Why Miss America could never have been Miss India

There have been many ugly tweets and other nasty comments about the new Miss America, Syracuse, NY born and aspiring cardiologist Nina Davuluri. The former Miss New York is of Indian descent; many of the negative commenters thought she was Arab and/or Muslim. Not so incidentally there were also many positive tweets and comments.

Paradoxically, according to Malika Rao writing in The Huffington Post, Davuluri would never have won a similar pageant in her parents' native India because she was too...dark. Yes, even in India, skin color is important--the lighter the better.

But there was an unfortunate irony to the win, noted mostly by Indian and Indian-American writers. Davuluri is dark-skinned. In India, where skin color is a national obsession, you likely wouldn't see someone of her complexion in a pageant, much less winning one.


Writing at FirstPost, Lakshmi Chaudhury quipped that Indians prefer their beauty queens "vanilla, preferably accessorised with blue contact lenses."

And to get that vanilla shade, beauty contestants in India, and apparently other women, take some drastic steps. In a previous Miss India contest

Every contestant was "taking some sort of medication to alter her skin, particularly in colour" according to the embedded writer, Susan Runkle. Indeed, the winner that year, Sonali Nagrani, looks more European than Indian.

Regimens were prescribed by the pageant's in-house doctor, a London-trained plastic surgeon named Jamuna Pai who had what Runkle called a "disturbingly casual" view to skin-lightening treatments concocted with acids and lasers.

Sounding like American men,

"'When an Indian man looks for a bride, he wants one who is tall, fair and slim, and fairer people always get jobs first,'" Runkle says Pai told her.

Meanwhile, in America, despite dermatologists warning of the dangers of tanning salons and baking in the summer sun, women--well mainly women--continue to do just that while purchasing ever increasing amounts of artificial tanning lotion.