Q&A with Daisy Rockwell AKA Lapata

Unsettling. The Little Book of Terror, a slim, brightly-colored book of paintings and short essays by Daisy Rockwell hardly contains standard coffee-table fare. Divided into five sections, this cheeky little volume features your usual gallery of big-name, international rogues. Osama bin Laden. Saddam Hussein. But the feeling of uneasiness comes not from these over-chronicled villain archetypes whose images we’ve all seen scattered over televisions a hundred times over.

Instead, it comes from candid portraits such as that of Mohamed Mahmood Alessa, a 20-year old in New Jersey who was appended by the FBI after he tried to join a militant group in Somalia. In her portrait of Alessa, Rockwell depicts him in bubble-gum pink tones, prone on a floral bedspread, cuddling with his beloved cat, Princess Tuna. Unsettling. The narrative of terror that we often see seldom contains photos of wannabe terrorists cuddling with their kitty cats, or of the underwear bomber as a sullen teenager, posing during a school trip. Continue reading

Shed Your Sleeves: Lose the Skin-Lightening Creams

productLf.jpgOnly a few weeks till the start of summer. This can only mean one thing: skin. Bring on the season of skin-baring shorts, skorts, minis, sundresses, tank tops and bathing suits. And if you’re desi, bring on the nagging moms and aunties who try to tell you to cover up – more for the sake of preserving your complexion than for modesty’s sake. I think you all know how I feel about our society’s obsession with skin coloring. But I was reminded of it again when Ennis sent me a clip of an upcoming documentary, “Dark Girls.” The clip features African American women, but the movie’s producers write, “We know this issue goes beyond the United States and Black people. This is for ALL women from around the world.” I agree. Continue reading

New Study Says “Desi Men Are Hot” (Or Something Like That)

Desi.jpgAs a young child, I thought the standard for beauty was contained within the perfume-scented pages of Vogue. When I turned its glossy pages and saw impossibly thin (mostly-white) women with flawless skin carrying $10,000 handbags and hairless men with heroin chic eyes, I thought, “Here is beauty.” Well, I was all wrong. Beauty is actually a South Asian man. And a Latina woman, but let’s focus on the man for the sake of this blog. Allure magazine released the findings of a 2,000 person survey last month and found some interesting results. According to Racialicious blog: Continue reading

That Shameless Yoni Nonsense

It’s that time of the year again, and this year the delightful Micropixie has released a charming promo clip. I’ve included the translation below for those that may need a little bit of help.

“Mooni! Hey Mooni! Gadherini! Do you know I’m going to hit you? I’m going to beat you up, dirty girl! Every time I’m calling you and you’re not answering the phone!

And what is this “micro-bicro-bixie-dixie”?! You went San Francisco, you went to cut off my nose in San Francisco?! Don’t you know in San Francisco they have all those gadherini lesbian girls? What is all this lesbian stuff you’re doing, this Yoni Ki Baat “yon-ki-baat”, what is all that? Shameless girl, don’t you have any shame? [ASIDE TO HER HUSBAND: Hey Kaka, you see that girl she's going to cut off my nose did you hear this girl? She's opening (her legs)...]. Tell me, you’re not standing on stage with all your clothes taken off are you? Hai, hai! Who on earth will marry you? Who’s going to wed you?! How can you talk this nonsense?! This vageena, vageena-talking about your yoni ki baat gadherini? Hei?! You’re going to stop all this micro-bicro-pixie type stuff! Who will want to marry you? Which boy will marry you? Don’t you have any shame talking about all this dirty, disgusting stuff? As if one could ever talk about these things! Disgusting girl! When we were little we never spoke about this thing. What is this vageena talking-talking all the time? As if a vageena can even say anything, you brainless girl! As if, when you go and piss, you can talk with it! Don’t do all these things! Don’t you cut off my nose! Do you hear me?! Or I’ll give you one big whack. And make sure you phone your aunty soon… shameless girl!” [youtube]

The show was started by the South Asian Sisters here in San Francisco in an effort to bring a South Asian version of the Vagina Monologues to the scene. In it’s seventh season, Yoni Ki Baat has been replicated in cities all across the nation. I had the chance to check out the show in Los Angeles, but am looking forward to the show in San Francisco on March 5th and 6th. If you are in the area, I highly suggest you check out the show – but buy your tickets now, the show sells out every year.

