Indian actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan appears on the January cover of Elle magazine, but she's outraged by the image. Her skin appears far more pale than it is in real life. Her dark brown hair is shown to be practically red.
Elle claims to celebrate women of color by featuring them on magazine covers, but this is the second time in just six months that Elle has blatantly made women of color more white. (The last controversy surrounded Precious actress Gabourey Sidibe.)
For better or worse, publications like Elle play a huge role in determining global standards of beauty -- especially for young girls and teenagers who read it. It sends a cruel and dangerous message to women of color everywhere when Elle manipulates the skin color of one of India's most famous actresses just so she can appear on a magazine cover.
Here's our opportunity: Elle is a business that cares more about its bottom line and public image than anything else. To change their behavior -- and send a message that reverberates through the whole fashion industry -- we need a public outcry.
India already has a billion-dollar skin-whitening industry. Many women burn their skin through the use of unsafe whitening products. And there's a pervasive prejudice against girls who are "too dark" and therefore can't get hired or married.
A global publication like Elle has no business reinforcing that racist and damaging stereotype. Elle suffered from some bad press when the magazine cover came out, but there still needs to be a massive public campaign to force them to take real action. This is that campaign.
Tell Elle that women don't have to be white to be beautiful – and to apologize for its offensive doctoring of its cover models: