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The Dark Side to Making Skin-Tones Darker

The Dark Side to Making Skin-Tones Darker

A look into yet another incident of blackface, and the backlash it received.

News of one of the latest incidents labelled as blackface has caught people’s attention worldwide, but this time, the occurrence originates from within our very own borders.

Aired on Pakistani morning-show Jago Pakistan Jago two weeks ago, selected beauticians were given the task of applying bridal makeup on darker skin tones. Here’s the catch: the models used for this challenge were fair-skinned, and had to get a generous amount of dark colored foundation applied on their faces first.

The scandalous segment was part of a competition in which twelve beauticians from across the city of Karachi were given different makeup challenges of increasing difficulty over the course of a week, for the chance to win a hundred-thousand-rupee cash prize. Naturally, not too many people were pleased with what the show had just aired.

The producer of the show, Rehan Ahmed, explained the rationale behind the different tasks: “The beauticians were challenged in different ways. For instance, in one segment, we applied mehndi on their hands and asked them to apply make-up on their models with one hand. In the same way, for one of the segments we got a dark base and asked the beauticians to use that to create the perfect look.”

While the show was faced with backlash on not having chosen darker-skinned models for this particular task, Rehan explains that “there was no need to do so. Also, we had to keep things consistent. We had to use five models for the entirety of the competition week, we couldn’t change them just for this segment.”

Considering the reactions, there were two main aspects that resulted in the outrage; the first being associated to blackface, while the second having to do with the obsession with fair complexions.

Having emerged in around 1830, blackface was a practice in which white entertainers would paint their faces black, to entertain white audiences. Blackface was seen as offensive because the display of “blackness” in most cases, was only done to highlight comic stereotypes, and to present caricatures of the oppressed black race in America and Britain during that time.

Coming to fantasizing over fair complexions, South Asian countries such as India and Pakistan have already dealt with a considerable amount of criticism for promoting the use of fairness creams. A report by BBC London showed that commonly used fairness creams such as Faiza Beauty Cream contain dangerous and prohibited levels of hydroquinone, mercury or corticosteroids. Viewers of the segment questioned why the show chose to reinforce an old stereotype of how it is hard to be dark and beautiful at the same time, instead of trying to suggest that one does not have to be fair to be “lovely”.

Whatever the reason for the segment may be, it is important for people to always review the content of their posts and shows before publishing and broadcasting them. If we want to live in a society where all lives are valued to the same degree, displaying our freedom of expression must not mean advocating beauty standards that result in discrimination.

 

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