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Glow & Lovely: Dismantling Colorism or Just Some Performative Activism?

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

Mitti ke 100 Rung hein. Aik rung main, aik rung tu. Har rung mein tera wajood.”

So many young girls in our country have been told not to stay outside in the sun for too long when all they wanted was to have a normal teenage life. They were made to believe that dark skin was something that needed to be fixed or else they would not be worthy of love or it could even jeopardize their career prospects. For years, fairness creams have capitalized on these stereotypical notions of beauty and the insecurities of these young girls and it is time for them to go.

Unilever is one of the biggest multinationals in the world and their CSR policies are studied and benchmarked by firms across the globe. Around 45 years ago the company launched its infamous skincare brand “Fair & Lovely”. After significant backlash on social media and in the wake of the BLM movement they recently decided to rename it to “Glow & Lovely”. Firstly, it is so disappointing that it took a public outcry for a brand like Unilever to realize what sort of unrealistic beauty standards their brand and its advertisements were perpetuating. Secondly, the new title does not even make sense grammatically. I don’t mean to sound like a Grammar Nazi but glow is a noun/verb and lovely is an adjective, they don’t even go together! In my opinion, this should go down in history as one of the poorest forms of damage control attempted by any brand.

The advertisement features some famous, inspiring women having different skin tones, including the Pakistani female football team captain, Hajra Khan, the first Pakistani female tabla player, Sumaira Waris, YouTube sensation, Natalia Gul, and a female boxer, Naina. The underlying theme in this was that all of these women use Glow & Lovely in order to shine in their respective fields. For me, the idea that your confidence should be vested in a cream or any beauty product is still hugely problematic. Moreover, the anthem sung by Aima Baig for the advertisement has been widely celebrated for its message of inclusivity and diversity (the chorus of the song has been posted at the start of the blog). Even though the ad tries to convince you otherwise, it must not be forgotten that the product itself is still the same. The only thing they got rid of was the shade card and the word “whitening” from all their products. This was just a cosmetic Band-Aid to protect their own image. For multiple reasons, it seems as if the brand has undermined the intelligence of the consumer.

It would only be fair to acknowledge that this is a step towards reforming standards of beauty and it shows us what the power of dialogue can do. This advertisement is one of those rare media products which has given spotlight to some female Pakistani heroes and young girls should know that they do exist. In my opinion, Unilever should not be let off the hook this easy. They have been socially irresponsible with the making and marketing of this product. They either need to revamp the product completely by making it a healthier and non-discriminatory alternative or it should be discontinued altogether. Let us keep the discourse going and work towards democratizing beauty standards. Colorism should end with us.

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