Fair and Lovely is a Unilever’s one of the leading brand in India launched a way back in 1975. You can easily guess from its name what it is! Yes, it’s a fairness cream or rather called as skin lightening cream. There are numerous beauty products in the market. But this one has always amused me. Rather than saying the product, I should say it’s marketing/branding (as I have never used this cream) and specifically advertising.
Yeah. Because it linked a fair skin to beauty to confidence to being successful (in getting a job or getting married). If you are from India or other Asian countries or perhaps some of middle east countries you already know what I am talking about.
I also saw a few old commercials on its website. In earlier years, it was marketed as a cream for a fairer skin (that makes you fairer from within and protects from sunlight). It is said that the bias towards fair skin and thus obsession with getting a fair/lighter skin comes from the colonial days. Quite likely. And then next ads captured the other dimension of this phenomenon i.e. obession with “Fair & Slim” bride. So there were the ads where a girl-next-door used the cream for 2 months before the would-be bridegroom was to come to see her. Of course, he was stunned and found her beautiful (as now she was fairer) and wanted to marry her. Or a housewife buying sari or veggies was enquired by a friend about her secret of her fair skin and beauty and then later her husband gave her admiring looks. Okay. Too cheesy (and funny) for me. But it was all before maybe I was born or too young. Generation gap!
And one would think a lot has changed since then. But then I find the commercials I saw on TV while growing up more ridiculous. Till now, a fair skin was a measure of beauty. So it still remains the same. Also new ads still cater to the demand of a fair bride in a new packaging. So now this newly found fairness (by using the cream) also helps her change her destiny. So yeah, she was first ignored/insulted but then she used the cream, became fairer (and thus more beautiful). Ta da! Now she walked with the confidence and got the job. Really?
I know it’s not just the product or commercials that we can blame for all this propaganda. It’s our mentality that needs to be changed so that such products or rather branding wouldn’t thrive. But it is equally saddening to see someone showcasing a lighter skin color to be a criterion to gain confidence or get a job.
I think last year there was a campaign The Dark is Beautiful and much was said about it all. I don’t know if it’s directly related but now I see all these new commercials for an improved formula – Fair & Lovely Advanced where branding strategy seems changed. Now its being branded as a fairness treatment that helps with skin problems such as spots, dark circles, tan, dullness and then dark skin as one of many such. Also now a friend doesn’t directly asks for the secret of a fairer skin and beauty but a secret for more radiant/glowing skin (though it shows how skin has become lighter on a scale). It doesn’t directly focus on getting a job or getting married but cannot help indicating that now it can even be the face of the month or showing a face on a magazine. So the-dark-skin-is-a problem is a bit diluted or a bit subtle.
Sooner we realize that there is much more to do than chasing some foolish ideas and standards of beauty, we will be much more comfortable with ourselves and skin color. Otherwise, sadly, there are more commercials endorsing some fairness cream to come for us to have some more laughs!