Femina Miss India’s Line Up Of ‘Identical’ Contestants Draws Ire Online

Participants at the fbb Colors Femina Miss India East 2019

by Emily Watkins |
Updated on

Restrictive beauty standards for women in the public eye are nothing new – stereotypical young, thin models are still more likely to fit a mould than break one, despite persistent calls for increased body positivity and diversity in recent years. This week, a photo montage, published in the Times of India and featuring contestants from the country’s most prestigious beauty contest, brought those issues to the fore once more. The piece has been derided for its almost uncannily ‘identical’ images of 30 hopefuls vying for the title of Miss India – arguably only distinguishable by slight variations in their facial features. They ‘all have the same hair, and the SAME SKIN COLOUR, and I'm going to hazard a guess that their heights and vital stats will also be similar’, wrote twitter user @labellagorda.

That all of the women have undeniably lighter complexions than the majority of Indian women has caused particular outrage. The grid of portraits has fuelled an ongoing debate about India’s obsession with fair skin and Eurocentric markers of beauty. Professor Radhika Parameswaran of Indiana University’s Media School, confirmed that “There is a perception [the contestants] have to emulate Western beauty standards to win” – but the preference for light skin has ancient roots in India’s ancient caste system which associates dark complexions with an uncomfortable legacy of lower status groups. “That is because caste is an occupational-based hierarchy with the lowest of the caste being assigned the tasks of manual labour”, she explained as quoted by CNN.

Priyanka Chopra as Miss India, age 18

While the organisers of the pageant have declined to comment, its grooming expert Shamita Singha told the BBC that the grid images did not represent the real appearance of her contestants. Citing tight publication deadlines and heavy handed photoshopping, Singha explained “this is not the skin tones of the actual pictures”; while it’s no surprise to hear that the women themselves are more diverse than their edited headshots might suggest, the question of fair skin preference is only shifted to post-production rather than resolved.

READ MORE: Why We Love Priyanka Chopra


Why We Love Priyanka Chopra - Grazia (slider)

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She’s incredibly talented

First and foremost, she's a great actress, in fact she's one of India's highest paid and TIME magazine named her one of the most influential women in the world. After being crowned Miss World in 2000, she began her career in acting starring in science fiction film Krrish and Madhur Bhandarkar's Fashion – a film about the Indian fashion industry. Since then she has appeared in Baywatch, TV series Quantico and lent her voice to a character in Disney animation Planes. She also has her own production company, Purple Pebble Productions, and has released three singles, one of which [featured will.i.am back in 2013](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zjgq6-5uDtYq6-5uDtY ).

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She’s not afraid to call people out

Priyanka hasn't shied away from being frank in interviews, she's spoken about the gender pay gap in Hollywood, how she was passed over for a role because of her skin colour and criticised the wayVanity Fairportrayed Meghan Markle on their cover, calling it sexist. More recently she's spoken up about the controversial Simpson's character Apu, saying; 'He was the bane of my life growing up, for sure. I was always asked when I was in high school at 14, 15, why I didn't speak like that. Or are my parents doctors (which they are)? Did I find gold in my rivers? Did I go to school on elephants? I always had questions like that,' Chopra saidin an appearance on TV show The View. 'So I think, yes, it is a time where, why try to erase stereotype? Yes, it is a cartoon. Yes, it's a pop culturally super successful show. But that gives it more responsibility. It's out of date on so many levels,' she added.

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Her eyebrows are everything

To be honest, her makeup is flawless at all times. But her eyebrows are especially enviable. Apparently she brushes them up with a comb, draws a line along the base and then brushes them back and blends.

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She’s giving us the inside scoop on the royal wedding

As a good friend of Meghan Markle she revealed some of her secrets ahead of the royal wedding, including that Meghan teared up when seeing her wedding dress and that Meghan isn't intimidated by royalty and is adjusting well to her new life.

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Her style is impeccable

An expert mix between classically elegant and fashion forward, Priyanka loves bright colours and fitted silhouettes.

Whatever its roots, the controversial whitewashing of Miss India seems to have hit its limit in 2019 – let’s hope that the pageant (and its equivalents in other countries) hear the message that diversity is more interesting than a line-up of mannequins. Or, we could stop holding events which literally judge women based on their looks – just an idea.

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