A recent photo shoot for Nabila’s has become the subject of controversy after it has been accused of blackface.
Blackface is when people make their skin darker using make up or other means to imitate black people. But the model, Zara Abid, and stylist, Tabesh Khoja, and Nabila herself are defending it. They say Abid is a dark skinned woman and those criticising the photos were “shaming dark skin”.
While it is true that Abid is not would what most people consider fair, her skin definitely isn’t the same colour as what was shown in the pictures from the shoot. The pictures above are both taken from Abid’s Instagram account. The one on the right is from the photo shoot.
Her skin was darkened multiple shades. Both Abid and Khoja took to Instagram to defend the shoot. “The recent shoot that I uploaded became the target of cultural misappropriation and colourism/racism. The fact is that the reaction to the shoot has been blown out of proportion, largely misconstrued and heavily manipulated,” wrote Khoja.
He said Abid is a “dark skin” model and is “stunning and utterly unapologetic about her complexion”. However, Khoja seems to have missed the point of the criticism entirely. Abid is indeed stunning but it is not her complexion that is being criticised. Instead of finding a model whose complexion was darker, they chose to artificially make Abid’s darker.
“As Pakistanis, we often overlook our very own diverse skin tones. Brown is beautiful, dark is divine and all complexions are equally stunning,” he said in his charged up post. But people are asking that if brown is indeed beautiful and dark divine, then why was a darker skinned woman not hired for the shoot.
He expressed his “distress” over the fact that he had to “enhance Zara’s shade 6 (Zero Makeup) complexion into a shade darker, due to the lack of acceptance by our local modelling agencies who hesitate to have a pool of dark skinned models”.
“Moreover, it is hard to find girls with diverse skin tones who are willing to model due to succumbing to societal norms,” Khoja wrote.
When he initially posted the pictures of Abid, several celebrities commented their praise for them. Actress Ayesha Omar wrote “love love these”, while model Sadaf Kanwal simply wrote “hot”. But perhaps the most bizarre comment was that of Aamna Ilyas, who called the photos “so international!!”
“It doesn’t matter if you are black white or in between…. I’m amazed at the backlash a stylist has received for using a dark model , and enhancing her skin tone. He is being bashed for doing a beautiful and artistic shoot with gold jewellery on dark skin,” wrote Nabila on her own Instagram account. “Why do the trolls have to equate being dark with African? Have they not seen how dark and gorgeous the South Asian women are?!! Why are they not represented or celebrated? Why do we still believe white is supreme? When will we shed our colonialist mindset?!! The world is becoming a melting pot. No boundaries/no stereotypical features” she added.
Abid posted a series of pictures on her Instagram with a long message that also seemed to miss the point of the criticism. “I am a first-hand victim of discrimination and colourism that exists within our society,” she wrote. She said her skin colour was “enhanced” in the shoot because she wanted to “empower my darker skinned population as there is a lack of representation amongst our dark skinned girls”.
She said she had been made two to three tones lighter in other photo shoots so why was her being darker an issue. She asked why people were choosing to call her out when she darkened her skin instead of when she lightened it.
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But that argument was shot down by social media users.
“You don’t represent dark skin population by using a foundation six shades darker on your “dusky” face. You do it by HIRING them, filling the ‘void’ you speak of,” wrote one Twitter user. People are even saying that Abid isn’t dark skinned at all.
“So Zara Abid said she’s a dark skinned model. Maam?? Are you brown? Yes. Are you black? No. If you really want representation for dark skin, hire models who are ACTUALLY dark skinned. Period,” wrote another user on Twitter. Others simply called her offensive and ignorant.
“Hey Pakistan, this is called BLACK FACE. You’re not being inclusive you’re actually being inherently racist especially with all your past and history of slave buying I would seriously cease and desist from future ‘fashion’ campaigns,” wrote another user.
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