By now, you’ve definitely heard the age-old saying “beauty comes in all shapes and sizes,” but Aranya Johar wants to add “shades” to the end of the popular adage. A self-proclaimed poet, Aranya is an 18-year-old Indian girl with a whole lot of wisdom on the topic of unfair beauty standards for women with darker skin tones, and she uses slam poetry as her platform for expressing her empowering thoughts.
In a recent performance titled “A Brown Girl’s Guide to Beauty,” Aranya starts by explaining how she’s been “slapping [her] face with fairness creams” since she was 9 years old because her skin tone was seen as “ugly.” From a young age, she was told that “boys only like girls who are fair and lovely,” so she started to believe that as true. “The color of our skin dictates our beauty, and that’s not the only thing that’s unfair,” she said in her poetic performance. “When we brown girls revolt against our own reflections — every single time an Indian magazine puts a light-skinned girl on a cover, calling her brown — I ask my mother to get me haldi, yellow paste over yellow paste, because anything is better than brown, anything is better than dark.”
Women aren’t the only ones affected by these unrealistic standards though. “There isn’t a single person who isn’t pulled apart by these expectations; brown girls struggle getting the right foundation, boys constantly doing weight calculations,” she said, referencing how magazine covers are splashed with images of men with perfectly chiseled bodies. But she argues that it’s time we throw those expectations in the garbage and get with the times. “Forget Snow White, say hello to chocolate brown; I’ll write my own fairy tale,” she boldly stated.
Perhaps her most powerful stanza was her last, as she proudly proclaimed, “It’s time we realize love comes in all shapes and shades. It’s time we loved all shapes and shades.” Watch the video above to witness Aranya use poetry to get real about the struggles many women of color go through on the journey to loving and embracing their skin color.