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I felt uglier in India: Mean Girls star Avantika speaks out against colorism

NRI PULSE STAFF REPORT

In a recent interview with Cosmopolitan, Avantika Vandanapu, known for her role in “Mean Girls,” spoke about the pervasive issue of colorism in India, particularly highlighting the negative perceptions faced by darker-skinned women from South India.

Speaking to the magazine, Avantika said she has often felt “uglier” in India due to prevailing beauty standards that favor lighter skin tones.

“The colorism situation is primarily one of the biggest reasons why I have definitely always felt uglier in India than I have here,” Avantika told Cosmopolitan.

The 19-year-old actor highlighted the lack of representation of individuals with her complexion in both American and Indian media during her formative years. She emphasized the dominance of North Indian and light-skinned women across various platforms, contributing to a skewed perception of beauty.

“I’m South Indian, and there’s this perception that North Indian women are more beautiful than South Indian women,” Avantika explained. “And the South Indian women who do reach insane levels of success in India are very light-skinned — some have become lighter-skinned.”

However, she expressed optimism about the shifting landscape in Western media, citing the representation of South Asian women with darker complexions in recent years. Avantika specifically mentioned characters portrayed by Charithra Chandran and Simone Ashley in “Bridgerton” Season 2 as inspiring examples of diversity.

“So seeing myself represented in ‘Bridgerton’ Season 2’s Charithra Chandran and Simone Ashley — beautiful, dusky-skinned women … in Hollywood has made me so, so happy,” Avantika remarked.

Avantika’s own career trajectory reflects her commitment to representation and diversity. Her portrayal of Karen Shetty in the latest adaptation of “Mean Girls” showcases a brown-skinned face for the iconic character, a deliberate choice to incorporate her South Indian identity into the role.

“It was an amazing opportunity to use not just a South Asian, but a specifically South Indian last name,” Avantika shared. “Opportunities for brown women in this industry are few and far from many, so we don’t really have the privilege of specificity. When you get the chance, you jump on it for your own people.”

Despite the challenges she faces, she remains determined to prove her talent and amplify her voice in an industry where opportunities for brown women are scarce.

“I have definitely found that the odds are a bit less stacked against me here than they are [in India] because I can’t change my skin color,” Avantika stated. “But I can convince people that I’m talented and that I deserve an opportunity or that I have a voice that needs to be heard.”

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