No, you aren’t seeing double in the photos below. And that’s what Miss India critics are calling out.

The Miss India beauty pageant is under fire from people calling out its seeming lack of diversity after an image showcasing finalists’ headshots showed only fair-skinned faces with very similar physical characteristics.

The image, which has gone viral, is from a newspaper spread in The Times of India.

Despite India being one of the world’s more ethnically diverse countries in the world, the 30 finalists appear to fit one standard of beauty, critics argued.

“What is wrong with this picture,” one user simply asked on Twitter. “Why can't a Miss India be ... a dark brown or darker chocolate brown?” another user wrote.

Indian-born, London-based writer Samira Sawlani sarcastically asked, “How to choose from such a diverse bunch?!” Another user tweeted, “So much for India being a 'diverse' country.”

“They all have the same hair, and the SAME SKIN COLOUR, and I'm going to hazard a guess that their heights and vital stats will also be similar,” she further argued.

Many online stressed there was nothing overtly wrong with the women themselves, but what irked them was the lack of representation from a population of 1.3 billion.

They said it mattered which finalists make it to the pageant because they go on to represent India on a wider stage in Miss World, with many going on to become Bollywood actresses, appearing in front of millions of impressionable young women.



In an interview with BBC News, the grooming expert for the pageant, Shamita Singha conceded that the headshots had been retouched because the contestants looked "like plastic.”

She further blamed the newspaper’s print for the way the contestants looked and stressed that the contestants’ skin was not as fair as the viral photo suggested.

"This is not the skin tones of the actual pictures," Singha said. The organizers have also responded by posting multiple photos of the contestants on its Facebook page -- with more noticeable differences in appearance.

But critics point out that this latest fiasco didn’t happen in a vacuum.


For decades, there’s been an ongoing debate over the prevalence of colorism or shadeism -- discrimination based on darker skin tones -- within black, Latinx, Asian and Indian cultures.

“Unfortunately, in our country, [people] think looking better means looking fairer,” Dr. Jamuna Pai told CNN in 2013, adding there is a big demand on skin-whitening treatments in India particularly.

Critics point out that the Eurocentric beauty ideal has been fuelling a booming skin-lightening industry in India for years. And colorism can affect marriage and job prospects.

In 2011, the World Health Organization found that skin-lightening or bleaching made up 61 per cent of India’s dermatological market. One estimate valued this industry market at nearly US$400 million.

The trend in India widely began in the 1970s, when India's first fairness cream, called “Fair and Lovely,” was introduced to consumers.

In 2005, a version of this product was targeted to men. Modern advertisements for similar creams and gels promise consumers a better chance at finding love and employment.

It’s only been in recent years that new campaigns have sprouted up to counter years of marketing.

Actor Nandita started “Dark is Beautiful” arguing that “the prejudice definitely proceeds the product … but the question is ‘do we want to capitalize on this prejudice and this lack of self-worth?’”