Person of the Week: The Fairness-Cream Enabler


Person of the Week: The Fairness-Cream Enabler

Illustration: Shivali Devalkar

Last week, actor and all-round bombshell, Abhay Deol, called out celebrities who endorse fairness creams on social media, sparking what some are calling Bollywood’s “most intelligent debate”. Now while we might disagree with the overenthusiastic phrasing, it is indeed refreshing to see a prominent celebrity call out his peers for perpetuating a beauty and cultural stereotype.

The need for banning this wonder bleach is hardly a new talking point: Campaigns have been doing the rounds for years. But they have all met a similar fate, which starts with days of outrage and results in no actual action. Meanwhile, Garnier’s ad guys imagine themselves as modern-day Don Drapers, as they get increasingly creative with the copy on the bottle. “Throw in a John Abraham playing football or some other manly shit and we have product that sells, boys… *sparks cigar*”. Ergo, creams that can “cure” dark skin “instantly”.

A good reason why fairness creams are still a thing is because their PR machinery works a lot better than that other stupid thing, common sense. The machinery works in tandem with the help of certain people – let’s call them enablers for now. And so, for disregarding the concepts of melanin, pigmentation, and genetics in favour of an old wives’ tale, we are proud to announce that the “fairness cream enabler” is our Person of the Week. Paint your face and colonise a third-world country because at this party, everyone’s Caucasian.

Because, let’s make peace with this. The fairness cream hype isn’t likely to die down because it is an extremely lucrative industry, worth about ₹104 billion right now, approximately enough money for you to buy both P Diddy and his private jet. Whatever way you look at that figure, it is an obnoxious amount of money to make in the hope that north Indian mothers continue to call their children “Madrasi” every time they go out in the sun. Or the fact that south Indian movies will continue to cast the fairest woman in the district for leading roles. Or that thousands of matrimonial columns will keep appearing in newspapers every day, seeking “fair girl. Mst be Gud in Luks.” These people are enablers. Ignore them.

You could apply a fairness cream on your face every day for the next 50 years, but there’s no way you’re going to look like Neil Nitin Mukesh.

It’s hard to argue that an entire cosmetic industry should be banned when you have Members of Parliament calling half the country black, or skin doctors getting an average of 20 anxious patients a day, asking for fairer skin. What these patients don’t realise is that the chemical that they are asking doctors for, hydroquinone, is actually a bleach for your skin, and works the same way Harpic works on the inside of your toilet. Hear that, it is now officially acceptable to call a fairness cream enthusiast, a shit head! But, judge not lest ye be judged. Every enthusiast, after all, has been brainwashed by an enabler. It’s reached a point where even our Class XII Sociology textbooks tell us that ugly girls have to pay more dowry.

The one thing these enablers – which run the gamut from fairness cream companies to advertisements, school books, racist parents/teachers/relatives/neighbours/extended family – never bother mentioning, is how ineffective these creams really are. You could apply a fairness cream on your face every day for the next 50 years, but there’s no way you’re going to look like Neil Nitin Mukesh.

Still, we have a different fairness cream for every personality. So a young, sporty, and studious boy is able to buy a different fairness cream from a young, sporty, and not-so-studious boy. The fairness companies say that the demand for such products is high, activists argue that the fairness companies have created the demand in the first place. But at the end of the day, there is only one true winner: Capitalism.

So in the interest of true capitalism, we should at least have some honest advertising. Next time instead of hiding behind a famous actor and inept photoshop, these ads should come out for who they really are. Hire a couple of ghosts and make them call a dusky south Indian woman “baingan” if you really mean it.