There is dark mode and light mode on Instagram, but I have recently discovered brown mode! It’s not actually a display setting, it is a growing movement of South Asian representation.
Even up to five years ago, if you would have asked me who in the media best right now represents me, I would have struggled to give you an answer. All the TV I watched, all the books I read, centred around girls with fair skin and bright blue eyes.
While there were characters on the big and small screen who came from my culture, they were always burdened with over the top comedic accents and nerdy syndromes, or worse, the terrorist and oppressive villain. As a Brit-Asian growing up, I was often called Jasmine or Poccahontas in primary school. Neither princess came from my culture, but all I could do was shrug and say “Well, close enough”.
With YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok blowing up individuals into stardom, there is someone out there for anyone to look at and relate to. But it feels like only recently, especially on Instagram, has diversity finally reached the Home Tab.
While the call of diversity in the media has been in demand, I am delighted to finally see South Asian celebrities and characters finally stepping into the limelight. They use their voices to be loud and unapologetically themselves, showing beauty and culture in a way that is uniquely their own.
Not only has the cultural side of South Asians grown on Instagram, but so has the sexuality and gender identity, which has long since been suppressed into the boring categories of cis straight boys and girls.
The relationship between culture and queer is rocky for a POC queer. It’s comfortable to be silent to not cause any drama within the family, especially as a bisexual. You worry coming out will destroy the relationship you have with your family, that it will cause pain and distress. But in the end there is always the chance you end up with someone they would approve of all along, and all the pain could have been avoided and you blame yourself for the burden of that misery.
But that is no way to live. To be silent and hope things work out without revealing your colourful secret.
Voices are getting louder. South Asians of the queer community have begun to share their lives and experiences. They’re an inspiration to an audience of brown kids, like me, who never thought they’d see anyone they could possibly relate to.
Don’t believe me? Well thankfully, I’ve done the research and here are just a few of those gorgeous brown faces!
PARAMSahib – Living his unicorn life of colour, blending the gendered lines and creative colour popping and epic fashion!
Lily Singh – YouTube’s star vlogger and bisexual star. The first woman of colour to host her own late-night show!
Alok Vmenon – Speaker and writer and with a flair for fashion. Their gender holds no bounds!
Jameela Jamil – Feminist activist, actress and out and proud bisexual!
Zain Shah – They show that make-up has no limits and gender is not a thing to be pigeonholed.
Sharan Dhaliwal – Creative pinoneer and Editor of Burnt Roti, plus an all round queer legend
Vishakha – A model who shows the sensual beauty of brown bodies with no shame.
This is but the surface of the chai. There are many more faces, voices and representation like these on Instagram. Sometimes it takes to see something familiar to realise how different you are. With these influencers and so many others, they have turned my Instagram into a haven of brown skin love! 🤎🤎🤎
Written by Prishant K Jutlla