#UnfairandLovely: The global movement to tackle colorism

Three UT students began a revolution against unfair representations of beauty

European beauty standards have long dominated the fashion world leading to a narrow definition of beauty, mainly a woman with fair skin. This view is damaging for a multitude of reasons, primarily due to the effect it has on people of color.

While this representation of beauty may seem superficial, the larger impacts of this are serious. People who cannot see themselves represented in popular culture feel marginalized and are likely to doubt their self-worth. This can lead to self esteem issues and a permanent feeling of isolation within society.

The issue here is that darker skinned women are often depicted as less desirable than their lighter skinned counterparts. The epitome of this thinking can be found in the skin-bleaching lotion “Fair and Lovely”, a popular product in Africa and Asia that advertises users to be more successful and attractive when they lighten their skin tone.

Three UT students have taken a stand against this thinking and started a global conversation with their hashtag #unfairandlovely, which aims to overthrow outdated notions of beauty as equivalent to having lighter skin. Tamil sisters Mirusha and Yanusha Yagarajah, along with Pax Jones, started this movement in order to “challenge the way colorism impacts our lives.”

They have created one of the most powerful and inclusive conversations on the Internet today.

The movement  has expanded to all people of color and provides an outlet for people that are often marginalized to showcase their beauty and gain the representation they deserve.

A quick look through Twitter shows how far reaching this movement has spread.

Being a darker skinned Tamil girl myself, I love this movement and only wish I could have seen it when I was struggling through my younger years of wishing I looked like magazine depictions of beauty. It took me so long to be comfortable in my own skin because I could never see having brown skin as a good thing when every depiction of beauty I knew called for fair skin.

I have a massive amount of respect for the founders of this campaign and drawing attention to the daily effects of colorism. #Unfairandlovely celebrates people of color at a time when the ideas of equality are being questioned in society.

This movement comes at a time when the impacts of colorism and racism could not be more apparent in society. The recent scandals of police brutality and the rise of #BlackLivesMatter drew much criticism from people who claim that “Black Lives Matter” is too isolating a movement and changed it to “All Lives Matter”.

Changing #BlackLivesMatter to #AllLivesMatter  is the same logic as going up to a man with a broken arms and trying to get sympathy for a bruise. No one is denying that a bruise hurts but the man with the broken arms clearly requires immediate and intensive care whereas a bruise is a minor injury.

The whole point of movements like #BlackLivesMatter and #UnfairandLovely is that they are exclusive to people of color. POC are so often overlooked in media or shown as just stereotypes that these movements are needed to draw attention.

Yes, all lives do matter and every skin color is great but that isn’t why these movements began. In order to really claim equality in society, we have to recognize the struggles people of color deal with solely because of their skin color. Stand with POC but don’t stand over them – let their voices be heard. That’s all these movements aim to accomplish because every person deserves equality.

As UT students we are all expected to uphold the honor code through “respect towards our peers and community,” so let’s start that by learning to respect the work these movements do and be the home of more global change.


UT Austin