I AM compelled to address something that has been making rounds on social media. The recent shoot that I uploaded on Instagram be­­­­came the target of cultural misappropriation and colourism/racism.

The fact is that the reaction to the shoot has been blown out of proportion, largely miscons­trued and heavily manipulated. Zara Abid is a model who has dark skin. She is stunning and utterly unapologetic about her complexion. However, people ignore her natural skin tone, choosing to lighten it up through makeup and Photoshop. This shoot is not a representation of any particular culture.

As Pakistanis, we often overlook our very own diverse skin tones.

Brown is beautiful. Dark is divine and all complexions are equally stunning.

I am distressed by the fact that I had to enhance Zara’s shade 6 (Zero Makeup) complexion into a shade darker, due to the lack of acceptance by our local modelling agencies who hesitate to have a pool of dark skinned models. Moreover, it is hard to find girls with diverse skin tones who are willing to model due to succumbing to societal norms.

Why? Because dark girls don’t sell.

Why? Because clients don’t want dark skinned models.

Leaving the industry without a diverse skin tone representation of our indigenous population.

Where does this cycle of discrimination end?

Our freedom of speech, expression and creativity must not be hijacked by narrow-minded, superficial, judgmental people.

Stop bullying, stop manipulation, stop distorting facts and intentions. Most importantly, stop shaming.

Tabesh Khoja

Karachi

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2019

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