#BeVisible Celebrates Visible Differences
And Beauty Beyond Convention
Continuing to challenge discriminatory tropes in the Global Beauty & Personal Care Industry, heritage, South Asian hair care brand, Vatika UK, has launched its next, visionary campaign that celebrates positive body image and the visible differences among us. The inspiring #BeVisible campaign promotes diversity and inclusion in the Beauty & Personal Care Industry by telling the stories of six, formidable women who identify as having a visible, physical difference.
Nearly one in five people in the UK self-identify as having a visible difference, yet South Asian brands barely reflect and represent people that look different or are disfigured in some way – continuing to circulate archaic and regressive notions of what is deemed ‘beautiful’. Visible differences can be described as a scar, mark or condition on the face or body that makes an individual look different such as vitiligo, alopecia or other noticeable skin diseases or impairments. It can be difficult to maintain self-worth and significance in a world where standards of beauty and physical appearance are largely exclusive and unidentifiable to the individual.
According to research, over 50 percent of people with visible differences feel they are regularly ignored by brands; two out of three people do not think visible differences are represented well in adverts; and one in five will avoid photos with family and friends because of the way they look. Personal networks, celebrities and social media are the three biggest influences that impact the way people feel about their appearance. Consistently bothered by the personal care & beauty industry and wider representation, people strongly feel there is a greater need for more actors with visible differences to play positive and central characters rather than being portrayed as victims or villains. Recognising this, Vatika UK continues to pave the way for positive change and representation.
#BeVisible marks the next chapter to follow the brand’s award-winning and visionary #StrongerRoots campaign, which signified a game-changing moment in the lucrative South Asian personal care industry by celebrating real and authentic women and individuals through the challenges they have overcome. Deconstructing insurmountable ‘values’ that the personal care & beauty industry has historically prescribed and perpetuated, Vatika UK’s #BeVisible campaign now sets an entirely new benchmark in beauty promotion and imaging by advocating stronger representation of people with visible differences through the personal accounts of six, remarkable women of substance.
Speaking about the #BeVisible campaign, Zakir Mansoori, Business Head UK & Europe, Dabur International says, “As a Hair care brand for the South Asian community, it is imperative that our campaigns are diverse and inclusive and that they highlight that physical appearance is unique and personal to us all as individuals, celebrating our visible differences. Our unique, physical characteristics make us beautiful in our own right. We need to unlearn the tropes and ‘standards’ that the global beauty industry has historically equated with what we consider beautiful. We need to empower individuals through inclusivity and ensure they identify with and see themselves reflected in beauty campaigns. Vatika UK’s #BeVisible campaign is a celebration of all that sets us apart through the beautiful diversity of our visible differences.”
Says Roshni Singh, Marketing Manager UK & Europe, Dabur International, “Following the success of our #StrongerRoots campaign, we are continuing to be on a journey of making Vatika a purpose-led brand and celebrate genuine and one-of-a-kind appearance with our latest campaign, #BeVisible. Each participant in this campaign is unique in their own way; each is a model and role-model in their own right. We want to empower people and instil confidence and connection in them through campaigns that they can identify with and relate to. Who says you have to look a certain way to be attractive? These limits and myths have been created by society and are perpetuated by the Beauty & Personal Care Industry. Times are changing and we at Vatika UK are honoured to be working on this campaign with such extraordinary and powerful women, demonstrating that beauty lies in diversity and difference.”
The ground-breaking campaign has come to fruition by galvanising the conceptual talents of award-winning, brand marketing agency, Ethnic Reach; direction by British Asian actor and director Ameet Chana and Vikrant Chopra; and music score by recording artist, Rishi Rich. With powerful images by photography duo, Amit & Naroop.
The narrative of each participant in the campaign – every one of them a role model in their own right – talks candidly about their situation and visible difference; their personal struggle; the self-doubt they overcame to transform and live their lives on their own terms; and the inner strength that galvanised that transformation.
Meet the Vatika #BeVisible Champions
Burns and scars survivor Tulsi Vagjiani tells, “I survived a plane crash aged ten in which I lost my immediate family and sustained 45 per cent (2nd and 3rd degree) burns to my face and body. I always felt my scars were a huge limitation on me accomplishing so much more. I endured extensive years of bullying from the South Asian community. My confidence and self-worth changed as I took my journey inwards recognising my self-acceptance and voice. There is no fair representation of someone that looks like me. I want to be part of a change for all of those that are suffering in silence. I want to show that visible differences do not need to define who you are.”
Harshi Gudkha with Down’s Syndrome tells, “18 years ago my parents were told I was going to be born with Down’s Syndrome. It is not a disease. Being born with an extra copy of the 21st chromosome means I look different; my speech is difficult to understand; and I have a learning difficulty. I don’t see myself as different; it is other people who see me differently. We have the same feelings and moods as everyone else. People started having conversations with each other and not me. I started feeling left out because they couldn’t understand me. Doctors said I wouldn’t be able to walk, talk, read or write. Look at me now! I may look small, but my thinking is big.”
With Brittle Bone disease, Shani Dhanda explains, “My condition is and has always been a part of my identity, just like I’m a woman; I’m British; my ethnicity is Indian; I’m a sister and a daughter. I can’t be separated from it and live a different life as if it doesn’t exist, because every single moment of my life has been lived through this lens. In South Asian culture disability faces a further sense of stigma than it does in mainstream society. You can’t be what you can’t see. I have always felt under-represented because we all want to feel we belong. I have decided that I must change this.”
With skin condition Vitiligo, Angela Selvarajah says, “My Vitiligo started when I was 14 years old. It was so difficult to accept when I should have been confident and carefree at that time and enjoying my life. Coming from an Asian background, marriage is seen as one of the most important parts of every girl’s life. I wasn’t seen as normal and started to feel like a burden; it was just as difficult for my parents as it was for me. I went to Sri Lanka for my cousin’s wedding and found out another was being planned – for me! The reasoning was that when my vitiligo gets worse and more obvious, no one would want to marry me, and I would end up on my own. I want to move away from the stereotype of being normal and make my own normal.”
Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Congenital Amputation and Cancer survivor Anoushe Husain tells, “As a child, I didn’t see myself as disabled. I was born missing my right arm below the elbow but that didn’t stop me from doing things; I just did some things differently. When Ehlers-Danlos syndrome started manifesting fully as a teen I didn’t have a name for it so I just thought something was going wrong and my body was failing me. Then I got cancer; I had to face the reality that my health had declined, and I had an invisible disability as well as a visible one. It’s taken me years to accept the term, own it and now use it as part of my identity. I am now a new part-time wheelchair user, having to go through a tonne of new processes and appointments to rebuild my health. Accepting that I’ve had a decline has been difficult.”
With Sturge-Weber Syndrome / Port Wine Stain, Prisha Bathia says, “I grew up not understanding my condition and became obsessed with hiding my birthmark for fear of ridicule. Growing up with a visible difference in the Asian community wasn’t easy. It was hard being compared to everyone all the time and feeling left out. I felt embarrassed, ashamed, and unworthy. I don’t want people to feel all alone like me. For many of us with a chronic condition, one of the hardest parts of adapting to an illness is your indefinite identity. It can be hard to recognise the person you are due to a longstanding illness. I still struggle with my limitations being so apparent. I will have these conditions for the rest of my life. I could be sad, angry, or hopeless. But I choose to let my chronic illness make a change in the world and, most importantly, make me kind – both to myself and to others.”