroine. We spoke about books, work, girlfriends and Delhi and she struck me as being devilishly smart, passionate and ace-y at what she was doing. She’s just the sort of person you want for a girlfriend- fun, a super conversationalist and up for a whimsical adventure any time. UN, I wish I’d gotten to know you better! Thank you tonnes for doing this. Lots of love.

18. Daisy Hazra, Advertising. (Associate Account Director at a global creative agency). Likes Asian food, skating on ice, impulse trips and the ridiculously expensive kind of fashion.

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When was the first time you became aware that you weren’t fair, and how did you deal with that knowledge?

The fact that I am not ‘fair’ hadn’t dawned upon me until I was twenty or so because my family isn’t the sort to come after me with lightening ubtans. I figured when one of my friends joked about how she couldn’t use my foundation because she was that many shades lighter then me in a pretty condescending manner. It left me part amused, part confused, wondering if I should feel bad about being born a certain colour.

When did your first ‘I’m beautiful, actually’ moment happen, and how did you nurture that realisation into self-love and confidence?

At the risk of sounding vain, I will admit that I have always believed I’m gorgeous (probably more than I actually am!). I am extremely comfortable in my skin (literally!) and completely in love with myself – sun-kissed skin, signs of pigmentation and a thousand other flaws notwithstanding. I am naturally confident I guess, not sure where it comes from. Its just not easy to put a dent in my spirit I realize. Naysayers can take a hike!

What do you think of fairness creams? 

More than the products and the cocktail of carcinogenic elements they carry, it’s the advertising that scares me. The whole premise on which they base their messaging is flawed – even the attempting-to-sound-responsible ads. Nobody needs a fairness product to feel confident, get a job or find the perfect boy. Its demeaning and there needs to be strong censorship of such communication. Our obsession with fairness comes from a dark place and it really is time we lose it.

What is your beauty regimen?

I am a hoarder of cosmetics. My reasons could range from ‘that works wonders on my skin’ to ‘that bottle is oh-so-pretty’. I own a lot, but don’t end up using much. My basic everyday beauty regimen would be:

Day start – I wash my face with cold water.

Before leaving the house – A generous amount of Neutrogena sunscreen with a drop of MAC Studio Fix fluid in it. Bobby Brown Sheer Finish Loose Powder. Lakme Eyeconic kajal on the inside of my eyes and the Colorbar Ultimate Eyeliner to finish. Clinique Plum Nude lip stain. Roberto Cavalli Aqua body lotion.

Day end – Forest Essentials Gel Scrub for the face. Forest Essentials Cane Sugar Lip Scrub. Vichy Purete Thermale Cleanser & Toner. Body Butter from Body Shop. Forest Essentials Sandalwood and Saffron night treatment cream.

Do un-fair women have an unfair advantage over their fair counterparts?

Pop colours pop better on dusky skin. And on sick days, we don’t look like we’ve walked out of The Vampire Diaries.

Nerdydevi notes-

Daisy is tiny; positively molecular. If that isn’t the first thing you notice about her, you will notice that she’s extraordinarily pretty. And if, for some reason, you have a sprained neck and cannot look at her face, you will notice her toenails, because they will be painted some shade Vogue calls ‘decadent’She’s adorable! She’s cute! A Subway sandwich doesn’t fit in her tiny hands! A Cafe Coffee Day mug overwhelms her teeny fingers! There’s just too much cuteness to bear!

Bite-sized cutie apart, Daisy is sharp, witty and gets stuff. You want her around on a difficult meeting, because she will lighten things with a pithy one liner. She’s very full of win. I like her.

Daisy, thanks a mill for doing this! Much love.

And that brings us to the end of The Unfair Project, a photoseries-meets-Proust Questionnaire-meets gif-fy social commentary, a celebration of beautiful women who love themselves. You’ve been serious wymmynspiration. Thank you.

To the many, many women I couldn’t feature, I’m so sorry! I’m trying my best to juggle academics and blogging, and I had to conclude this per schedule! Studying sucks. Some people put the ‘stud’ in studying, I put, you know, the ‘dying’.

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Much love, devis! I hope you’ve seen Parts One, Two and Three of The Unfair Project. Thank you for the support. Toodle-oo!

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