“I didn’t grow up seeing someone like me on billboards and in mainstream advertisements, even in India, my own country.”
“I wasn’t trying to be an advocate for colorism,” Nidhi Sunil said on a Zoom call. “But once I started modeling, I faced so many professional obstacles that I had to fight and defend myself.” The model, actress and philanthropist, who grew up in South India and attended school in Mumbai, has just been announced as the new global ambassador for L’Oréal Paris. Sunil worked in environmental law before signing with Elite Model Management in Bombay at the age of 22. Over the past 10 years, she has graced the pages of international magazines, appeared in films, and starred in fashion and beauty campaigns. Today, she becomes the first Indian model to be signed as Global Ambassador of L’Oréal Paris.
“In India, it is a huge agreement to be a spokesperson for L’Oréal, ”says Sunil. “One of the first Indian spokespersons for L’Oréal was Aishwarya Rai [actress and the winner of the Miss World 1994 pageant]. I remember his ad was slammed everywhere when I was a kid. Sunil hopes that her new role within the beauty brand “will open the doors to other girls who […] don’t have fair skin and have green eyes, ”which is the ideal beauty standard in India, she says.
“The beauty of traditional aspirations in India is very fair – very white – and given that it’s a country full of browns, it’s kind of a colonial hangover,” Sunil says. “You hate your own skin color. I had to fight to make my place in the modeling industry, even in India because we actually had a lot of models [working in Bombay] from England, South Africa, Russia, and I had to push my management agency to make room for Indian girls [like me] – in an Indian market! That’s why I feel this collaboration is essential, as I didn’t grow up seeing someone like me on billboards and in mainstream advertisements, even in India, my own country. “
Sunil’s hope is that her partnership with L’Oréal Paris is aimed at young boys and girls who, like her, have grown up feeling “unrepresented, invisible and collectively prevented from feeling beautiful.” [Now I’m] able to speak of a vast and collective shared experience as a dark-skinned Indian.
In her 10 years in the modeling industry, Sunil has witnessed the evolution of social media and the way models, and anyone in the public eye, can use it to take control of. their own stories. She tried to harness the power of social media to change the message around beauty standards. “Before the internet and social media, everything you saw on TV was the truth,” she says. “So if a brand announced that something was true, then [we assumed] it had to be true. There was collective brainwashing. Today it’s up to us to reach out to our communities and share what we feel, what we believe, and shape our own collective narratives instead of giving someone else the power to mark yours. own perceptions in their favor.
The first L’Oréal Paris campaign in which Sunil will appear will be in the shampoo category. “My relationship with hair is so deep,” she says. “I grew up with my mom stuffing coconut oil on my head and making me sleep with it against my will, so I would have looked beautiful for a long time growing up. Hair is such a part of my identity. Due to her emotional connection to her long hair, Sunil jokes, “At this point, because it’s such an important part of my identity, I would cut it just to see what it looks like. That’s what 2020 did to me. After this last year it’s like, ‘Oh, you want me to destroy my identity and come out on the other side? Good.'”