BY TANIYA DUTTA
An Indian model is taking the internet by storm because of her uncanny resemblance to pop star Rihanna.
Renee Kujur, 23, leaves heads turned whenever she walks past people-whether at a parking lot or a shopping mall. She then calmly poses for selfies and obliges her fans with autographs.
People do realise she is actually not the Barbadian singer but for a community that has deep rooted fetish for fair skin, Renee’s dark, brown skin and unusual features make her stand out in the crowd.
A blushing Renee says: “It is a fantastic feeling to be compared to Rihanna. She is sexy and beautiful and she is dark. I feel glad to be compared to the goddess of music.”
But the 5’7 feet tall model born as Renu to parents from Chhattisgarh-an eastern state with heavily dominated tribals with distinct dark skin and sharp features, wasn’t always treated with love and affection.
Like many dark-skinned Indian women, Renee was constantly the butt of jokes of her pals in school and college.
So much that she never had a boyfriend as she wasn’t considered attractive enough and even though she liked a boy in her school Renee could never muster enough courage to tell him her feelings.
She said: “I was three when I had participated in a fancy dress competition. I had dressed as a fairy but as soon as I came on the stage, someone shouted, look at the ‘black’ fairy.
“I was shocked. I couldn’t understand how to react and left the stage crying. That incident had scarred me for my teenage life.
“While other girls in my school enjoyed being the centre of attention of boys, I was always cornered.
“I had liked a guy at school but I was told I am not enough attractive to have a boyfriend.”
Renee, however, never felt flawed.
She said: “It was strange that I wasn’t considered beautiful or normal even though back home I saw all the dark faces like me.
“I would feel bad at times but not even once I had complained of having a dark skin. I have always cherished my skin tone and I feel very confident of my features,” said the model who has always lived in New Delhi.
With this faith, Renee entered the fashion industry two years ago. And while the acceptance of dark skin women is relatively wider in the fashion world, the model said it wasn’t as easy to get work.
Renee said: “Rejection became a constant in my life. I soon realised the industry was as obsessed with fairness as the society outside,
“Photographers would tell makeup artists to make me 3-4 tones lighter and heavily photoshop the pictures.”
Six months ago, a photographer friend called her for a beauty shoot.
Making her look like Rihanna wasn’t the motive but when the pictures came out, they turned out to be too striking to not believe her resemblance.
Ashish Chawla, the fashion photographer who took the pictures said: “It was definitely not the intention. I have always believed in having a distinct identity. All I wanted was to shoot with a dark skin model.
“I believe in appreciating and accepting our natural skin tone and features but I am happy with Renee getting all the attention because of her pictures.”
Early this week, Renee’s pictures had made it to a leading city newspaper.
Since then, Renee has been swarmed by complements, a massive jump of followers on her Instagram account that she, not surprisingly goes with the name ‘BADGIRLRENE’ and also a few good offers that have made into her way.
The model said: “I was definitely told by friends at college that I bore a striking resemblance to the pop singer but I would always laugh off that part. But soon everyone was saying the same thing.
“If I would go to a shopping mall, women, particularly from African countries and origin would come up to me for selfies.
“Photographer would also tell their clients that I resemble Rihanna. That way, it was easier to convince them. No one could deny that Rihanna wasn’t beautiful. That sort of worked in my favour.
“I am very happy that I ma being gradually accepted and complemented for my features. The Rihanna factor has certainly turned out to be a blessing. But I believe it is high time that the ‘fair is beautiful’ myth be busted.
“Just because I look like a big star I am getting attention but I have my own identity and I would want people to accept me and people who are as dark as me.”