Vogue India recently released its 10 Year Anniversary magazine with Kendall Jenner on the cover. Kendall Jenner, someone who is not Indian, not South Asian, not desi or brown in any sense, that is apparently the perfect person to celebrate their anniversary.
As most everyone knows, South Asian media is centered around actors and actresses that mirror the Western standards of beauty. This media, which is supposed to represent India’s vast diversity, instead portrays Eurocentric features that only a sliver of India’s population holds. The most notable Eurocentric feature is the emphasis on light skin. Skin lightening creams populate the beauty markets of India and have their advertisements played routinely on TV.
One would think this glorification of light skin would be forgotten in at least the 10-year anniversary cover, yet of course, this is the exact opposite of what occurred. Vogue India chose an American, white, female to represent their magazine. They chose Kendall Jenner to represent the fashion, lifestyle, culture, and beauty of India. They chose a light skinned woman to represent what Vogue India is.
At first, I was confused as of how Kendall Jenner- out of all the people in the world- represented Vogue India. I mean, she really has nothing to do with India and most likely is not even familiar with the beauty and fashion there. But after much thought, it all made so much sense. To South Asian media, light skin is beauty. Eurocentric features are what makes Indian media what it is. Rarely will one see a dark actress or model in Bollywood. Foreign talent is cherished and what Indian women actually have to offer is meaningless to this media.
Time and time again, South Asian women are taught that their features and beauty are not pretty enough, not white enough. When this is what is being taught, how can one even be surprised at Vogue India’s decision?
However, what hurts the most is that some Indian model or actress, that actually truly represents Indian beauty was cheated of a chance. Nabela Noor, a South Asian Youtuber said it best,
“As if there aren’t talented South Asian women waiting for their big break, Bollywood continues to avoid them and recruits fair skinned models from around the world to uphold their narrow standards of beauty.”
Colorism in has been an issue in Indian media since the creation of Bollywood. Though Vogue India has made great advances with the lessening of whitewashing and inclusion of some darker skinned models, they are far from finished. Featuring Kendall Jenner on their 10th-year anniversary cover was a step in the wrong direction. Kendall Jenner is a beautiful woman in her own right, but she represents a distorted, uniform, Western idea of beauty, rather than a unique, diverse, and truly Indian idea of beauty.