KARACHI: Pakistani model and Baaji actress Amna Ilyas recently did an interview with BBC Urdu and tackled the issue of colourism. For those who are new to the term, colourism is a form of racism where one is discriminated against due to their skin colour- typically, fairer/lighter shades are preferred and darker tones are shunned/looked down upon. This issue is evidently prevalent all over the world but ironically, more so in the subcontinent. In fact, our complex can be especially seen in the Pakistani media industry where one rarely sees women with tan or dark complexion.
Ilyas spoke out against this issue and revealed that she heard some degrading comments by the people around her. “People don’t realise how sensitive this is and what kind of impact it can leave on someone’s mind, ” she stated. She recalls in the beginning of the interview that when she was growing up, she was encouraged by members of her family to wear masks containing besan (gram flour) and lemon to attain “glowing skin.”
She further revealed that she found herself using fairness creams to fit in, to become what she believed the industry wanted her to be. Clearly, Ilyas had to navigate her way in an industry that was fixated on making her appear fairer through editing and Photoshop and she had to endure comments by directors who kept comparing her to fairer actresses. She added that on one occasion while filming a TV serial, one of the directors commented that her colour was not matching with that of another actress in the frame to which she commented, “I found that so strange, of course the skin tones won’t match if they are both different coloured people.”
Ilyas also reflected on the current state of Pakistani media and colourism: “The top five television heroines are fair-skinned and those who were not fair have made themselves extremely fair to enter that race.” The model and actress also spoke about how important it is to move away from the set standard of beauty that people have when it comes to women. The interview also points out that actresses who endorse fairness campaigns are adding to the problem by forcing dark-skinned girls into conformity. Having done a fairness beauty advertisement herself, Ilyas states that the experience taught her not to endorse an image of herself that was a lie and she decided that she will never take part in anything that made her feel uncomfortable.
It’s worth noting that Ilyas won a Lux Style Award in 2015 and addressed the dark skin complex in her acceptance speech back then too.