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?