Miss Universe Australia Used Bleaching Cream at School Following 'Dirty Indian Brown' Skin Slurs

© AFP 2022 / RODRIGO VARELAHOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA - MAY 16: Miss Universe Australia Maria Thattil appears onstage at the 69th Miss Universe competition at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on May 16, 2021 in Hollywood, Florida.
HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA - MAY 16: Miss Universe Australia Maria Thattil appears onstage at the 69th Miss Universe competition at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on May 16, 2021 in Hollywood, Florida.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.11.2021
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Miss Universe Australia Maria Thattil, the daughter of Indian immigrants, was told she wasn't "Australian enough” to represent her country – however, she recently became just the third woman of colour to represent the “land down under” at Miss Universe, which is almost 70 years old.
Miss Universe Australia 2020, Maria Thattil, has revealed that she resorted to bleaching her skin in a bid to make it lighter after being bullied at school when she was 15, the Melbourne-based model, now 28, told Body+Soul Magazine. She recalled how a schoolmate was praised for her “beautiful, European, golden brown tan” while her skin tone was dismissed as “dirty, Indian brown.”
With tanned skin currently in fashion, the Indian-Australian writer, speaker, and founder of the Mind With Me podcast revealed it was upsetting for her to see light-skinned people praised for using fake tan, while she was mocked for having naturally brown skin.
“It’s triggering to see our skin commodified in a can, celebrated on white bodies but derided on ours. They have the beautiful, golden, sun-kissed glow – whereas brown and black skin is considered dirty,” she said.
A member of the United Nations Association of Australia, the model was crowned Miss Universe Australia in 2020 and represented the country at the 69th Miss Universe Pageant in Florida.
She made the top 10 during this year’s competition and has used her profile to highlight social issues such as diversity and inclusivity.

“Skin is a sensitive subject. Up until 27, I’d never self-tanned, as I had a tumultuous relationship with my skin… While I no longer use bleaching creams, for a long time I wanted to wash away the brown that made me an outsider, that was never celebrated in the public eye and made me feel ‘less than,” she said.

Looking back at her teenage years, Maria told The Daily Telegraph:
“In my teens, I stopped listening to Bollywood music, I stopped eating the food and even stopped speaking to my extended family. That is what a lack of representation and bullying and racism will do to a person – it can make them wish that they occupied skin that was not theirs.”
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