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Elle Magazine Airbrushes Global Star’s Skin to Make Her Appear Lighter

Elle Magazine Airbrushes Global Star’s Skin to Make Her Appear Lighter

Famous Bollywood actress, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, was stunned when she saw her cover shot for the Indian December edition of Elle Magazine.  Her photos have been allegedly edited to make her skin appear shades lighter than her actual skin tone.

The star has yet to comment on the incident but friends close to her report that she is considering suing the magazine for their misrepresentation of her appearance.  One stated, “She is clearly the global face of the contemporary Indian woman. The last thing she’d want is to have a global image coloured by a racial suggestion.”  Bachchan is known globally as a former Miss World, along with her work in films Bride and Prejudice and The Pink Panther 2.

This discussion about race and representation is particularly important in India.  The Daily Mail reports, “Skin lightening is a controversial issue in India and those with a lighter complexion are often perceived to be more successful and wealthy. Skin-lightening products aimed at young men and women now form a multi-million-pound industry.”

As frustrating as Elle Magazine’s choices are, many magazines and media outlets unfortunately have issues with misrepresentation.  Readers are flooded with altered realities, whether it’s race, weight, gender, orientation, you name it. 

This incident is similar to American actress Kate Winslet when she was on the cover of Vanity Fair in 2008.  She courageously spoke out the day after the magazine published her photos that had been airbrushed to make her look thinner.

While Winslet’s example of speaking out against airbrushing is rare, it is desperately important that Bachchan also protest as the American version of Elle Magazine has also come under fire as recently as their October issue for again lightening the skin of a person of color.

Oscar nominated actress Gabourey Sidibe, known for her leading role in the film Precious, faced similar circumstances with Elle Magazine when she appear on the cover noticeably lighter.  Reports of making stars such as Julia Roberts appear slimmer are also on the list of photo accusations to boot.

Editor-in-chief Robbie Myers dismissed the suggestion of racism, explaining: ‘At a photo shoot, in a studio, that is a fashion shoot, that’s glamorous, the lighting is different. The photography is different than a red carpet shot from a paparazzi.’

While Myers’ claims may have truth behind them, the issue isn’t necessarily appearance, but rather, awareness.  If you are a professional photographer shooting a person of color, then the knowledge that they might appear lighter than their actual skin tone due to your equipment is something that can’t be ignored.  Simply stated, it is the photographer’s job to capture reality, not display their distorted notion of what it should be. 

What do you think?  Should Indian actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan speak out publically against Elle Magazine?

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12:42AM PDT on Jun 20, 2012

There is a saying. "Beauty is pain". I guess it should now be "Non conformity to impossible ideals is shame".

What a message to give to our daughters and sons. Shameful.

12:42AM PDT on Jun 20, 2012

There is a saying. "Beauty is pain". I guess it should now be "Non conformity to impossible ideals is shame".

What a message to give to our daughters and sons. Shameful.

6:20AM PST on Feb 7, 2011

Looks like the airbrushed her thinner too..which is a more common crime. Yes, is a crime who the media programs our teenage girls (and grown women who should know better) into thinking they are worthless unless they are a size 6 or less.

1:05PM PST on Jan 23, 2011

I would add, though, that there's a certain irony here: Indian media, both from what I've seen of it personally and what I've heard from people with far more exposure to it and personal interest in it than I have, disproportionately portrays and promotes actors and actresses, models, singers, etc. who fall on the light-skinned, predominantly Indo-Aryan end of the spectrum of Indian skin colors and ethnic types, and under-represents the darker-skinned Dravidian peoples of southern India. I think this has some historical connection to the Hindu caste system, which (if I recall my college world history correctly, and if it was itself correct) in its early development placed the Indo-Aryans, who had swept into the Indian sub-continent from the steppes of central Asia and conquered most of it, in the higher castes, and the Dravidians, who had made up the bulk of the population before they were conquered by the Indo-Aryans, mainly in the lower castes.

12:47PM PST on Jan 23, 2011

This is particularly obnoxious, I think, because skin tone is essentially the only thing the differentiates the appearance of most people from the Indian subcontinent from Europeans -- that is, for most Indian people features like overall facial shape, structure of the nose, shape and color of the eyes, etc., fall well within the range of variation for those same features as people whose ancestry is completely European as far back as can be traced. If you lightened, say, Michelle Obama's portrait to a caucasian skin tone, you could still clearly see her African ancestry in the shape of her nose, fullness of her lips, texture of her hair, and so on -- I've met a few albinos of largely African descent, and their ethnic origins are still readily apparent.

Ms. Bachchan, on the other hand, as portrayed on that cover and at the size and resolution shown above, could easily be mistaken for Audrey Hepburn -- I would never have recognized her as Indian without being told she was. In effect, they've completely erased her ethnicity, of which I'd guess she's probably just as proud as anyone else (pride in our heritage being pretty close to a universal human trait); no wonder she's ticked off.

12:41PM PST on Jan 19, 2011

So here we are all white pasty and paying a fortune to have a tan, risking cancer and what not.. while some ignoramus lightens a lovely ladies skin for no reason what so ever..what a maroon as Mr Bugs Bunny would say.

2:01PM PST on Jan 13, 2011

This kind of silly "whitening" increases discrimination, empowers the "white-man's world" and -supremacy.

If you like, go to to sign:

8:53PM PST on Jan 11, 2011

In Gabourey Sidibe's case they blamed lighting. I didn't know what to believe at first. Now that there's a second case, their excuses won't work on me,

I am light-skinned (ish) and this makes me mad. Imagine how insulted the victim must feel! She is beautiful and needs no changes. Elle should stop trying to push its racist standards of beauty on us

12:23AM PST on Jan 10, 2011

the images presented look totally different to me. It's not just an issue of light, but tone. it appears they have taken some yellow out of her tone to make her appear a bit more pink/blue, or 'white'. Not like this is anything new, but it seems important for celebrities to speak out about it, and not allow it. I am sure that that is possible in this litigious age.

then again, these are 'beauty' magazines that make money off of companies that sell skin lightening cosmetics. Sad to see it's the same in India as it is in China.

6:59AM PST on Jan 8, 2011

i didn't see much of a difference. If there is, could be explained by the lighting in a shoot. Either way, looks exactly the same. But if she feels slighted, that's that. Respect her wishes and be done with it.

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