Foxy Brown

Do you hear that? That’s the sound of the glass ceiling shattering. Yes, that’s right, there’s a desi model in the Sports’ Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. Oh, and she’s a sophomore at Harvard, pre-med studying econ. Move aside Padma Laxmi, make room TMBWITW, here comes Sonia Dara.

I know I know, I can hear the objections from the nattering nabobs of negativism. Why is this photo shoot in Rajasthan? Who wears a swimsuit in the middle of the desert? Look, I’m not going to defend SI. This photograph, for example, is completely absurd. I can’t look at it without cringing.

However, what bothers me is the exotification not the objectification. I’m totally down with the latter. I actually wish desi men would get objectified in the media, instead of being portrayed as they were in the superbowl ad for Metro TV below. I mean, don’t you get tired of being appreciated for your mind all the time? Right now, even the desi sex symbols in the media are geeks first and eye candy later. I’m doing my part to try to bring sexy back, but there’s only so much I can do alone.

One day, perhaps, desis can be depicted three dimensionally by the American media. Until then. I’d rather see more Sonia Dara and less of Ranjit and Chad.

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(Update) You may also be interested in Sonia Dara’s spread in Vogue India, which shows her in a different context.

Lastly, let’s keep this polite whether you like Dara or do not. If the language in the comments go beyond the bounds of polite conversation, I’ll shut it down because I don’t have time to prune uncouth comments while at work. So please don’t feed any trolls who show up.

64 thoughts on “Foxy Brown

  1. “This chick isn’t even pretty-girl-you-see-on-the-street-pretty.”

    nice. now if she googles herself she’ll see possibly your classy comment, redounding to the credit of this blog.

  2. Notice the jewelry? That screams, “She’s worthy because she’s exotic!”

    She’s missing an elbow by the way.

  3. That picture of her and the three ‘natives’ nearly made me lose my shit. A pictures says a thousand words indeed– objectification, exoticism, orientalism, classism, and just downright bad taste. Horrible.

  4. Eurasian:

    This isn’t coming from a typical ‘her knees are too pointy’ internet slob response, nor is it a proxy for showing off lofty standards. She’s just subcontinentally uggles, and I suspect that the qualities that caused her to be picked are in concordance with the orientalist mindset that decided her get-up and background. If that doesn’t make sense; she is on that site for the same reason that east asians smirk about how white dudes have the worst taste in asian women.

  5. @ builder:

    She’s hardly the hottest desi woman I’ve seen, but I can still appreciate. She certainly doesn’t look her best in every shot, but if she stepped to me in a bar I would hardly turn my nose up.

    But yeah, the whole exotic fetishization on display is wack.

    Whenever I’ve seen photo shoots in these kinds of magazines, I always wished they would have more non-white faces. But now I’m not sure whether being ogled by SI readers is a step forward or backward for brown people.

  6. Builder wrote:

    This chick isn’t even pretty-girl-you-see-on-the-street-pretty.

    I bet she is probably way better looking than your sister or your mother…..

  7. nice. now if she googles herself she’ll see possibly your classy comment, redounding to the credit of this blog.

    It’s just business as usual for her to pose for that photo with the veiled Rajasthani women but Builder has to mind his manners and be considerate of her feelings when he comments on her looks in a spread she scored based on her looks? Honestly, if she even cares the slightest bit what Builder thinks, she should remember that she’s a big girl who has a plum modeling career ahead of her.

  8. Builder: Can we keep that same sentiment as polite as possible? There were times when the blog would get a lot of fairly uncooth comments, and we don’t want to encourage things to move in that direction, either by people who think Sonia Dara is unattractive or attractive.

    BTW, while I don’t share people’s assessment of her prettiness, even if you’re right I don’t think this necessarily shows she was included because of exoticism. This is a long running debate even about white models. Many white models aren’t typically pretty, they make the cut because they have a particular body type and fairly striking features. If you’re model tall and model thin you’re going to have fairly angular features, and generally what people expect for “pretty” is more of a rounded face.

  9. Oh, I’ve updated the post with a link to Dara’s spread in Indian Vogue which shows her in a very different light. Of course, Indian Vogue didn’t have the same urge to exotify Rajasthan as SI did.

