A lot of people asked me what my view was regarding Kendall Jenner being featured on Vogue India’s 10th Anniversary Cover. My first reaction – stunning. It is a piece of art, aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
I have been part of the fashion and social media industry for a couple of years now and being a part of it, I can vouch for the fact that it takes a lot of work and effort to create something stunning on social media. But often, intentions are lost in actions.
As a generation, we have become intolerant. We are angry. We take things at face value. Anonymity leads us to believe we are experts and have a right to express anything nonchalantly. You may argue, after all, that is what social media is for – to express ourselves. I completely agree – as long as it is responsible and constructive.
If the power and comfort of the screen were taken away, and comments had to be said in person, perhaps more than half the people would change their statements.
“Why didn’t they choose an Indian?”
“Why is India obsessed with white skin?”
“Will Kendall Jenner offer Pepsi to eliminate racism in India?”
” There are so many dark-skinned girls, why not choose them?”
I read so many such comments regarding the Vogue India photo shoot. Now, I’m not saying one shouldn’t voice a concern. The only reason we have progressed as a generation, especially in terms of feminism or racism, is because someone out there had the courage to speak, to demonstrate and to make a difference.
But perhaps we need to take a step back.
Firstly, don’t make art or creativity a race issue. I understand when people say it is unfair to have a white person portray a dark skinned person on-screen ( read: Mena Suvari as Chante Mallard or Juliette Binoche as Maria Segovia) or the use of fairness creams. I, for one, am completely against that but when it comes to art, I have a very different opinion. Vogue India has always celebrated the dark-skinned women (90% of the covers have featured Indians, read here). This is, in fact, just a start of the series that Vogue promises to bring as part of its 10th-anniversary celebration. By bringing Kendall Jenner to the helm of India Fashion and art, it’s a reflection of how open international celebrities are now to partnering with our country. We are at the forefront of fashion with designers like Prabal Gurung, Sabyasachi, etc working with international brands. It is not about who works with whom. It is about making the fashion industry a tighter and more diverse space to be in. It is about prioritizing art over demarcation.
Secondly, we may want to step down from our soap box when we encourage Vogue India to feature only dark-skinned women. Since we don’t bat an eyelid to complain about Vogue International featuring fair skinned women, perhaps we have to embrace diversity at home before we can encourage diversity away from home. Segregation will stop if you stop segregating yourself.
Thirdly, let’s go back to our roots. We are the country of acceptance and hospitality. We are always known to welcome people in our country, in our hearts, and in our media. And the same goes for Kendall Jenner. One might argue she might have expressed an unpopular opinion about our culture. Maybe. But do we have to like her as an individual to respect her as an artist?
Sometimes the hypocrisy baffles me. People complain about Kendall but when an Indian icon like Priyanka Chopra walks the international carpet, the same people create silly memes and criticize her outfit. Since when did outfits become more important than achievements and laurels? Priyanka Chopra has elevated India’s presence on the international platform. And if you ask me, she looked gorgeous in the exaggerated camel coat. It was different, chic and on point. Individuals like Priyanka Chopra wear the outfit, the outfit doesn’t wear her.
We talk about women empowerment yet make fun of women celebrities by what they wore at the airport, who they broke up with, who they dated, etc. Women are more than what they wear or who they are dating. When a South Asian magazine ,”Jodi’ glamorized a South Indian girl, people complained about her outfit. Yes, it wasn’t a traditional outfit but when did we require the saree to be traditional? (Check out Bollywood movies) Why can the midriff be exposed but not the leg? Would we take offense to a scantily-clad man on a cover and make it a topic of discussion? Why are we living a 21st-century lifestyle with a 19th-century mindset? The issues and concerns are more reflective of our perspective than the picture. Photos need not always be contextualized. It is called art… after all.
And the purpose of art is to stir emotions and encourage discourse which, I guess in this case, has been achieved.
It is important to be opinionated but not all opinions need to be expressed.
Let’s be responsible as a society. Not an angry or intolerant one. We set the precedence for the future generation.
It’s an irony, that I say all opinions need not be expressed, yet here I am expressing one. C’est la vie, I would say!
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