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Many Bollywood stars have fair skin.
A Whiter Shade Of Pale?
One of Bollywood's leading stars has been criticised for appearing in an advertisement promoting a skin whitener. This has already angered campaigners. Are skin whitening potions a storm in a bottle? Listen to the debate a decide for yourself...
One of Bollywood's leading stars, Shahrukh Khan, has been criticised for appearing in an advert for a skin whitening cream.
The ad, which will be shown in Britain soon, has angered campaigners who say it panders to the Asian obsession with fair skin.
Listen: Skin whitening creams
BBC Leicester's Tony Wadsworth speaks to Rita Patel, Director of the Peepul Centre, Femi, a beautician from Leicester, and Bal, a young Asian woman...
Bal made the point that in the Asian community many feel that women who are fair are considered more attractive.
Many Bollywood stars are fair skinned, or are made-up to look fairer than they actually are.
Rita Patel, who runs the Peepul Centre in Leicester, said that many Asian women had an inferiority complex associated with being dark skinned.
She said this was not confined to the culture of the sub-continent. In Japan all skin creams contain a lightening agent.
But how much demand is there for creams that claim to lighten the skin?
Femi, who runs a beauty salon in the city, said that enquiries were quite common from both male and female customers. She also has Chinese and Japanese clients.
She was, however, rather sceptical about the claims made for these products saying that they 'don't work miracles.'
Interestingly, two years ago Rita developed the condition Vitilago which causes light coloured patches to appear all over the body. She says that there is a stigma attached to the condition.
Rita is quite philosophical about the whole issue of skin whitening whether it be artificially induced or as the result of a medical condition.
She says that of course appearance is important. But more important is self-acceptance:
Pale and interesting
"You have to live inside out, and if you accept yourself you will give out beauty and light and people will respond to this."
This whole question is shot through with ironies.
White people often want to achieve the perfect tan, whilst Asian women sometimes aspire to fair skin. Are we never to be satisfied with the look of our bodies?
It is interesting to speculate as to where this equation of fairness with beauty comes from.
Bal thought it likely that the association of fair skin with high status is an after effect of the Raj.
Whatever the case, the controversy over skin whitening creams is likely to be re-ignited when the adverts begin to appear.
last updated: 27/09/07