Fatima Lodhi is the pioneer behind the Dark is Divine campaign. The initiative taken by Fatima is to empower men and women worldwide to embrace the skin they are in and to eradicate colorism. Fair-skinned people, especially women are considered beautiful compared to the darker-skinned women, especially in Asian countries. Check out what Fatima has to say about her campaign and the discrimination that she faced as well.
What motivated you to start the Dark is Divine campaign?
Well different incidents pushed me to start an anti-colorism campaign. The school that I studied at had scores of fair-skinned girls studying, many of whom would discriminate against their dark-skinned fellows on the basis of different skin color. Also witnessed many girls being evaluated on the basis of the color of their skins in their daily lives, majority of these girls were less social as compared to those with white skins because of the fear of being harassed by the people. Also the fact that the Light-skin/white-skin is considered the ambassador of beauty since ages. Across the world, in different regions like Asia and Africa, there is a huge fairness craze, all we get to see are the advertisements of Fairness creams on every single TV channel which give out the message that if you are light-skinned you are bold and beautiful and if you are dark, you end up being nowhere. Such discriminatory advertisements have polluted our minds and have created thinking that only fair-skinned person is way better off. All such things pushed me to take a stand against such discrimination.
When trying to fix a problem, one often needs to go to the root cause. What do you think is the root cause of this color-ism and how can eradicate this discrimination?
Though it might be distasteful, but we must admit that our society continues to suffer from the disease of colorism which was contracted during colonialization and to eradicate this discrimination we need to change the mindsets of the people and for that at least a generation long effort needs to be put into action with wide reach to the grass roots of the most far flung segments of society where colorism prevails.
Did you personally face any discrimination?
Yes, I can recall being called different rude names because of my dark skin. Also once I was nominated for a “Make over required” category at school. All this was done by my light-skinned school fellows, just to make me feel bad, but I always found myself championing the dark complexion!
How challenging has it been to run this campaign?
Coming up with an idea of an anti-colorism campaign, on a global level, wasn’t actually a piece of cake. In the beginning I had to face a lot of opposition and criticism. People were and still are in a denial, despite knowing that colorism is being practiced in our society since ages. But over the period of time as we have conducted several awareness sessions and I have also spoken at different forums regarding the disease of colorism, now more people are accepting it boldly that, colorism does exist and it needs to be eradicated.
What do you say to the countless people that deal with color-ism? How should they handle it?
Colorism prevails since ages and cannot be eradicated over night therefore handle it with patience and play your part effectively in eradicating it.
How can one change the perception of fair is beautiful when actors and actresses, who are loved and looked up to by the masses, are endorsing fairness creams?
Celebrity culture in magazines, movies, dramas and televisions promote unrealistic ideals of beauty that beauty comes in only white color. Media usually shows biased advertising, movies and dramas which certainly have a negative psychological impact on one’s self-esteem. Media being a stakeholder is more concerned in the profit that it generates by propagating such biased ideals of Beauty and therefore we find them much ignorant towards the fact that what side effects would be caused by such ideas to those who are actually becoming victims of colorism and start using fairness creams as they get carried away with the emotional and fancy messages that their favorite actors are propagating in the forms of unfair advertising of fairness creams.
Well these actors have to realize that they are totally destroying the self-esteems of their followers because their fans are trying really hard to become like them, not even realizing the fact that the images that are shown are all the air-brushed and edited versions. The Media regulatory authorities will have to keep a check and balance by doing a proper screening of the content that media airs. The content that is being promoted by media shouldn’t be biased and not leading to social inequality. Therefore all such advertisements, dramas and movies that propagate biased ideas that beauty comes in only one shade, shape and size or such other media messages shall be toned down by the regulatory authorities. Because being a source of information and education for people, media shall promote diversity rather creating color stratification.
How have your family and friends reacted to your campaign?
Luckily, I have got a very supportive family who are always there for me especially when it comes to my social work. I remember discussing about the campaign with my parents, before launching it and they were all supportive and said “Go ahead”, one interesting thing that I would like to add over here is that the name “Dark is Divine” was actually suggested by my father. While majority of my friends were not in the favor of the campaign.
What is your ultimate goal with the Dark is Divine campaign? What do you hope to achieve through it?
Dark is Divine aims to transform Asia, Africa and other such regions where colorism exists, into a region where dark skin color is embraced with good grace as light-skin color, to the point where the skin color, body shape & body size of a woman ultimately has no importance. The campaign envisions a society in which equal treatment is given to everyone irrespective of the color of their skin, size and shape of their bodies, by redefining the so called Beauty standards and the “perfect body image” that have been defined unrealistically by the society and conveyed by the media.
What kind of feedback do you receive during the awareness drives?
Over the period of time the response has changed from negative to positive!
What message would you give to the people that are suffering from discrimination for the color of their skin?
I would ask them to take a stand against the discrimination they are facing and don’t ignore it. If you consider yourself ugly because you’re dark-skinned, just know that beauty doesn’t come in any predefined shade, shape or size; be comfortable in your skin.