I'm a black woman who loves Bollywood, why is my colour an issue?

When Indian people love Western things, do people laugh at them?
I'm a black woman who loves Bollywood, why is my colour an issue?
I'm a black woman who loves Bollywood, why is my colour an issue?
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By Fabienne Menoud

I was 14 when I discovered Bollywood through my geography lessons. I watched Bend it like Beckham and I was hooked. I’m 26 now and still love Bollywood as much.

In my house, I have at least a hundred CDs of Indian movies, four or five books to learn Hindi, one book about Indian culture and another three about traveling to India.

I also convinced my mother to subscribe to three Indian channels on TV because of my love of Bollywood movies and Koffee with Karan.

I’m writing this open letter to show what it’s like being a Bollywood fan of colour and from another ethnicity. Because some people don't see a Haitian girl being a fan of Bollywood. These two things just don’t seem to go together in their minds, I don't know why.

People still look at me in a strange way when I say I'm a Bollywood addict and my favourite actress is Deepika Padukone! There have been many situations where I’ve felt like this.

For instance, once, a famous star was shooting a show abroad. She was meeting her fans in New York so I went there with my cousin. We were the only black people in the line.

A person from the star’s team came to us and asked us if we knew her. Just because we were black, it was hard for them to believe that we knew the actor.

In another incident, I had gone to Madrid to cover the IIFA awards last year. My friend and I were attending a press conference when a lady looked at us in a peculiar way and asked, "Are you new? You don't look familiar?" I told her we were with the French media and were covering the IIFA awards for the first time.

At the end of the press conference, all the media persons were asking celebrities for some pictures, so I did too. I won't name the celebrities, but when I came to two celebrities and asked them for a picture, one of them looked at me and left!

I mean, he clearly saw me and heard me, but he just left! I was quite shocked. At that moment, I asked myself if it had something to do with my skin colour.

Later, media interviews were happening. Each celebrity was in a room. My friend and I wanted to assist in an interview but much to my shock, the bodyguard let a bunch of journalists, including my friend (who is not black) enter the room but not me! Not even when I told him that we were together.

After that, I was so mad and hurt because I really felt that this was because I was a black woman.

This treatment continued at the subsequent events as well. I felt singled out and unwelcome, because people were looking at me and laughing at me. Once a kid kicked me, too.  

Although the IIFA awards were a wonderful experience for me, I cannot forget these situations which reminded me that being a black Bollywood fan is not easy.

Another incident happened when I went to watch Ae Dil Hai Muskhil in a theatre in my town. People were looking at me as though I was an animal.

There are no rules and laws about who should love what! When Indian people love Western things, do people laugh at them? So then why do they think it's funny or unbelievable that I love India, know about Bollywood industry, Bollywood celebrities and more?

I listen to Bollywood songs all the time. I have a t-shirt of Deepika Padukone. I’ve even met her and have a poster of Bajirao Mastani in my room. I love Indian food and I'm learning Hindi, too. But I’m still black, Haitian and proud!

You should be proud that people like me like your country, your culture, your industry. You should be proud that we want to meet you to tell you that we love you! Do not look at us in a weird way just because of our skin colour.

We are in 2017 and if you think still think that only Indians know about Bollywood, you're wrong!

- A black fan of Bollywood

Fabienne Menoud lives in Switzerland and works as a nurse. This letter was originally published on opnltter.com and an edited version has been republished here with Fabienne’s permission. 

Views expressed are personal opinions of the author.

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