A few pictures started doing the rounds on social media recently from a shoot by Nabila’s Salon. The photographs taken by Umair Nasir Bilal are of LSA nominated model, Zara Abid; the shots are striking, vibrant, and VERY aesthetically pleasing. Then whats the problem? Zara Abid is a power house of talent. She’s attractive, yes. She’s got a gorgeous tan, yes.
Nabila’s photo shoot is a prime example of cultural appropriation also termed as cultural misappropriation. Cultural appropriation refers to the borrowing of elements of one culture by members of another, it can prove to particularly offensive if members of a dominant group appropriate from disenfranchised groups. In a society that is obsessed with fair skin, slip-ups like this only fuel a regressive mindset. It’s borderline insulting to pick up a fair-skinned model and paint her to look dark rather than give naturally dark-skinned models a chance.
What could’ve been a shoot challenging stereotypes is instead now a sad reminder of how we as people of colour still don’t get how racism works, and of how dark-skinned talent is still consistently underutilised and sidelined even in projects that claim to celebrate their skin tone.