Is Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s New Ad Racist?

Aishwarya Rai

Aishwarya Rai in Kalyan jewelry ad


A Matter of Black and White

In India, skin color seems to dominate all else.  In this land of ‘wheatish’ skin, why is white skin so cherished and so desired? Why is black denigrated? A new ad for jewelry features the gorgeous Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, white as can be, and a small dark child slave holding an umbrella over her head. What were the creators of this ad thinking? Will colonialism and the British Raj continue to dominate our lives in free India? And how many more young people will associate dark skin with failure and repression. Is the solution in life a tube of skin whitening cream?

“The visual, which reflects 17th century European paintings of noblewomen with their child servants, is extremely objectionable, say a group of activists,” writes

Not surprisingly the advertisement  has received a lot of criticism and the creators have been accused of racism. In an open letter to Aishwariya Rai Bachchan, activists  take on this issue: “In the advertisement you appear to be representing aristocracy from a bygone era – bejeweled, poised and relaxing while an obviously underage slave-child, very dark and emaciated, struggles to hold an oversize umbrella over your head.”

It goes on to say that  “As an influential member of the Indian film industry and a popular star with a large fan following, we trust that you wish to use your image in a manner that promotes progressive thought and action, and would not knowingly promote regressive images that are racist and go against child rights.
We, therefore, urge you to do the right thing – cease to associate yourself with this offensive image by ensuring that further use of this advertisement is stopped.”

Well, what do you all think? Check out the article  Here

 Under Media Pressure – the ad is removed

Now comes the news  that Kalyan Jewellers is withdrawing the ad – read about it Here


About Author

Lavina Melwani is a New York-based journalist who writes for several international publications. [email protected] & @lassiwithlavina Sign up for the free newsletter to get your dose of Lassi!


  1. India and Indians will not get rid of slave mentality at least not in our lifetime! It is so ironic that true natives were Dravidians who are dark complexioned and Indians as a whole tend to forget that and go full throttle for “fair complexion” and denigrate true Indian complexion!

  2. Lavina Melwani on

    Karen Gorur via Google +

    Can’t sometimes a picture just be a picture without always bringing race into it? I thought this was The Great American Pass-time, always being quick to scream discrimination and racism, but I’m becoming concerned that India looks at opportunities to find fault where perhaps none was intended

  3. I would be uncomfortable with the concept of a little child holding up an umbrella for an adult even if the little child were to be lighter skinned or white!