Are any of you planning on being at the show? If so, maybe we can plan a Sepia Mutiny San Francisco meetup before the show…? Do let me know in the comments! Continue reading

Another Tasteful Post

Yesterday, the blog Jezebel wrote about the product of all products: a special “mint” for all you lovely ladies out there. But this particular tasty treat doesn’t necessarily have to remain in your mouth… “Think of it as an Altoid for your lady parts or, as its website explains, “A small, naturally sweetened flavoring, free of artificial dyes, which was created to flavor the secretions of a woman when she is…”Whoops, sorry! I got censored by the SM aunties. You’ll just have to visit the NSFW link for more information. But what’s the desi angle, you ask? Or is this just another self-indulgent sex post? Continue reading

Meet a Model: Lakshmi Menon

So naturally the comments in the Oprah/Ash/Abhi thread devolved into an argument about skin color. Naturally. It’s like the Godwin’s Law of all things desi-related.

Lakshmi Menon - Biba August 2008 2.jpg

I don’t know about you, but I’m heartily sick of the topic. But listening to dark-skinned model talk about it? A dark-skinned desi model? A famous international dark-skinned desi model?

[OMG. Before you even think about arguing whether she's dark or not, just. stop. She thinks she is, mmkay?]

From the MTV Iggy blog archives:

If you’re a non-white woman, how many skin whitening products have you come across? Quick, GO!! (You all thought of Fair & Lovely, didn’t you?) Want to know what a fabulous international supermodel thinks about this?

Meet Lakshmi Menon, runway star, fashion editorial darling, face of Hermès, and a native of Bangalore, India. When it comes skin color and beauty, she would know of what she speaks. And sweet heavens above, does she ever!! Post-colonial hangups, “wheatish” complexions, Lakshmi lays it out:

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Dark is Beautiful, Indeed

This past Memorial Day, I opened the medicine cabinet at my aunt’s house looking for toothpaste only to find a tube of Fair & Lovely staring back at me. My heart sank. I yelled for my 10-year old cousin. “What is THIS?” I asked her, holding the tube gingerly.

“What?” she said innocently, “It’s just suntan lotion so I don’t get dark.” I looked at the ingredient list. Indeed, among the ingredients was “sunscreen.” I shouldn’t have been surprised. This was the same girl who had teased her seven-year old darker-skinned cousin so much that a year later, the poor kid still adamantly states “I’m not pretty.” Little wonder given that our mothers come from a country where bridal makeup still means you pancake the woman in white foundation from the neck-up and then hide her hands under her dupatta so the color disparity doesn’t show. Continue reading

Model Minority Realized

Back in October I posted Kenneth Cole’s casting call for Sikh models. Just yesterday my brother-in-law texted me with a photo of the ad which covers the entire storefront of their 5th Ave flagship store, so the model is almost 20 feet tall. The model in the ad is Sonny Caberwal, a Duke and Georgetown Law grad who runs Tavalon, a high-end hipster tea “lounge” whose opening we covered earlier. Both the ad and the video below are from the Kenneth Cole website.

Here’s the blurb for the ad campaign:

Kenneth Cole, one of the world’s leading fashion designers, has launched a worldwide campaign to mark the brand’s 25th anniversary. The focus of his ad campaign is that “we all walk in different shoes”. [Link]

Most of the reaction to it in the Sikh blogosphere has been … well, positively gleeful (chortle, kvell, rejoicing). The one hesitant note comes from the new Sikh group blog The Langar Hall which wonders:

Something else makes me uncomfortable about this ad. Is something that’s supposed to be a symbol of high ideals, if not sacred itself (a sardar’s appearance), being commodified? If it is, is it inevitable that everything will one day be commodified?… [Link]

To Reema, I reply – ooooh baby, exotify me, commodify me. I can handle it . [And actually, as somebody who has been photographed a fair amount for similar reasons, I will admit it gets weird at times, but c'mon, doesn't Sonny look fly 20 feet tall in Rockefeller Center?]

