Published on The Daily Femme – Thursday, Jan. 13, 2011
Contributed by Annamarya
When I had my photo taken for the Our Team section of my job’s website, I was wearing a cap-sleeve black shirt that exposed my large tropical tiger lillies tattoo on my right arm (it’s one tattoo of many). Everyone prior to me who had their photo taken sat on the stool with their right side facing the camera, but I chose the left because I wasn’t willing to have my tattoo Photoshopped. While in the office, it’s pretty business casual and I get to let my freak flag fly (to a certain extent), for those we serve, it’s all corporate professional all the time; my tattoo would violate that. But removing my tattoo would violate me, so I changed position, without issue from anyone, to keep my integrity and individuality in tack. The fact is, my tattoo is a deeply personal part of who I am and if it were to magically disappear in a photo, it wouldn’t be me. It would be just a shell, a picture of a person censored to appease judgments and make her more appealing to a whitewashed world. I may have censored myself by turning to a different side but at least I didn’t allow it to vanish as if it never existed-as if that part of me never existed.
That’s why Bollywood actress and former Miss World, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, has every absolute right to be furious with ELLE India for appearing to have Photoshopped her skin several shades lighter for the cover of its December 2010 issue (pictured above). According to The Daily Beastand COLORLINES, the actress/model has told friends she is “furious” with the retouching and may consider legal action if the skin-whitening was indeed intentional, rather than, let’s say, the result of lighting, as they claimed withELLE USA’s October 2010 cover, which shows a considerably lighter version of Oscar-nominated actress (and all-around bad ass) Gabourey Sidibe. As COLORLINES points out, retouching is such a common, albeit repulsive, practice among fashion magazines and across the beauty industry that the “untrained eye has become accustomed to digitally altered images, so accustomed that readers would notice an image that has not been altered before one that has” (in the case of Rai, fans were the ones to notice the arrant skin-color disparity). But something like skin-lightening, which is a thriving business in India, goes beyond simple, business-as-normal Photoshopping. It has deep and disturbing social implications and reinforces the hysterically sectarian and racist notion that the lighter and whiter you are, the more beautiful, appealing and appeasing you are to the public. For that, a petition has started on Change.org demanding an apology from ELLE for what it calls “a slap in the face” and further enforcing “color hierarchy.” As of this writing, the petition has gathered 39,531 signatures. Add yours to the list and tell ELLEthat this–and any other–brand of racism is unacceptable.