Is True Love Colour Blind?

Our love reveres—and transcends—differences

By Shiyani Gilbert



When I met Ben for the first time I knew that he was very special. I felt his heart, and I felt his love and passion for God. A month after we met, he proposed and I had on my finger a precious ring passed down from his great grandmother. 
A year after, in 2009, the two of us became one when we said, “We do.” 
As two individuals from different nationalities, cultures, traditions and experiences, and having different expectations, there have been sparks, and fireworks, at times. It’s not just that we come from different walks of life, but the very simple fact that I am a female and Ben is male. We are wired differently. What floats my boat does nothing to his. Through constant communication, understanding and selflessness, we are learning to love each other better.
Our love for each other transcends colour. What makes Ben amazing is what he is made of. He is a man of honour, a man of love, a man of gentleness and courage, a man of respect and loyalty, and a man of his word. He can be green for all that I care, as long as he is my Ben whom I love. 
Having said that, we have discovered some of the differences amongst colours. I had never known what sunburn really looks like until I met Ben, and Ben didn’t realise how scars could take years to go away on darker skin. I don’t bruise readily, if at all, whereas Ben turns pink and blue quite easily. These differences make our life much more interesting and add to the excitement of our discovery.
We have had our fair share of inputs from others, which have not always been encouraging – opinions that “we should stick to our own kind,” and comments that question the reasons for our marriage, such as a British passport being a deciding factor. At times it did feel like we had a lot to prove. But very soon, the significant overtook the needless, and all that mattered was “us.”
The story goes on as we so look forward to this Valentine’s Day, just another day, and another reason to let us know how much we love each other, and celebrate this gift of love we are blessed with. In a world of temporariness, we are blessed with something lasting; in a world of division, we are united as one; in this world of doubt we have trust and in a world divided by colour, we live blind in the safety of love. 

Hue: A Matter of Colour, features the Dark is Beautiful Campaign at the International Film Festival, 2014

February, 2014 

HUE: A MATTER OF COLOUR screening at the International Film Festival, Mumbai

The Dark is Beautiful Campaign is featured in this documentary with a story that reveals the toxic effects of skin colour bias in the country

Chennai, 1stFebruary 2014: Sepia Films, Canada and Women of Worth, the Chennai based NGO is proud to announce the screening of documentary film HUE: A MATTER OF COLOUR at the Mumbai International Film Festival on 4th February 2014, at 11am at the TATA Theatre.  The film is directed by the acclaimed Vic Sarin, an Indian born Canadian-American film director, producer and cinematographer who has to his credit films like Partition, Margaret’s Museum, Left Behind and Dancing in the Dark.  HUE had its world premiere at the Vancouver International Film Festival in front of a sold out crowd. 

Hue, which was filmed by Vic Sarin in over 10 countries, including many regions in India, is a personal heart-felt investigation into the history and often-tragic effects of colourism – the phenomenon whereby people within the same ethnic group discriminate against each other based on differences in skin tone.  Sarin travels across the globe to discuss this complex cross-cultural social issue with individuals whose lives it affects.  What Sarin discovered was more than just eye opening, “Having the spectrum of different shades of skin is what gives us the richness in human beauty.  Each and every shade is worth worshiping.”
Sarin is excited about having the film’s international premiere in Mumbai, for several reasons, “Well the story is relevant to my birthplace, it is a personal story and I feel that the it is only right that the film steps out internationally on this stage, as I am sure this story will be especially interesting to an Indian audience.”
Women of Worth’s founder Kavitha Emmanuel who launched the Dark is Beautiful campaign in 2009, said,  In 2012 we  received an invitation from Sepia Films in Canada to participate in this documentary that features the issue of colourism across different cultures around the globe. We were happy to have been featured in this documentary directed by Mr Vic Sarin that brings to light an issue that has been swept under the carpet for several decades.
With this documentary the DISB campaign gives another opportunity for India to seriously consider the implications of the belief that a person’s worth is measured by the fairness of their skin.

