Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Why you need more South Asian women on your Instagram feed

These articles have been written by the latest cohort of the Practice Makes UnPerfect programme – a course that helps women find and finesse their public voices.

By Naveen Mahil Customer Success Executive Adimo

Being a British Asian woman, it took me until the age of 22 until I started feeling comfortable in my own skin.

For most of my life, I felt ‘less than’ because the way I looked did not fit the norm, and what I was used to seeing. I didn’t see people who looked like me in TV programmes, films or later in my life, on my social media feed. 

A lot of my insecurities came from what I saw on social media. When I was aged 14/15, apps such as Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter became popular, which shifted importance to the way you looked and how many likes your appearance was worth. I realised images and videos that started to gain popularity  tended to be of white men and women, with people of ethnic minorities being left in the background. 

Over the past few years, brands have begun to realise the power their social content has on consumers. Social media is shaping the society we live in; it paves  the way for which trends are popular or conversely what brands get ‘cancelled’. I’m sure most people reading this article have been influenced by social media in some way, whether to buy a certain dress, cut your hair in a new style or even follow a social movement. A study by Procter & Gamble revealed that 84% of women believe social media drives their definition of beauty. With a number this high, how can we underestimate the power social media has on the way we judge ourselves? 

Recently, and especially after the BLM movement’s voice got louder in Summer 2021, we have seen a shift in digital advertising aesthetics. Brands have started listening to their consumers, who are asking for inclusivity in the creative they see. If we use your products or services, then why aren’t we being included in your key visuals? 

Some brands have been great at this since launch, like the Fenty empire which embraces everyone no matter their race, shape or sexuality. But despite the progress, there is still a distinct lack of South Asian representation in these campaigns from self-proclaimed ‘diverse’ brands like Nike and Urban Decay. When South Asians make up the largest ethinic minority group within the UK, why are we not represented as such in media campaigns? 

There is a blatant lack of South Asian men and women across media globally, whether that be print or digital. A perfect example of this is the Vogue September issue, the holy grail of all things fashion and beauty, which sets the precedent of what we can expect to see within the industry throughout the following year. Given the global reach of Vogue, you would expect its pages to reflect its audience;  filled with a diverse range of models. But this isn’t the case: token Asian models are featured occasionally, and even though the September 2021 issue features the *beautiful* Gemma Chan, this isn’t enough to represent such a vast and diverse part of the world. 

What brands are nailing it? Live Tinted is a cosmetic line created by Deepica Mutyala, an influencer who went viral after posting a video on tips to cover dark circles using red lipstick for deeper skin tones. Her brand was founded after noticing a huge gap in the market, based on the ethos of “And every shade in between”. She’s creating products for hyperpigmentation (something often seen in deeper skin tones) and an inclusive community which is helping forge the way for new product development within the industry. Deepica and her brand are setting a standard all brands should be achieving as a minimum, which is to be inclusive, cultured and kind.

So what can we do about it? It’s important to support the work of South Asian men and women, shout their names and give them the recognition and influence they deserve. We need to continue to engage with the work they are putting out, and encourage others to do the same. That way, brands can no longer ignore us. We need to continue celebrating the brands that empower us and include us in their narrative, like Live Tinted. Seeing people like you online, and in social media, is key to fostering a sense of belonging; and everyone should feel like they belong. 

If diversifying your feed feels a little overwhelming, I’m here to get you started. Below I have listed a few accounts I recommend that will make your social experience more interesting, more dynamic, and more representative of a truly inclusive world in 2021: 

  • @southasianqueens – a space to empower first generation South Asian queens
  • @whatwouldtheauntiessay – a podcast discussing taboo topics with a huge range of guests
  • @YungSingh35ol – DJ incorporating traditional Punjabi music with the latest DnB
  • @bhambnails – Celebrity nail artist based in London
  • @ankita.creates – Fashion influencer who incorporates both Western and Eastern fashion
  • @faceandfits (aka ME) – a lil girl with a love of fashion and beauty