Beauty, they say, is in the eyes of the beholder. However not everyone is able to appreciate, feel and love the numerous ways beauty presents itself. Those of us who do manage to cross the barriers of hackneyed perceptions, get to devour and relish nature’s creativity in its most exotic form.
In this feature we have captured the inspiring lives of ten beautiful women for whom living well is synonymous with staying true to their real self. As for fitting in and conforming to popular perception of beauty, these ladies couldn’t care any less.
Reni Soman | Artist | Gurgaon
A techie who gave up a cushy job to pursue her love for paints and paintbrushes, Reni Soman is an accomplished Artist and Art teacher. Her paintings reflect beauty of nature, freedom of expression and vibrant colors of life. Her work has been featured at the Russian Art Center and other prominent art galleries. Strong headed and optimistic, Reni symbolizes absolute free spirit.
Her take on the beautiful color of her skin – “I love my skin color and have never used a fairness cream. When I hear people associate beauty with fair skin, I often wonder why, and I would say the credit for how I feel about my complexion goes to my mom and dad who made me see myself from their eyes and made me feel like the most beautiful girl in the world.”
When she is not painting, Reni spends her time teaching young children how to get their thoughts on to the canvas.
Chitra Sachdev | Traveller, Mother, Fitness Freak | California
A hot mommy who chose to live life on her own terms, Chitra is an independent, beautiful, mature, confident and courageous woman.
“I grew up in a house full of fair siblings. But it never mattered to us, we were all treated the same by our parents. I was never made to feel that I was less important and less adequate than any of my brothers and sisters. How a child is treated at home makes a lot of difference in how they let the world treat them outside of home. Fortunately for me, my dusky skin never came in the way of how I wanted to do things.”
A single mother to her 8 year old son, Chitra worked as a Montessori teacher for a while but to be able to raise her child the way she wanted, she opted to work as a Volunteer at his school at her own time table. Currently, Chitra lives in California, U.S.A., a city she calls “the most gorgeous place on Earth”.
Lakshmi Menon | International Fashion Model
This 31 year old tall and dusky beauty from Bangalore has been walking international runways for some of the most sought-after fashion designers and iconic global brands. It’s intriguing how Lakshmi’s unconventional looks have made her an international star while back home, girls still face color bias, even in the fashion industry.
Why We Love Her: Lakshmi’s achievements have inspired several dark skinned women to follow their dreams. She is a global icon for aspiring models with unconventional looks.
Rema Kumar | Textile Designer & Entrepreneur | Delhi
“I grew up in Kerala, and even there lighter skin tone is favored by most people, a fact that surprises most of my friends here in North India. To me, it’s nothing less than ironic,because, on my travels to Japan and other parts of the world, my colleagues and clients would not stop raving about my ‘exotic’ complexion. Well, the point is my skin color has never bothered me, it’s who I am and I quite like it.”
The beautiful Rema Kumar works with weavers across the country to create Indian ethnic ensembles that are no less exotic than herself. Rema retails her creations at Add Ons, her store at Shahpur Jat and Gali-E-Khas, Dastkar Nature Bazaar, New Delhi. She recently went online with www.indianroots.com.
Navneet Bahri | Specialist, Healing through Dance and Movement | Gurgaon
“Is it even a point of discussion?”, quips the ethereal beauty when we ask her how she feels about being born dusky in a Punjabi family where being fair is the only topmost criterion for beauty.
“I am God’s creation and if He decided to paint me a certain hue, it does not make me a lesser human being. All my growing up years I never told myself that I was beautiful but I never believed otherwise as well. But I knew one thing, people did not find me beautiful. As children, we see ourselves through the eyes of the world. Through our journey on the path to knowing ourselves, blissfully we reach a point where we are able to see and love ourselves as we are. And I have reached that point. As for worrying about my skin tone, I would rather spend my time in something that gives me joy, won’t you!”
An MBA in Human Resources, Navneet took a deliberate hiatus from work when she became a mother. Recently she joined Pallavanjali School, Gurgaon as a volunteer educator. She now teaches Dance and Movement to specially-abled children at the school.
Bharti Verma | Entrepreneur | Agra
Bharti Verma is a strong headed and beautiful woman. Having been raised in a large family in a small city close to Delhi, she has seen color bias from close quarters. A mother and an entrepreneur, Bharti says her skin tone did not really bother her during her growing up years, as much as it distressed the people around her.
“Dark skin certainly brings down your value in the marriage ‘market’, at least that’s how things were at the time when I was to get married. Although I feel things are changing now. I have a teenaged daughter who, like other girls her age, wants to be liked and accepted by her peers. At this point in her life, she wishes she could have been fairer. My frequent advice to her – We need to stand out in a crowd, we need to be able to hold our head high and say, I love the way I am. But I guess she will her take her own sweet time to realize how beautiful she is.” Exactly the kind of advice our young girls need. Kudos.
Presently Bharti lives in Agra and heads the Creative division at her jewelry business.
Rishika Sethi | Business Strategist | Sydney
“Fair = Beautiful, that’s what I always thought until I moved to Aussie land in 2004 and realized how guys here were heads over heels for a dusky beauty. Suddenly felt like a celebrity in a country full of hot white babes but all eyes glued to the dusky Indian girl. Never looked back ever since. To boost my confidence further there came a big boom of dusky hot Bollywood beauties – Priyanka Chopra, Lara Dutta , Bipasha Basu. All these things acted as a catalyst and my love for my skin soared higher and higher.
I guess when we are younger, we kind of look for affirmations and approval regarding how we look. But as years pass, all that matters is how you feel about yourself. And I feel great.”
Nina Davuluri | Miss America 2014 | U.S.A.
She may have received oodles of criticism and hundreds of hate-tweets for winning the crown, that however does not take away from the fact that Nina has managed to set a precedent which will be remembered for years to come. We love watching her basking in the glory of her accomplishment. Is it because she is a dusky or because she is an Indian, we didn’t really that a thought.
A trained classical dancer, and a Bachelor of Science from Michigan University, this beauty with brains plans to use the prize money to fund her medical school education.
Sreetama Ray, Artist | Singapore
This Bengali beauty grew up in Kolkata where, like the rest of India, beauty is usually equated with fair skin. As she stepped out into the real world, Sree was surprised to see the sheer disdain people displayed for darker skin. She recalls her years in Delhi as a particularly life changing experience – a city where she saw young women trying hard to conform to the popular notion of beauty, where she grew into a mature and self-assured individual and also the city where she met the love of her life.
“I get my complexion from my beautiful mother. In our home, skin color was not even discussed as something important. And as luck would have it, I found a partner whose idea of beauty is as unconventional as mine. It makes a lot of difference when you are loved the way you are.”
Nandita Das | Actor, Director, Writer, Activist | Mumbai
Could we have concluded this blog without a mention of the feisty and extremely beautiful Nandita Das. Known for her nonconformist attitude to the conventional image of female actors in India, recently Nandita spearheaded the “Dark is Beautiful” campaign, a project to sensitize people towards darker skin.
Nandita’s directorial debut Firaaq won her acclamation and top honors at various International film awards. At present she lives in Mumbai and travels the world to give talks on social issues and the power of meaningful cinema as a means to challenge societal norms. To us, Nandita represents Beauty, Courage, Grace and Spirit.
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Stay Young. Stay Free.