Are they beauty pageant contestants or Stepford Wives?

Organizers of the Miss India competition are feeling the heat after a photo of 13 lovely ladies was released, in which they all look the same — with near-identical light-skinned complexions and glossy, straight, shoulder-length tresses. And a photo collage appearing in the Times of India newspaper consists of 30 head shots of the similarly resembling contestants.

Grooming expert for the pageant, Shamita Singham, told the BBC the original pictures had to be retouched because the contestants looked “like plastic.”

She also mentioned the graphic department was ordered not to alter the women’s skin tones, but blamed a tight deadline and the texture of newspaper print for their appearances.

India has long held an obsession with skin lightness, favoring it over darker hues. Since the 1970s, when India’s first fairness cream was peddled to consumers, skin-lightening makeup has been among the highest-selling in the country.

Recently, Bollywood actors and actresses have endorsed the products in advertisements.

Those gel and cream commercials promise fairer skin, which will lead to love and career success.

Indian actress Sai Pallavi confirmed she rejected the equivalent of a $300,000 deal to shill a fairness cream earlier this year.

“I can say that the standards we have are wrong. This is the Indian color,” said Pallavi. “We can’t go to foreigners and ask them why they’re white.”

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