The  Dark is Beautiful campaign went viral on social media since 2013 with celebrities like Nandita Das, AnuHasan, TannishthaChatterjee, ShekharKapur, Wilbur Sargunaraj, RupinderNagra, Vishaka Singh, Khushboo and others backing the campaign. 
‘The story of Sapna Abraham featured in the film is representative of India’s obsession with fair skin’ added Ms. Emmanuel. “Her story is what convinced me to initiate the campaign in 2009. We are talking about real life experiences of people as we address this issue.”

About Vic Sarin and Sepia Films
Vic Sarin is one of Canada’s most celebrated Directors of Photography, receiving numerous accolades including Genie, Gemini and Emmy nominations and awards among others. He is the recipient of the prestigious Kodak Lifetime Achievement Award for having created some of Canadian cinema’s most moving and memorable images.
Sepia Films is a feature film production company specializing in international co- production, with a mandate to make quality, commercially viable feature films for the global marketplace. Based in Vancouver, Canada, Sepia focuses on telling great stories in unique ways and in a variety of genres to make movies that resonate with audiences both domestically and abroad.

About WOW: Women of Worth (WOW) is a network empowering women to be agents of change. Based in Chennai, WOW trains students in soft skills such as media literacy, gender issues and personality development. WOW initiated the “Dark is Beautiful” campaign in 2009.

Media Contact:
Anita Samuel: +91-9003222851,

Amazing This Way

A mother and her daughter talk about colour and confidence

by Pranuthi Bunyan | With a poem by Sanchitha Rahael Sathyadass

As a mother, I have heard people come up to us and make statements such as, “Your younger son has a better colour than the others!” And this would at most times be in front of the kids. It’s ridiculous!

Our three kids, Sanchitha (12 years), Tharan (9) and Vivaan (3) are three different shades. We consciously reinforce to them that each shade is precious–one chocolate, one coffee and one caramel! 

Also, we emphasize that God has created each one fearfully and wonderfully and makes no mistakes!

Sanchu, as we call her, is a born artist. She loves to dance and sing and is a part of a children’s choir called “Shine,” and has formed little singing quartet called the “Four-tunes”! When she was in public school, she was sometimes ridiculed by her classmates for her colour. It would make her upset at first.
One time my eldest son was made fun of at school; one boy called him “black Tharan” in front of me. I immediately asked the child if Tharan’s hair and face were the same colour. When he sheepishly said no,  I told him to learn his colours better!

While there are people who are around who make senseless statements, there have also been others who have been an encouragement. There was an opportunity last Christmas when the two eldest kids were featured in a music video. Opportunities such as these and focus on their inner strengths and gifts, have been the main factors in developing a confidence that we have seen, especially in Sanchu over the last few years. We hope that the two boys will also develop their strengths and live as confident people.

When asked to write for Dark is Beautiful, Sanchu was apprehensive initially. But when we told her that this was helping to campaign for a cause that it would help bring awareness to several others and help create a world that is free of discrimination on the basis of colour, especially for the next generations, she cheerfully agreed! In a matter of minutes, she said a little prayer and had the poem thought out, typed out and formatted!

Amazing this way
by Sanchitha Rahael Sathyadass, age 12

Black or white,

Red or blue,

We are the same,

And that is true.

Lotions, perfumes,

Face washes and soaps,

Make you think that

You should glow.


Washing your face 

And applying cream

Is unnecessary.

You look amazing

Just this way,

Cause dark is beautiful,

And that’s what we say.

Emami says ‘no’ to leading the change against skin colour bias. Discriminatory Fair and Handsome ad will continue


WOW’s petition on against Fair and Handsome ad garners a one on meet with the top brass of EMAMI

January 18th, 2014, Kolkatta — Women of Worth (WOW) , the Chennai based NGO behind the Dark is Beautiful Campaign, was invited today to a one on one meeting with Mr. Mohan Goenka, Director of Emami Group.

This was in response to a petition drive on against Fair and Handsome ad which has garnered more than 25000 online signatures from across the length and breadth of the country and  even from many countries across the world, notably Pakistan, Middle Eastern countries, a few African nations, USA, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and UK.

