Such is the story of Christina Dass, daughter of Manoj Dass & Sneha Smitha, both of whom are entrepreneurs in Tamil Nadu. ‘Tina’ as she is fondly called always received acceptance, abundant love and attention at home and was given the freedom to be everything she wanted to be.
However, through adolescence and teenage, Tina fell prey to the pressure that today’s social media stratosphere puts on women to be flawlessly beautiful. From being bullied for being dark-skinned to being sidelined by friends because she did not belong, Tina’s confidence went in a downward spiral to a point of depression. Then slowly creeped in the scary suicidal thoughts. This was the breaking point for her parents, who had until then tried to boost her confidence through therapeutic talks and motivational gestures.
But the derogatory comments on her skin colour from her peers wouldn’t stop. Tina’s inferiority complex about her beauty because of her dark-skinned colour, was worsening every minute. Sneha and Manoj, both knew that they needed to pull Tina out of this painful crevasse.
This meant catapulting Tina to a space of social acceptance to heal her wounds using the very element that incarcerated her identity. It was a risk, but it had to be taken. Tina’s father who has a great rapport and connection, especially within the film industry in Tamil Nadu concocted an idea to organise a ‘Confidence Photo Shoot’ for the apple of his eye, Tina, to give her a new perspective of beauty from the percentage of people who truly realise the meaning of non-judgemental. He left no stone unturned in reaching out to his network and found a saviour in Mr. Rejoy Krishnan, a Professional photographer | Creative Director | Concept & Ideation Specialist, who agreed to take this project up and support Manoj & Sneha, in giving Tina, the true perspective of herself, which was lost while she was succumbing to unwanted negativity from a few others.
What was initially a risky experiment (considering we have people who thoughtlessly comment on social media!), turned out to be the best decision that Tina’s parents had ever made to help her out. With the help of Mr. Krishnan, the negatives of photos he developed turned out to be the strongest aid for Tina and her mental health. The response from people was overwhelmingly encouraging. Though Mr. Rejoy Krishnan’s talent is impeccable, Tina’s true beauty came to life through these photos. She beamed with confidence through her uber attractive features, so much that the colour of her skin was so miniscule in comparison. With just one look, we remembered the likes of Khoudia Diop, Lupita Nyong or Leomie Anderson. Simply stunning!
Colourism is a discrimination that has been prevalent for years in our country and has silently rooted itself deep into our conditioning, thought processes and upbringing, especially within the same ethnic group. “I was quite young when I was exposed to social media and the first mistake I made was to compare myself to society’s ideation of perfect beauty. I was made fun of in school, where name-calling was thought to be fun. I believed in the new names I was called – darkness, charcoal, blacky. The first thing my peers would say to me was, “You’re dark!” There was always such a negative tone to it. It was piercing”, says Tina recalling the mental harassment she went through. “The rejectful eyes of people in my own community, when they first meet me, was gut-wrenching. They sadly do it with a smile”, she adds.
But today, as she burst out of her cocoon into a butterfly that’s ready to fly to her world of beautiful dreams, she wants to talk about her experiences openly and be a support to other young girls just like her, who are going through similar experiences in their life. That too, in our society that is being portrayed as reformed, modernised and evolved.
“What’s wrong with being dark?” is Tina’s confidence statement, as she boldly faces such negativity with a broad smile, today. She knows fully well that there exists a large part of society that accepts and loves her for who she is, just the way she is. She has even nicknamed herself DSB (Dark Skinned Beauty) – because truly, everyone is beautiful, colour no bar. In the words of Eartha Kitt, “Just because you are different, does not mean that you have to be rejected”.
Beautiful is not what we see, but the way we see it. There is no perfection to beauty, it’s the people we are within and the positive energy we emit from within us, that makes us beautiful – no matter what our size, shape or colour is.
“If someone ever tells you that you are not beautiful, tell them that you feel pity seeing their colorless mind and heart.” ― Jyoti Patel. The glory of South Indian ethnicity predominantly comes with a darker skin tone and it is rather unfortunate that this gorgeously natural characteristic is still the reason for many women from the region developing insecurities based on colour. The centuries-old conditioning of attributing ‘beauty’ to ‘fair skin’ is stopping the beauty of so many South Indian women from being exposed and appreciated. So here’s what Tina has done to help many others like her. Tina has planned to create a safe space for other DSBs like her to come out and speak about their feelings and their painful experiences of colourism.
Of course, her benevolent nature can be attributed to her parents, who are always ready to help the needy. Mr. Manoj Dass says, “Beauty is not just external but it has a lot to do with how we think and feel internally. I have made sure that while encouraging her to become confident externally, I have also instilled the values in her of how to be a beautiful human being internally, so as to be ready to serve the community right from a young age. And I am proud of how Tina wants to help others now. She is indeed my beautiful girl”.
Every person, man or woman should be allowed to be anyone they want to be, and in any colour they want to be. Even the sky turns pink and looks just as gorgeous, when it is blue! Who are we to judge what colour is right for a human then?
If Tina’s story resonated with you or anyone you know, feel free to reach out to her on @DSBtinadass
If you love how gorgeous Tina is, she’s also available for brand collaborations and modelling assignments and can be contacted on +91 95511 10010.