The fact that the Indian version of Tom Cruise is pitching a skin-lightening cream, to help his darker brothers take on a Brahmin pallor, has been causing a stir in India.
It should come as no surprise to anyone who’s familiar with Indian, or just about any dark-skinned, culture, that a premium is paid for those who are fairer-skinned. I remember a Filipino friend told me that it’s common for people to ask “Is it light?” about a newborn baby, and in the Far East, women wear gloves and bonnets to protect their skin from the sun’s darkening power.
It’s no secret that among black women, too, lighter skin is a mark of beauty. Please let me know the next time a black male hip-hop artist or athlete settles down with a dark-skinned woman. I won’t hold my breath.
In contrast, among those with European ancestry, the trend tends towards the opposite. Whether it’s a tanning bed, a spray-on tan, or bronze-in-a-bottle, most Westerners want to take on a darker hue. In fact, I can only think of (white) emos and Goths as people who prefer to maintain a pale complexion.
Meanwhile, our friends in South America seem to be thrilled about their skin color. Well, at least those with predominantly-European heritage. Is it any mistake that the most popular supermodels of the past 10 years, with the exception of the odd German or Somali, is Brazilian?
Sure, gentlemen prefer blonds, and the pro-ana look apparently shows no signs of weakening, so there is still a sizeable Czech and Russian contingent as well.
But think about it: Gisele Bundchen and her sisters Alessandra Ambrosio, Adriana Lima and Izabel Goulart roll off my tongue and I am not all that familiar with the world of high fashion. All of them have nice warm, tan glows (and a couple look vaguely prepubescent). The list apparently is quite long.
So do Brazilians represent the zenith of beauty? Will we just end up bleaching or tanning ourselves to achieve that light-brown skin tone? Or do Brazilians’ middle-of-the-road color represent what humanity will look like with a few more centuries of intermixing?