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Does ‘Glow & Lovely’ mean Unilever cares about exploiting South Asian colourism to make millions?

Does ‘Glow & Lovely’ mean Unilever cares about exploiting South Asian colourism to make millions?

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From billboards to truck ads at every other street of Karachi, Glow & Lovely is trying so hard to convince you it has changed, that it won’t hurt our feelings anymore with its insensitive tone, much like a toxic partner. So much, that it even launched a feminist anthem. Mitti kay sau rung hain, they say… and continue to sell us the same skin-lightening formula. 

While we watched some famous and upcoming female role models partake in the anthem, which on the surface seemed fine, I won’t lie that it broke my heart just a little bit that powerful women still endorse this product. It’s not your name. It’s what you are! You spent over 40 years becoming it! 

Okay, granted the anthem was a much better job than the HD Glow messaging we have seen from the brand but it’s saddening the endorsement comes from women who have been dedicated to crushing patriarchal standards. The anthem embraces the wide spectrum of Pakistani skin tones and yes, it pushes colour inclusivity but you simply cannot let an emotional musical composition undo what the product actually stands for. 

The funny thing is they could have opted for models or actresses, as beauty brands traditionally do, to drive the point home. Maybe that actually would have cushioned it without it being so look-we-have-changed simultaneously giving its former brand ambassadors a chance to redeem themselves from their endorsement of the ‘fairness is everything’ narrative. But no, powerful women who break gender stereotypes got caught up in a slogan that overcompensates for decades of pushing South Asian societies in discriminatory and unrealistic beauty standards. 

From locking down jobs to finding love, we were fed the message of gora rung being the core source of confidence and worth. The brand spent decades, and millions, inducing complexes and fueling only-fair-is-lovely narrative, are we ready to accept the beauty brand as a progressive, uplifting symbol for women after it has reduced women, time and again, to just their complexion? 

Not to mention, it has faced years of criticism over its colourist communication, blatantly continued, and only resorted to acknowledging its problematic messaging and rebranding in the wake of a global movement against racism and anti-blackness. 

Just a quick note here that at the same time when Unilever pledged to rebrand the skin-whitening product, Johnson & Johnson announced it would discontinue production of its dark spot reducing products which were also used for the purpose of skin-whitening.  

It doesn’t matter at the end of the day which word you pick out from the thesaurus, it really doesn’t. Since we are on the subject, it’s baffling that no one did a grammar check on the rebranding.  

This skin-whitening.. no wait, skin… sorry, what are you now? 

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