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Meet the Didi:
Your content has been able to capture aspects of being South Asian and Tamil in very creative ways on social media. Why is this important to you?
I think it’s important to represent my identity in order to show my community and the world other versions of dark skin. It’s been especially important to me to represent myself as Tamil, since our bodies are constantly left out in South Asian narratives, Western narratives, media, entertainment and other platforms. Tamil people have been displaced globally and deserve a better narrative than what we were brought up with. However, it’s especially important for me to make my identity known to set a better example for my community and rise up together with other dark skin communities. My intent and motive is to create content that empowers us as one through recognizing our differences and uniting brown, Black and Indigenous people.
You’re also very unapologetic about being brown and really standing against some of the stereotypes of being a brown girl; how did you become confident in your skin?
I became much more confident after years of trauma within my home, family, school and through moving out and becoming my own person. Seeing more dark bodies that looked close to mine thrive and succeed also allowed me to heal and look at myself in a more confident and beautiful light. Womyn like Jackie Aina and Rihanna really paved the way for me and other brown and Black womyn globally. Trying to find representation of Tamil womyn is next to impossible in mainstream western and South Asian media which is why I will be forever grateful for Black womyn and their contributions to representation and awareness.
Tamil womyn have been sexually repressed through colonization and patriarchal culture and caste-ism and it’s extremely important for me to not only bring content that allows us to not hate our skin, but to also stop internally and externally hyper-sexualizing our own bodies through shame.
What has life been like producing content online?
It’s been uplifting, empowering, scary and at many times extremely harmful to my mental health. Being dark skin and Tamil comes with a lot of unpacking, harm and discrimination by not just white communities but by South Asians and other Tamils. Appreciating my own body has its own consequences and this has been extremely evident in the last few years. But it has also made me realize why it’s even more important for me to continue to put out content that not only empowers me but empowers bodies that feel the same and want change.
What’s your advice for Didis who want to follow similar paths of modelling and content creation?
Be yourself and be unique and true to what you want to see in the world. I’m still navigating the modelling world and would like to be signed soon and I am always looking to learn about it myself. Modelling is my dream and I strive for it every day through my own content creations.
You’re also quite open about smoking weed, donning tattoos; what is some of the reaction you get from other brown people?
People are fascinated by my openness to it and quite frankly love it or hate it. However, as we evolve and move forward, it will become more normalized and brown people will stop being so afraid of the beautiful herb that has so much to do with our roots.
Tell me more about dark, deluxe and definite?
It started out as a school project and was a resource art page that was to embrace, empower and unite Black and brown dark skin bodies. I created that content as a free resource and page that any agency would like to include in physical spaces to decolonize their work areas and allow service users to feel at ease and empowered by seeing it.
What we’re reading:
The New York Times had a piece focusing on divorced South Asians who found friendships within community.
Book Riot has a list on the best audio books by Muslim women.
What we’re watching:
The second season of Amazon’s Four More Shots Please was released last month. Our social media feeds have been filled with references to this show — we will spend this month catching up!
Life during COVID-19:
For our Didis in creative industries, we know that many of you have been greatly affected by this pandemic. If you are offering online workshops or e-commerce or any other initiative to help keep your business alive in this time, please let us know and we would love to promote it. With that in mind, if you are able to, you can donate to the artist relief fund to help artists whose events have been cancelled.
— Arti Patel