Racist ad featuring Aishwarya Rai Bachchan withdrawn after backlash

Published: April 23, 2015

A racist ad by a jewellery brand featuring Former Miss World Aishwariya Rai Bachchan was removed after the Bollywood megastar faced severe backlash. 

Indian newspaper The Hindu ran a full page ad by Kalyan Jewellers on April 17, featuring their long-time ambassador Aishwariya. The ad showed the actress sitting poised adorned in precious jewelry depicting a luxurious and wealthy woman. However, the contentious part of the ad was the little dark skinned boy standing behind her, barely clothed, holding an umbrella over her head.


Although Kalyan’s previous ads have shown Ash in a regal spotlight which fits the brand’s image, their recent ad, however, crossed the line.

It seems that the ad was inspired by a 1935 photo by fashion photographer Horst P Horst titled “Model, Boy, Umbrella, Vogue”.


Child activists were outraged at the glamorization of child labour and racist representation in the ad. They wrote a letter addressed to Aishwariya via Scroll and pointed out the similarities between Kalyan Jewellers’ latest ad and the 18th century European portraits which displayed the same racist treatment and child labour on the hands of white aristocrats.

The letter directed concern towards Aishwariya and the brand, asking to cease ad circulation. “We wish to convey our dismay at the concept of this advertisement, and that you have, perhaps unthinkingly, associated with such a regressive portrayal of a child to sell a product,” reads part of the letter.

This was not all, the actress faced heavy criticism on social media as the public showed utter discontent towards her ad:

Soon after the public outcry,  Ash’s publicist released a statement on Wednesday and cleared the air by showing an image from the original shoot saying, “the final layout is the prerogative of the creative team of a brand”.


The publicist’s statement is addressed to Farah Naqvi, Nisha Agrawal, Enakshi Ganguly, Bharti Ali, Madhu Mehra, Shantha Sinha, Harsh Mander and Mridula Bajaj, who have signed an open letter posted on an online portal.

Kalyan Jewellers apologized following the incident and withdrew the ad. Their spokesperson said, “With regard to the item Open letter to Aishwarya Rai Bachchan: This ad you figure in is insidiously racist, the creative was intended to present the royalty, timeless beauty and elegance. However, if we have inadvertently hurt the sentiments of any individual or organization, we deeply regret the same. We have started the process of withdrawing this creative from our campaign.”

This blatant depiction of racism and child labour has yet to end and was also seen in Pakistan. In 2013 fashion designer Amna Aqeel, published her ‘Be My Slave’ fashion shoot in DIVA Magazine which showed a similar image. It portrayed a white model sitting in high-end clothes being served by a dark child slave. The shoot received a great deal of criticism from the public and was called tasteless and racist.


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Reader Comments (6)

  • ilyas
    Apr 23, 2015 - 5:47PM

    Disgusting, to say the least. Human dignity trampled. Money really talks. Recommend

  • Lord of the Ring
    Apr 23, 2015 - 9:11PM

    Now what these actors and actresses have got to do anything with ethics ??

    No matter how they pose like pseudo intellectuals their

    intellect revolves around money

    come what mayRecommend

  • GI Joe
    Apr 24, 2015 - 2:06AM

    “Amna Aqeel, published her ‘Be My Slave’ fashion shoot”

    Is this a joke? These Pakistani liberals are losing it. They don’t even know their masters have long given up glamorizing slavery.Recommend

  • Nasir
    Apr 24, 2015 - 3:49AM

    Well…why can’t we have a light skinned boy holding Umbrella? It would fit better wouldn’t it?Recommend

  • Apr 24, 2015 - 9:43AM

    @GI Joe:
    They just want sales!Recommend

  • goggi (Lahore)
    Apr 24, 2015 - 1:22PM

    We cannot deny the bitter fact, that Child slavery and Child abuse are till today an integral part of our inhuman societies.
    Nobel prize winner Kailash Satyarthi shall definitely share my opinion! Recommend

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