At a closed door meeting in EMAMI’s headquarters in Kolkata with Mr. Goenka, Director, EMAMI and Ms. Mahasweta  Sen, GM,  Corporate Communications, Ms. Kavitha Emmanuel, Founder Director, Women of Worth, requested EMAMI to consider removing the Fair and Handsome advertisement  from television screens, hoardings and magazines. She further challenged Mr. Goenka to lead the change in the current trend in fairness–products marketing and make a difference by addressing the issue of skin colour bias in the nation head on.   

In response Mr. Goenka said that the advertisement will continue as they are meeting a need in the society based on their market research. He believes whitening is a global phenomenon and a trend and changing mindsets might be impossible. During the discussion he stressed how preference for fair skin has been there for generations and changing it now did not make sense. When quizzed about the 25,000 petitioners who are saying that the ad is discriminatory he said, ‘in a country with billion people I cannot answer every individual’s petition!’

“If people want to be like Shah Rukh Khan, there is nothing wrong with it. If they want to be fair, it is an aspiration,” he said. Ms. Mahasweta Sen added that ‘if the cream is helping people be more confident, what is wrong with that?’

Talking about the future of this campaign, Ms. Emmanuel added, “We hope that brands and brand ambassadors will listen to the united voices that are calling for new attitudes and new products that appreciate and celebrates the diverse skin tones in a land of 1.2 billion shades of skin. The campaign will continue to address the issue of skin colour bias and tackle unfair advertising practises with the Advertising Standards Council of India and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.”

About WOW: Women of Worth (WOW) is a network empowering women to be agents of change. Based in Chennai, WOW trains students in soft skills such as media literacy, gender issues and personality development. WOW initiated the “Dark is Beautiful” campaign in 2009.

Media Contact: Lydia Durairaj , +919940358429

Celebrating “YOU” in 2014!

By Kavitha Emmanuel | Director of Women of Worth

Design Props: 6 pm Designs

Celebration has always been the mood of this campaign!

While we battle toxic notions of beauty based on skin colour we need to remember that celebrating who we are is the first step towards bringing about change in our environment. This has always been our underlying emphasis – to celebrate people for their innate worth and value. 

Photo by: Anu Anna Jacob

Looking back at the year gone by makes me wonder. We have done a lot as a campaign, but have we actually made a dent yet in expunging the belief that fair skin alone is beautiful? 

I am grateful for all the attention this campaign has received. But I believe we have a long road to tread. And the walk begins in our own homes. 

It begins with us, our parents, our grandparents, our in-laws, and others who influence our choices and lifestyles. It begins with us choosing to not judge people based on skin colour, or use hurtful nicknames, or compare siblings of different skin shades, or choose your life partner based solely on his/her skin colour. 

And if you witness someone judging or being hurtful because of skin colour, don’t shy away from a conversation that would challenge them to think differently.

Please remember that while we battle this toxic belief, our values are what steer our actions. Here are a few:

  • We value all people based on their innate worth. Skin colour,  physical features, caste, social standing or ethnic  origins do not determine a person’s worth
  • We believe in showing our discontent or disapproval in a respectful and peaceful way
  • We do not believe in or approve of violence, vulgarity or unethical practices to achieve the campaign’s goals.
  • We do not believe in judging people for existing attitudes towards skin colour but would like to promote change of attitude through discussions, dialogue, petitions and partnerships
  • We are on the look out to build bridges rather than to burn them. We are always open to connecting, networking and partnering with individuals and organizations who seek to lead the change
  • We believe in building unity in diversity and endorse the celebration of all skin tones from white and wheatish to dark and dusky.

While the Dark is Beautiful team continues to make plans to address the issue from different fronts, we request your continued support. We will be meeting with Mr Goenka, Director, Emami, to discuss our petition response on January 18
th 2014. While we do our bit, we look to you, our supporters to be our voice from wherever you are.


You could host a DISB party, a doodle hang-out or a petition drive in your neighbourhood – anything to keep the discussion going. Continue to tell us your stories, your struggles and challenges. Do stay in touch with us and dare to be colour blind in your circles!


So this year, let’s plan to celebrate ‘beauty beyond colour’! 

The Colour of Christmas

by Aaron Sathyanesan | neuroscientist and Dark is Beautiful supporter

What skin colour did Jesus have?

This question, I believe, is at the storm-eye of a scandal for the ages.

Recently, this scandal made the rounds in media outlets, social networks and the uttermost parts of the blogosphere. It started out as a reaction to an article in Slate magazine about a case for why Santa Claus or Father Christmas should be an inclusive figure rather than a jolly-old white dude. Here’s how a talk show host reacted to the article during an on-air discussion:

Jesus was a white man, too. It’s like we have, he’s a historical figure that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa, I just want kids to know that. How do you revise it in the middle of the legacy in the story and change Santa from white to black?

Foot. In. Mouth.

Apart from the fact that this talk show host wanted so dearly for children to “believe” in Santa, there’s a white elephant in the room (pun intended), trumpeting its heart out for attention.

I would like to point out, though, that attempts to “repaint” Jesus with broad brush-strokes of our modern sensibilities are not new. The Late Rev. John R.W. Stott, a Christian scholar and statesman, in his book Contemporary Christian (1995) lists thirteen versions of Jesus. Some of them are worth mentioning for illustration. There’s Jesus the founder of modern business, based on Bruce Barton’s then best-selling book, The Man Nobody Knows (1925). Barton, who reacted against a soft, namby pamby Jesus who would pass off as the class sissy, produced a picture of Jesus as a chiseled, muscular, tough man who probably was involved in many “outdoor activities.” This Jesus’ entire life was a story of success and most importantly, he taught the secrets of modern business. Then there’s T.N. Carver’s Jesus the Capitalist, as sketched out in his book The Economic Factor in the Messiahship of Jesus (1922) and Jesus the Freedom Fighter as Cuba’s Fidel Castro so many times claimed. And then there’s Jesus the Pale Galilean spoken of in Swinburne’s Hymn to Proserpine (1866) where the English poet laments the rise of Christianity, saying:

Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean; the world has grown grey from thy breath;

This pale version of Jesus was also captured in the works of the Renaissance masters, where Jesus’ skin complexion is really, really, really light…bordering anemic. The Rastafari reacted against this portrayal of Jesus as colonial and racist; some of them even citing bible verses claiming that Jesus was in fact black.

And then there was the historical Jesus, who was probably not white nor black, but most probably, dare I say, brownish, as you would expect a first century Jew from Palestine to look like.

From all these ‘versions’ of Jesus, one thing seems to be clear – that as human beings, we love to label things. As neuroscience has so clearly shown us, the human brain excels at pattern identification. Our biological nature predisposes us to label x as “white” and y as “black.” But we go a step further and in addition to classification, knowingly or unknowingly, we assign values to these labels. The way we assign these values is intricately tied to our in-group bias. In other words, we like those who look like us and/or agree with us. And this bias seems like something we are born with, not just learned. As research from the Wynn & Bloom labs at Yale have shown, infants as young as three months old display this social bias. It seems like it is in our nature to form groups and classify people as “Us” and “Them.”

What does all this have to do with Christmas? Well, a lot.

Some two thousand years ago, in an obscure town called Bethlehem, a baby was born. His name was Jesus. He hung out with poor. He had fishermen and tax-collectors as chums. He had friends who had lesser melanin pigmentation in their skin (Roman soldiers), more melanin (his disciples) and even no melanin (lepers). This Jesus – the historical Jesus, came for us all. His humanity identified with us. His deity transformed us, and still transforms us. His work continues even to this day –when we clothe the naked and feed the hungry. When we stand up to oppression and injustice. When our enemies hurt us, and we pray for them instead. When we love our neighbours – black, white, brown or anything in between. When we follow him, and lay down our lives, so others, even those who don’t look like us, may live.

This Jesus – the historical Jesus, the one whose birth we celebrate on Christmas, came for all of us – for all the billion shades of beautiful.

So this Christmas

If you’re green with envy

Or blue and gloomy

If you’re in the pink of health

Or gracious and gray

Just remember

That the colour of Christmas

Is the colour of perfect love

Come from above,

And it is deeper, much deeper

Than the deepest red.