Nidhi Sunil L'Oreal Paris

L’Oréal Paris has named Nidhi Sunil as its newest global ambassador.

Sunil is a former environmental attorney from Kerala, India, who began modeling in 2011. She is L’Oréal Paris’ first Indian model global ambassador, though the company has previously worked with Bollywood actresses such as Deepika Padukone.

Sunil is an advisory board member and spokesperson for the Invisible Girl Project, an organization that aims to end gendercide and infanticide that disproportionately affects young girls in India. She has also spoken out a number of times against colorism, penning an essay on the topic for Dazed in 2019.

“Confronting perspectives on beauty and other people’s perceptions on how they view you is obviously horrific because it shapes your sense of self-worth and self-esteem,” Sunil, who is represented by One Management as of 2018, told WWD in a phone interview.

“Growing up, there was always this weird colonial hangover,” she said. “To grow up in a country that had that much self-loathing for its own skin color was interesting. It shaped my perception on beauty.”

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In a statement, Delphine Viguier-Hovasse, global brand president of L’Oréal Paris, called Sunil “a perfect spokesperson” for the company’s message that “every girl is born worth it.”

“From lawyer to model, actress to activist, Nidhi uses her energy to speak out against colorism and gendercide and to campaign for girls to be as valued as much as boys,” Viguier-Hovasse said.

Jawahar Chirimar, chairman of One Management, said Sunil’s partnership with L’Oréal Paris “allows her a global platform to speak to and educate thoughtfully on issues like colorism and gendercide.”

Last summer, as the beauty industry underwent a racial reckoning, L’Oréal said would remove words such as “whitening” and “lightening” from the marketing for what it now refers to as its “skin-evening” products. The move was prompted by consumer backlash to companies such as L’Oréal, Unilever and Johnson & Johnson profiting off of skin-lightening products, which have roots in colonial ways of thinking.

Skin lighteners are a growing global market worth nearly $9 billion as of 2020, according to a Research and Markets report. The Asian-Pacific market for skin lighteners is expected to reach $1.6 billion by 2027, according to the report.

Asked for her thoughts on L’Oréal continuing to sell skin-lightening products, though under amended marketing, Sunil said “it’s a thin line to walk.”

“It’s a doozy because there’s a market for it,” she said. She referenced controversial, mainstream advertising for Unilever’s Fair and Lovely products, which she called “bleach in a tube.”

“Working with somebody like L’Oréal, it’s a huge platform. By myself, I would never be able to get out to as many people as I want with this message,” Sunil said. “At the same time, they’re catering to a demographic where there’s clearly a demand for certain products. The way I hope to bridge that gap is essentially by continuing to do what I’m doing to change the dialogue and change the way people see themselves in my own little bubble of influence, opening gates and doors that were previously closed to me.”

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