We're working on a new version of PRX. Want a sneak peek?

Transcript for the Piece Audio version of Miss America isn't fair enough… for Indians

BO1: It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

Via Atlantic City.

TV CLIP: Ladies and gentlemen, Your new Miss America is … Miss New York. Nina Davuluri.

BO2: and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.

Her name is Nina Davuluri and this Indian American is the new Miss America.

This is Sandip Roy in Kolkata.

Nina Davuluri is clearly aware she’s making history.

ND1: I’m on a mission. Miss America has always been the girl next door. But Miss America is evolving. And she’s not going to look the same anymore.

some on Twitter didn’t get the memo. There were reams of abuse. Like Miss America right now or Miss Al Qaeda. Or How can you be Miss AMERICA and look like you should be a gas station clerk or motel owner? 
Indians are of course in a self-righteous lather about this blatant racism but here’s the ugly truth. Nina Davuluri can be Miss America. But she could never be Miss India. Or even Miss Indian-American Fremont. She’s just too dark.

As Lakshmi Chaudhry, senior editor at Firstpost says:

LC1: Dark skin may play as exotic in the West, but in India, we prefer our beauty queens strictly vanilla -- preferably accessorized with blue contact lenses so they can look as white as possible. 

This is the land of Fair and Lovely where TV blares ad after ad to help Indians turn a whiter shade of pale.

FL1 : Wow itna nikhar. Kya lagyaya. Fair and lovely. And Fair and lovely.
There are even creams to whiten the vagina – keep those privates, clean, protected and just radiating fairness.

And men don’t have to feel left out. Cricketers and film stars are advertising fair and handsome creams. This is 400 million dollars worth of business.

The Dark is Beautiful campaign is a very small David trying to fight a very large Goliath with spots like this one.

DB1: Wanted fair complexion bride. Porcelain complexion bride seeks handsome mate. Fairness cream get fair in 10 days. Amazing. Like a Zebra needs a change of stripes. Ridiculous.

Kavitha Emmanuel of the Dark is Beautiful campaign says if you are dark in India, there are certain jobs that will be that much harder to get into.

KE1: front desk, air hostess, actor. Definitely there is a bias towards wanting fair skinned people. Modeling industry, fashion industry -fair is beautiful

Luckily, though Davuluri performed something described as Bollywood classical fusion dance at the pageant she does not list Bollywood as a career ambition.

ND2: I’m a student. I studied brain behaviour and cognitive science at University of Michigan and planning on going to med school. I am kind of a nerd.

That’s different from our Miss India’s says Lakshmi Chaudhry.

LC2: Now in India you have high fashion models who are indeed dark skinned. But the beauty pageants is that they serve as a launching pad for a Bollywood career. So they are not planning to be doctors or scientists or anything as else.

Will the ripples of Nina Davuluri’s great victory be that moment of great change India’s first Prime Minister JawarharlauNehru talked about in 1947, the final unshackling of colonial chains?

JN1: A moment comes which comes but rarely in history When an age ends and when the soul of a nation long suppressed finds utterance..

I wouldn’t count on it. Davuluri is smart and funny.

ND3: How many beauty queens does it take to change a lightbulb? Just one.

But it’s going to take a lot more than one beauty queen to change a billion people’s color bias. Un-fair but true. But at least we’ll always have Atlantic City.

This is Sandip Roy in Kolkata for KALW.

Back