Miss India Competition Sparks Outrage After Twitter User Suggestions Contestants Look the Same

Miss India Competition Sparks Outrage After Twitter User Suggestions Contestants Look the Same
Miss India 2018 Shreya Rao Kamavarapu (L), Anukreethy Vas (C) and Meenakshi Chaudhary (R) attend the 'NRI of the Year Awards' in Mumbai on July 11, 2018. Twitter users were upset by 2019 Miss India competition after someone suggested the contestants look the same. SUJIT JAISWAL/AFP/Getty Images

Miss India beauty pageant is being accused of colorism after a photo of 30 contestants appearing to have the same skin complexion appeared in a newspaper.

The Times of India, which is also owned by the same organization as the pageant, announced the contestants in its "Variety" section and featured headshots of the beauty queens. Twitter user @Naa_Cheese screenshot the image and shared in on the social media site on Wednesday with the caption: "What is wrong with this picture?"

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Hundreds of people commented on the tweet with suggestions that the women looked exactly the same. There were some who teased the collage may have been 30 images of the same exact woman. Others blasted the competition for continuing to only promote fair skinned women as the general standard of beauty and noted the lack of diversity of the Miss India pageant overall.

Shamita Singha, the makeup artist behind the newspaper photo, told BBC the women actually ranged in complexion but their differing skin tones were not present in the pictures due to editing. "This is not the skin tones of the actual pictures," she said in an interview released on Thursday.

Singha said photos had to be retouched because the women looked "like plastic" in the originals. Although the photo editing team was instructed not to alter skin tones, the pressure to have the photos ready in time for print deadlines resulted in the use of a filter that made all of the women appear to have the same color skin.

Singha insisted the Miss India pageant represented Indian women of all shades. Previous winners have had darker skin, including Nehal Chudasama, who won the 2018 Miss Diva competition and represented India in the 2018 Miss Universe pageant. Singha noted former title-holders Srinidhi Shetty and Anukreethy Vas also had darker complexions.

India's beauty industry has long been criticized for lack of diverse and inclusive skin tones. The country also has a longstanding history of skin bleaching after the first skin lightening cream, Fair and Lovely, was released on beauty counters across India in the 1970s. Its debut only seemed to capitalize on the racial divide within India and the prominent idea among some that lighter skin was considered more beautiful.

Skin bleaching and lightning isn't just an issue in India. Countries like the Philippines, China, Malaysia, South Korea, Nigeria and Jamaica also have large markets of products and procedures targeted at making darker skinned people appear lighter. In fact, the skin lightening industry is booming globally. It's estimated to rake in north of $24 billion over the next 10 years, according to a 2018 Market Watch report.

Miss India Competition Sparks Outrage After Twitter User Suggestions Contestants Look the Same | Culture