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We wuz robbed!

In response to Abhi’s appeal from last year, there was a desi entrant in this year’s World Beard & Moustache Championships. Meet 30 year old Rundeep Singh, from the UK.

Can you believe Rundeep lost to Jack Passion (on the right) who took first place in the “natural beard” category? C’mon now – which is the better beard? What an outrageous call!

Heck, Rundeep Singh didn’t even place – this guy got second (for what is admittedly a very impressive beard) but this guy got third place. I dunno – neither the first nor third place winners seem as impressive to me as brother Rundeep.

What gives? Next time I want to see a desi who wins by more than a whisker .

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We Know Maths, Medicine AND Brows!

LOLsienna.JPG

Like all lal-blooded desi girls, I’m mildly obsessed with eyebrows.

Like all lal-blooded GIRLS, I’m mildly obsessed with celeb gossip.

Occasionally, the two, they meet.

It is possible that many of you saw photographs of Sienna Miller on the red carpet (there she is! on the right!), doing her damnedest to bring dark and furry back. Well, ABC News was inspired by her “caterpillars”; they have an entire article about what brows signify and the expert whom they quote is none other than Vaishaly Patel, “London’s eyebrow shaper to the stars”.

Vaishaly’s opinion on Sienna’s dark statement?

“Personally I think they look hideous…When you’ve got blond hair the number one rule is not to have black eyebrows. I think they’re a lovely shape but just on the wrong person.”
So, there is a right person.

Take heart, my brown sisters– YOU are that right person!

Bushy is back as far as eyebrows are concerned. So, poor Sienna was just trying to follow fashion. It’s just that not every fashion suits everyone.

Ah, for once, we (and by we, I mean you) win.

For this apparently lowbrow issue, there’s some highbrow analysis. Eyebrows tell a story of cultures, eras and politics. For example, in Iran “un-groomed” is a sign of virginity. The Mexican artist Frida Kahlo sported a unibrow. It became her signature, an expression of independence and feminist strength.

No comment on what brows meant to Bert, and that’s unfortunate.

There is plenty of history-lite, however, including an exploration of whether certain decades inspired severe arches or fierce tufts. Here’s a summary:

-1940s-50s: Eyebrows are shaved off completely, lest a girl seem “masculine”. Owwww.

-1960s: Girls who are boys, who like boys to be girls, who do boys like they’re girls, who do girls like they’re boys– always should be someone you reeeeally love. Free love = furriness.

-1980s: Yuppies are mean and therefore, women over-tweeze. The end.

-Today: Sensitive and enlightened are we. Pluck we do not.

There’s a backlash against the over-plucked brow, according to Jaimineey Patel, manager of a Blink Eyebrow Bar in London. Patel and a phalanx of eyebrow “threaders” are in the trenches, persuading clients to grow back their brows before they gently shape them with twisted thread held between their teeth.
We always do a thorough consultation,” explained Patel. “We ask them what they want out of their eyebrows.” What can you want from an eyebrow? More than function, apparently. More than a sponge effect to keep sweat out of your eyes.

We want to be as pretty as can be, DUH.

Apparently they frame your face. “To be honest,” confided Patel. “A lot of clients feel they’ve had a facelift because it opens your eyes out.”

I don’t know about a facelift, but I saw someone get their brows done for the first time this weekend, and suddenly, I was aware of the rare color of their irises AND their ridonkulous lashes. Yowza. Best $25 they ever spent, yindeed.

Eyebrows are the new window on the soul. So be careful Sienna, those caterpillars may reveal more than you want us to know.

New?! Not. Desis have known that truth all along. As for Sienna’s caterpillars, like Madonna and Gwen before her, the girl just wants to be down with the brown, obviously. Continue reading