Photo Fakery? Did ELLE India Lighten Bollywood Star's Skin for Cover Photograph? Aishwarya Rai Photo

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WAS HER SKIN LIGHTENED? On the left, see Aishwarya Rai's cover image for ELLE India. On the right, see an image of Rai from her personal website. (Credit:,

ELLE magazine has been accused again of lightening the skin of the woman pictured on its cover, this time the Indian actress Aishwarya Rai.

In September, ELLE came under heavy criticism after being accused of lightening the skin color of Precious star, Gabourey Sidibe, for its cover.  ELLE denied having lightened Sidibe’s skin, however, and claimed that the lighting for Sidibe’s photo shoot could have led to her skin looking lighter.  (See iMediaEthics’ September report on the Sidibe controversy here.)

Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai is pictured on the Indian ELLE’s cover this month.  Her skin looks “several shades lighter” in the ELLE photos, the Telegraph reported.

The Economic Times explained that Rai is well-known for her contract with company L’Oreal, her title as former Miss World, and her movies. The Daily Mail has been cited as the first news outlet to suggest the whitening.

ELLE has countered the claims in a similar fashion as when the Gabourey Sidibe cover generated controversy.  Nonita Kalra, the editor-in-chief of ELLE India, is quoted as defending ELLE and criticizing the Daily Mail:

Daily Mail is claiming to have contacted us for a comment, which is not true. We have not whitened Aishwarya’s skin tone in the pictures.”

Styleite suggested that lighting may have had something to do with how pale Rai appeared on the cover.  According to Styleite:

“Aishwarya is quite fair-skinned to begin with, yet she looks excessively pale on her latest cover. But before we start wagging fingers, let’s remember the Gabourey Sidibé Elle cover debacle. Perhaps this disparity in skin tone is also the work of some extreme studio lighting.”

The Telegraph noted that “Skin colour is a sensitive issue in India, where the whitening market is worth millions despite strong opposition from groups who believe the products are discriminatory and outdated.”

The Daily Mail’s report featured some negative comments from readers including “It’s annoying because it seems like lighter skin is always in fashion as if darker skin is something to be frowned upon.”

iMediaEthics has written to ELLE India seeking comment.  We will update with any response.

iMediaEthics has also written to Suresh Natarajan, who is credited with taking the photos. We will update with any response.

UPDATE: 12-25-2010 10:53AM EST :  See related story on the website, 11 Points:  “11 Celebrities Who Were Photoshopped To Have Darker or Lighter Skin.” Also read this on faked diversity fauxtographs in the media. (CORRECTION: A typo was corrected in an earlier  headline. We regret the error).

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Did ELLE India Lighten Bollywood Star’s Skin for Cover Photograph? Aishwarya Rai Photo Called Out

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