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Freida fairer? Not fair - L'Oreal denies buzz that actor's skin-tone was lightened in ad

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  • Published 29.09.11

London, Sept. 28: The French cosmetics giant L’Oreal reacted angrily today to accusations circulating on the Internet as well as in numerous newspapers and magazines that it had touched up images of Freida Pinto to make the Mangalorean maiden appear fairer complexioned in her latest advertising campaign.

The Telegraph put it to L’Oreal that in the most recent ads, it was hard to deny that Freida did look much paler than her normal self.

The spokesperson for L’Oreal denied there had been any tampering with Freida’s natural looks, which are usually described in the West with such euphemisms as “exotic”, “sultry” and “olive skinned”.

“Freida Pinto's skin-tone in the campaign, ‘Colours Take Flight Project Runway’ limited-edition collection, has not been altered in any way,” L’Oreal’s spokesperson emphasised.

He added: “This campaign was meant to highlight Freida Pinto’s make-up colours applied on her eyes and lips. Thus, some powerful studio lightings with ring-flash have been used for this purpose to create a ‘runway’ effect on the picture.”

He gave an undertaking: “There has been no whitening retouching process whatsoever on Freida Pinto’s face. Freida Pinto has been a spokesperson for L’Oreal Paris brand since 2009. We highly value our relationship with Ms Pinto.”

Whatever the truth, “before and after” pictures of Freida are being widely circulated.

One site, Gone Hollywood, lamented: “Looks like L’Oreal have done it again, they’ve changed the skin colour of Freida Pinto for their new campaign. L’Oreal signed the Slumdog Millionaire actress to front their new ad campaign but judging from the ad the photoshoppers weren’t too happy with her natural skin colour so they lightened her up quite a bit.”

Another report, headed “Freida Pinto’s skin looks lighter in new L’Oreal campaign”, recalled: “L’Oreal caused a storm in 2008 when they were accused of ‘whitewashing’ singer Beyonce’s skin for a hair product campaign. But it seems the cosmetics giant is once again causing controversy, this time with actress Freida Pinto.”

It said that Freida, who was signed as the face of L’Oreal Paris in 2009, “appears to have noticeably lighter skin in the new ad for ‘Colours Take Flight’ make-up.”

The report said that “the 26-year-old, from India, first appeared with a paler complexion in the official image released by L’Oreal when she was signed in 2009. However, it was then confirmed the shot was provided by Pinto’s management — and not by the skincare brand.”

In December last year, the Daily Mail in London had a story of similar complexion.

It said that Elle had “stumbled into a race row after allegedly whitening the skin of a Bollywood actress on its cover. Readers reacted with fury after it was suggested that the fashion magazine might have digitally ‘bleached’ the complexion of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, a former Miss World who has also starred in Bride & Prejudice and The Pink Panther 2.”

It noted that Aishwarya had made the cover of the Indian edition of the magazine. “However, her skin appears to be several shades lighter than her normal colour.”

Freida, who is due to appear at the London Film Festival in Michael Winterbottom’s Trishna, shot in India, is known to be vehemently against the whole concept of skin lightening.

She was being honest when she told a British newspaper: “It’s just this thing that people (in India) are so fascinated by white skin. There’s a lot of people there who are naturally really pale. But the whole idea that you have to be fair — without naming actors, but there are actors who admit it — the fairer you are, the easier it is.”

She admitted she despaired at the popularity of “fairness creams” - bleaching potions to lighten the skin. “It’s completely wrong medically — and culturally, of course, because it’s giving people the wrong idea. My friend who’s a doctor told me that she’d have parents come in with kids who were three years old, saying, ‘Do something — I want my baby to be fair.’ ”

From a purely pragmatic point of view, it would not make sense to lighten Freida’s skin tone for the American or European market where there is now a tendency for casting agents and directors to prefer darker complexioned Asian girls. A paler Freida would only probably work better in India and among Indians across the diaspora.

It is probably the case that after three years of living in New York and avoiding the heat, dust and rain of her native Mumbai, Freida is probably a lot fairer. It could even be argued that success in the West has removed some of her natural tan.

The L’Oreal spokesperson suggested it was unfair to compare Freida’s image from the latest ads with pictures taken years ago in some cases.

“Different photographers, different lighting, different circumstances,” he said.