  10. Couple of important points that I hope everyone will keep in mind:

    1) Saying she is not beautiful makes you look mean at petty. 99.5% of all humans would find her attractive. If YOU in particular don’t find her attractive then please politely keep your mouth shut about it. It adds nothing to this conversation (neither does “she’s hot” by the way). I think all of us SM bloggers will be quick to delete stupid comments on this thread.

    2) Please watch the videos on the SI site where they interview Sonia. It explains her motivations for modeling which has the effect of making a 2D person more real.

    3) Make sure to not lump together the photographer and his/her motivations and sentiments with the model. For any of you who have seen even a single episode of America’s Next Top Model you know that models have little to no influence over how they are posed or what they are asked to do

  11. People have short memories. Yasmeen Ghauri, the Canadian-born, half-Pakistani model was featured in the swimsuit editions of the 90′s and was one of the mainstay’s of Victoria’s Secret. She even starred in a commercial that was banned in Italy for being too sexually explicit. Yes, a brown chick tested the sensitivities of Italian censors.

  12. There’s something about the internet that makes perhaps slovenly, not-so-attractive males turn into Simon Cowells when discussing pretty women, models or actresses.

    “Megan Fox? Jessica Alba? Priyanka Chopra?

    Eh, they’re ok. Nothing special. I’ve seen so much better just walking through the local mall.”

    See, we all can do it!

  13. There’s something about the internet that makes perhaps slovenly, not-so-attractive males turn into Simon Cowells when discussing pretty women, models or actresses.

    I have the opposite problem. Since TV has too many attractive people, when I step out to the mall or any public event, my thought is, “Where did all these slobs come from?” It’s like Superintendent Chalmers, “Class after class of ugly children!”

  14. What’s wrong with having an opinion?

    Nothing wrong with having an opinion, but manners are always in style. One can express oneself without being crude.

  15. THANK YOU KXB! Ghauri is still one of the hottest desi models EVAR. As for the ‘exotic-fetishist’ nature of the photos…have you ever looked at how Indian (ok, bollywood) movies routinely do their own self-fetishization of exotic locations (like London and Miami)? If anything, SI is simply style-biting.

    Anyway, Sonia has a nice Laksmi Menon sorta thing going on. Approved!

  16. People have short memories. Yasmeen Ghauri, the Canadian-born, half-Pakistani model

    Yes, and as far as bikini,lingerie models in the US, we should include Ujjwala Raut who walked Victoria’s Secret in the early 2000s and was in their catalogue and she’s still going strong in the hi fashion world.

    My fav indian model, who has not yet made it int’lly though she is is signed with an international agency and I’d love to see her in some american mags is – Garima Parnami ; Sonia kindof reminds me of her in that they both have such simple innocent looking faces and great bathing suit bodies. http://www.fashionmodeldirectory.com/models/garima_parnami/showphoto/247073/

  17. I saw some people saying that she is not pretty. That does not sound right. The fact she is a model, she is probably one of the prettiest girl. Personally I think she is pretty but she does not have traditional model looks …she seems too simple…that is what probably makes her better

    http://arealblogger.blogspot.com/

  18. “I saw a hindustan times poll which concluded that the most googled girl in all of india is this chick.”

    As much the media in India is pushing stick thin western beauty standards, it appears Indian men, in the privacy of their computers, still prefer ample-bosomed, big booty, thick gals like that.

  19. As much the media in India is pushing stick thin western beauty standards,

    It’s not the media, so much as designers. Clothes are easier to display on thin frames instead of larger ones. What designers look for in models are clothes hangers with legs.

  20. Just found this really interesting interview with her and her mom: http://www.kavitachhibber.com/main/main.jsp?id=communityProfile-Feb2008

    This interview looks to have been done a few years ago before the SI stuff. The article says at one point: “Sonia also has strict ground rules and the various agencies she has signed up with are very respectful of that. “ It is in my contract I will not do lingerie, even though the biggest bucks are made if you model for Victoria’s Secret for example, or nude modeling. I also have a deal that my agents will not call me for small assignments during school hours. It can only be after school or weekends.”

