Dozens of women have endorsed Lakme over the years. But some have stayed with us for the longest time. We look at 13 such women who have defined what beauty stood for and reflected the evolving desires of India.
Lakme was first established by the Tatas on the request of Jawaharlal Nehru, who was concerned with Indian women spending foreign exchange on beauty products. So it wasn't surprising that the classy and urbane Rekha became the face of a company that primarily catered to the elite class of the country. We are told that the ad, which was designed by daCunha Associates, catches Rekha at a moment when she was on the threshold of superstardom but not entirely there.
At 5'7" Sonu Walia was perhaps the obvious choice to become Lakme's fresh new face of the early '80s. The sexy Miss India was featured in many Lakme commercials even as the brand itself was slowly but surely exploring newer markets.Walia showed off her shapely legs in Lakme's cold wax print ad on the one hand and became the girl-next-door in their lip gloss campaign on the other. Clearly, India's rising middle class was growing to prominence and could not be ignored.
As the '80s progressed there was a clear need to dispel the myths that surrounded make-up and cosmetics so as to make the Indian middle class use the products. The idea was to tell them that there was no harm in using beauty products. The campaign featuring Shyamolie Verma did just that. Educating consumers and encouraging them to use makeup was the call of the day.Outside of being a Lakme girl Shyamolie created some ripples when she starred in Mira Nair's controversial film Kama Sutra. She also appeared in another film called Rog that starred Slumdog Millionaire actor Irrfan Khan. Ironically, that too ran into a good deal of controversy because of its posters.
And then came the '90s. The Liberalisation Programme opened up the markets. That's when the brand picked Aishwarya Rai as their new model. Indeed, times were changing and Ash, who went on to become Miss World became synonymous with modern India and its changing aspirations.It would be awhile before she would create some dent at the box office, but the young star was already creating waves in the ad world. Aishwarya also appealed to the new and discerning consumer who was getting exposed to a wide range of international products.
Her dusky complexion notwithstanding, the Bong beauty was next in line. For a culture obsessed with fairness, Bipasha must've come across as an unlikely model. But a close look at the pictures will reveal that she isn't as dusky in these pictures.
Our first thought on looking at these pictures was: "Hey this looks like Sonam Kapoor!" Akanksha Mathur may not be a face that many of us remember. Hell, she even disappeared soon after her successful Lakme ad commercial. Apparently the model got married and has settled for a quiet life, but makes her presence felt from time to time at social events.
Laila Rouass became the face of the Lakme in the late '90s. It was also the time when Indian diaspora had begun to find its voice in films and literature. Born in England to Moroccan-Indian parents, Laila Rouass was perhaps the ideal face that represented the crossover generation. Rouass, who is a known celebrity in the British television circuit these days has also acted in the television adaptation of Meera Syal's book Life Isn't all Ha Ha He He.
Lisa Ray and Yana Gupta
With international brands like Revlon, Maybelline and L'Oreal among others crowding the market, out went the Indian girls and in came the firangs. Yana Gupta and Lisa Ray became the faces of Lakme.Meanwhile, the perception of beauty was also changing. It was no longer about just looking good but looking healthy. Yana, for instance, endorsed a vitamin-enriched lipstick. Traditional parameters of beauty were changing too and Lisa Ray with her strong personality and chutzpah became the face of a generation that genuinely believed that beauty wasn't just skin deep.
Raima Sen and Katrina Kaif
With an increasing emphasis on celebrity endorsements in the first decade of the new millennium, Lakme decided to hop on the bandwagon. Raima Sen and Katrina Kaif became the new faces and stayed on for some time. But sooner rather than later, Lakme was to return to non-Bollywood entities.
Indrani, we are told, had been a Lakme girl for quite some time. But it wasn't until a few years ago that we saw her being plastered all over the town and countryside. With her chiselled looks and oh-my-gosh vital stats, Indrani Dasgupta became the hot 'new face' to look forward to.
Amrit came to the Indian shores only a couple of years ago. She featured alongside Indrani in some commercials but has also done a few on her own. Her father is English-Scot and her mother Indian. She has currently taken over hosting After Hrs, a prominent lifestyle TV show from model Nina Manuel.