BEENISH SHAHAB

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(Un)Fair and Lovely

print, 15in. x 45in., 2019.

    I chose the Bollywood actress, Aishwarya Rai as the main figure of my work because she has been the topic of many colourist controversies, she is often displayed in media with extreme forms of whitewashing. By showcasing her skin tone in various colours, it leads to the debate of variety and representation in media. I question which form of the spectrum will the audience gravitate towards to?
    My intention for the project was to show how pervasive Western standards of beauty purported in media journeyed far into South Asian homes, equating fairness with happiness; that happiness had nothing to do with the self but rather with some external validator. To be beautiful was to be at odds with the popular notion of Western beauty ideals (beauty despite, rather than beauty itself).

The Process of Beauty

photography, 12in. x 12in., 2020.

    I chose the Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai as the main figure of my work because she has been the topic of many colourist controversies. She is often displayed in media with extreme forms of whitewashing. By showcasing her skin tone in various colours, it leads to the debate of variety and representation in media. I question which form of the spectrum will the audience gravitate towards to.
    My intention is to demonstrate the pervasiveness of Western beauty standards, extending as far as reaching South Asian homes. I seek to challenge the idea that happiness deals only in external validation and to confront these standards that equate fairness with said happiness. To be beautiful is to be at odds with the popular notion of Western beauty ideals—beauty despite, rather than beauty itself.



Beenish Shahab is a Pakistani-Canadian multidisciplinary artist, currently studying at University of Toronto, majoring in Studio Arts and New Media Studies. Her work often consists of portrait photography, digital media design, and figurative paintings. Shahab works with the concept of identity, challenging Western ideologies with her perspectives and experiences from South Asian culture.