    I wonder why the change here? She didn’t intend to do these poses. Granted, she was probably in high school at the time of saying this, so things definitely change.

    The article gives an interesting look at her family dynamics…looks like they’re your typical desi family full of lawyers, doctors, engineers, and there is a certain amount of rationalization they have to go through to get on board with it. It’s funny how they keep pushing what a great student she is and how accomplished she is…I think it’s just important that she ace the modeling thing as she aced everything else.

  21. SI does not typically have a lot of brown models, am I right? (I don’t keep count.) She’s great, but it would be too bad if they just picked one as a token, since they’re going to India for a photo shoot.

  22. LOL the link to the photo of her in what looks like to be a rickshaw is crazy the girl is smokin’ for sure though…they should have taken a picture of her playing cricket or somein’

  23. This photograph, for example, is completely absurd. I can’t look at it without cringing.

    candidate for a caption contest?!

  24. [DELETED PORTION FOR POLITENESS]

    QUESTION: why are you OK with objectification but not exotification. The two are intertwined.

  25. What? Deleted? What’s not polite about critiqueing her body? That’s what she posed half naked in India and Sports Illustratedfor, isn’t it???

  26. What? Deleted? What’s not polite about critiqueing her body? That’s what she posed half naked in India and Sports Illustratedfor, isn’t it???

    Mmmm, no. She posed because the publisher thought it would sell magazines, and she thought it was an opportunity. You did not figure into the equation.

    There are probably fashion-oriented sites on the web where you can get as catty as you’d like. This site is geared towards highlighting brown folks – sometimes serious news, other times light. – but most try to avoid needless cattiness.

  27. What designers look for in models are clothes hangers with legs.

    So true. I’ve checked out fashion sites that show dresses on actresses alongside the catwalk models in the same dresses and I was amazed at how much better the actresses looked. I guess this is sort of a good thing where the consumer is concerned…you can actually look better if you have some thickness.

    Honestly, I’m more disturbed by the whole skin whitening thing than I am by eating disorders due to fashion. Most gals know that most (desi) dudes love the ‘donk.

  28. I’m not okay with either objectification or exotification!! I can’t believe anyone would say that they are okay with one but not the other!

    If she wants to wear a bikini and be in a magazine that’s her prerogative, and she should be allowed to do that. But she is objectifying herself and women as a whole, like it or not.

  29. We objectify in the bunker all the time. Our favorite subject of discussion is Abhi’s culo, and whether quarters would really bounce off it. And we regularly treat Vinod like a piece of meat. But we’re anti-exotification and anti-orientalism. That’s just not cool.

  30. I’m not offended by the exotification.

    The magazine is published for guys. Most of the girls probably have slimmer waists and bigger breasts. If her “otherness” adds to her attractiveness, didn’t the magazine achieve its goal? Any arguement that you could throw against her being exotified really are rooted in the objectification of a person.

  31. But we’re anti-exotification and anti-orientalism.

    But we do love slumdog, macaca, and brown.

  32. Psst builder, 1. There are ways to discuss different beauty standards, you chose the dick one. 2. Your last post was a bunch of ten-dollar words saying, “She was asking for it.”

    1. I’d rather be dickishly right than meekishly wrong.
    2. Well, yeah, did you see the way she was dressed?!
  33. I’d rather be dickishly right than meekishly wrong. Because those are the only options? Well, yeah, did you see the way she was dressed? So you should (pretend to) be gentlemanly to only those who meet your (double) standard of decency?

    1. No, but it’s much more satisfying, especially when you’re debating people who are too dumb to understand that-

    2. -was satirical.

  34. I just looked through the magazine and I counted

    1 picture of her in the magazine.

    2 if you count a little picture of her that says “This is her 1st time in the magazine”

    There might be more, but I didnt see any.

    This whole debate for a person, who has one picture in a magazine.

  35. … No, but it’s much more satisfying, especially when you’re debating people who are too dumb to understand that- 2. -was satirical.

    You are one of those rare talents whose “satire” is a slight improvement on his regular op-sewage.