In South and East Asia, Africa, and in other countries around the world, women’s beauty is often judged based on the shade of their skin, with “fair” skin tones considered more attractive than darker skin. “Shadeism” or “colorism” often also associates success and power with fair skin.

Multinational companies reinforce that deeply problematic attitude through their skin-whitening products. In India, for example, one of the hottest selling facial cream brands is Hindustan Unilever’s Fair & Lovely lotion. Despite a campaign called Dark is Beautiful that helped push India to ban discriminatory commercials for fairness products in 2014, the attitudes displayed in this 2010 ad still prevail:


To combat this antagonism to darker skin, three students from the University of Texas have launched a new campaign to fight an age-old problem. They’re encouraging dark-skinned women from around the world to post photos of themselves on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook with the hashtag #unfairandlovely.

The project began with a photo shoot of two sisters of Sri Lankan-origin, Mirusha and Yanusha Yogarajah, by a black student, Pax Jones.

The students’ common experience of shadeism inspired them to celebrate darker skin through a photo series they called Unfair and Lovely.

“The photo series was purely a creative project that I developed to combat underrepresentation of dark-skinned people of color in media,” Jones, a 21-year-old engineering student, told Quartz. “In the past, Mirusha shared her experiences as a dark-skinned South Asian woman with me, and I noticed so many overlaps between her experiences and my own in terms of racism and colorism.”

The hashtag was later created when those photos became a hit on Facebook and Tumblr, and were shared widely.

The three women behind the move are now collaborating with another online campaign, Reclaim The Bindi, in which South Asian women have been trying to combat cultural appropriation and promote South Asian traditional identities. From March 8 – International Women’s Day – till March 14, women around the world are encouraged to celebrate their own beauty.

Kali tikka for a kali girl 💁🏾✨ #unfairandlovely #reclaimthebindi #selfie

A photo posted by Lincy (@lincyshroom) on

Mardhavi, thanks for including us. The dark skin we're in. #unfairandlovely #reclaimthebindi @mardhavi_sakuntala

A photo posted by Ecochic Veganista (@ecochicveganista) on

It's #InternationalWomensDay, & I can't help but look around me in amazement at all the incredibly #talented, #passionate #women in my life, both personally & professionally. But my heart reminisces about the strongest woman I've ever known--my #grandmother, #TinyMom's mother. (and she was even tinier!) She lost the love of her life at the age of 36 & had 6 children. She raised them all with as much heart as she could muster, even though her financial resources were limited, & never left them wanting. She never lost her faith, nor her capacity to #love. I only got to see her when I went to #India--a total of 6 visits, and when she came and stayed with us for a few months when I was a kid. She loved me with all her heart, and confessed that my mother was such a good kid that she was "boring." (Hilarious to hear that about your mom when you're a kid.) My favorite times with her were when we'd sit on the veranda at my uncle's home, my head on her lap, and she'd run her fingers through my long #hair, and tell me stories about her #lovestory with my grandfather. She told me to focus on building myself--my #education, my #career, so I would be able to stand on my own two feet, no matter what... but to never let go of my sensitive #heart. She was my biggest #cheerleader--when I graduated from #college, bought my first car, went back to get my #MBA--her faith and encouragement never wavered. I was heartbroken when I woke up to a call from my father almost 10 years ago to the day, his voice cracking, telling me she was gone, to come home to my inconsolable mother. She shaped so many of us with #love and by example, and I know she's still peeking down at us on occasion. Thank you for being a part of me, a part of us, of our lives. I hope I'm making you proud, #Nanima. I miss you every day. #❤#💔 #BrownGirls #FirstGeneration #desi #independent #entrepreneur #unfairandlovely #bosslady #MyLife #MyLove This is the last picture we ever took together, as we were about to run out the door to catch the train to head back to #Delhi in 2002. #NoFilter

A photo posted by Kirti D. (@diyamarketing) on

Great initiative Mirusha and Yanusha ^_^ #unfairandlovely #blackisbeautiful #proud #WontPutUpWithARacistSociety

A photo posted by Soundarya Murugaiyan (@miss_soundarya) on

#unfairandlovely | art by @prettymuchkavi

A photo posted by Unfair & Lovely (@unfairandlovely_) on

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