Is Priyanka Chopra Hypocritical For Supporting Black Lives Matter After Endorsing Fairness Creams?
Joining many around the world, Bollywood actress, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, has shared her two cents on the injustice fueling the Black Lives Matter movement. Before moving to the U.S., starring in ‘Quantico’ and marrying Nick Jonas, Chopra had quite a career in Bollywood and made her mark as Miss World 2000. Now, she is being dragged for having once endorsed skin-whitening products. Instead of agreeing with the actress, many are claiming she does not deserve to speak about the matter.
When the capture and restraint of George Floyd, an unarmed African American man, lead to his death on May 25, no one could have predicted the domino effect it would eventually have. It has now fueled one of the biggest protests in recent times. Caught on video, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was recorded kneeling on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes even after he told officers he couldn’t breathe. Now people are quoting Floyd in the Black Lives Matter movement, as a statement to the many times the African community has been silenced as a result of discrimination, racism, xenophobia and abuse.
In support of the Black Lives Matter movement, Chopra posted a black and white quote of Floyd’s last words, “I can’t breathe.” She included a lengthy caption, stating that “there is so much work to be done”.
View this post on Instagram
There is so much work to be done and it needs to starts at an individual level on a global scale. We all have a responsibility to educate ourselves and end this hate. End this race war here in the US, and around the world. Wherever you live, whatever your circumstances, NO ONE deserves to die, especially at the hands of another because of their skin color. On May 25th, George Floyd was pinned down by the neck by a Minneapolis police officer and died. He laid there, fighting for his life, struggling to breathe, and other officers just stood there and watched. The officer has now been charged with murder. George, I am praying for your family. ❤️ Text “FLOYD” to 55156 and sign the petition. #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd
“It needs to start at an individual level on a global scale. We all have a responsibility to educate ourselves and end this hate. End this race war here in the US, and around the world. Wherever you live, whatever your circumstances, NO ONE deserves to die, especially at the hands of another because of their skin color.”
After reading her Instagram post, people are now coming at Chopra and calling her a hypocrite. For a time in her career, Chopra endorsed skin lightening creams.
— rahul (@rahul59660762) June 3, 2020
Another commented on her post asking her how she could say that after making money from endorsing fairness creams,
“Where was this solidarity when you fed into the south Asian anti-blackness by literally shilling for a fairness cream? Your solidarities are tailored to your audiences and serve only one party – you.”
But, is it Chopra’s fault for giving into and once supporting something that would have made her more like the ones we see on TV?
Coming from a country that has long had an obsession with fairer complexions, whitening creams have been a huge market in India. After all, Unilever’s branch in India saw the opportunity and literally introduced a brand called “Fair & Lovely”. This has been attributed to the effect of racial prejudice against dark-skinned people way back when the country was colonised by the various invaders, and colonizers who entered India (this includes the Dutch, French, Portuguese, Mughals, and of course, the British). The British, especially, gave more benefits to the lighter-skinned Indians, which gave them extra advantages over the “blacks” and since then, skin tone prejudice has become formally engrained. The idea that “fairer” skinned people are higher up in the patriarchy gave people a superiority complex that fueled this unhealthy obsession with “whitening”, “lightening” and “fairness”. In Bollywood, it is common to see the “fairer” actresses on-screen hailed as “beauties”.
In an interview with Vogue India in 2017, Chopra has addressed this preference for the skin tones lighter than “dusky”. She spoke about how this prejudice made her critical of her own skin colour while growing up.
Before 15, I had a lot of self-esteem issues. I was very conscious of the color of my skin.”When I was an actor, around my early twenties, I did a commercial for a skin-lightening cream I was playing that girl with insecurities, and when I saw it, I was like, ‘Oh sh*t. What did I do?’ I started talking about being proud of the way I looked, I actually like my skin tone.”
Chopra has appeared in ads for Garnier and Ponds skin-lightening or “whiteness” creams as a young actress in India. She now regrets her decision for caving into societal pressure.
The one aspect of Chopra’s history that could be used against her in her stance, however, is the fact that Chopra has actively supported the Indian Army and Mumbai police, who are also known to be violent in their policing. This is a contradiction to her support for the Black Lives Matter movement, which also addresses police brutality and xenophobia against people of colour. Responding to her post, some question her silence over the social injustice in her home country.
Priyanka Chopra posts about Black rights in US because that makes her popular in the US.
Priyanka Chopra supports Army activity in India because that makes her popular in India.
— Yes please? (@peeleraja) May 31, 2020
“You speak out against police brutality against black communities, which everyone should. But on the other hand, you have consistently supported the Indian army when they have consistently harmed minorities.”
With her changing her stance on skin tone, she may change her stance on other issues as well. People grow, they learn and they change. Here’s to hoping she continues to grow as a person and uses her platform to learn and educate others.
*Cover image credits: Background: Wesley Tingey on Unsplash Priyanka: Priyanka Chopra Jonas on Instagram