When Nina Davuluri filled Venice with colour

These days the 78th Venice International Film Festival is being held on the Lido, and my thoughts go back to two years ago when Nina Davuluri filled Venice with colour. There was a crisp breeze, the sun was drawing shapes and colours, the cinema was on fire. Nina arrived with a smile on the classic Riva motorboat made of antique wood and walked the red carpet with the lightness of a butterfly.

Nina Davuluri, from Miss America to human rights activist

Nina is a true New Yorker who proudly displays her Indian heritage. In 2014, she was proclaimed Miss America, after achieving the title of Miss New York. Her performance at the finale was an energetic Indian dance, which engaged the audience and jury. She had participated in order to pay for college, and to prove that you didn’t have to be blonde with blue eyes to become Miss America. Her determination combined with beauty and seriousness, and she achieved her goal.

Since the day she won, her life has changed. But the direction she has taken is different from what one might have expected: while maintaining her allure, that mixture of elegance and sophistication, Nina has started to travel around the United States and the world to speak out about discrimination based on skin colour. Even as a child, she was told, “You’re too dark to… Don’t sunbathe, you’ll be too dark…”. So she took it seriously and became an activist for the rights of those who are discriminated against.

When Nina Davuluri filled Venice with colour during the Venice International Film Festival

It has been two crazy years since Nina came to Venice to present our COMPLEXion project and to receive the Starlight Award. She came with a special light and the colour of her homeland, the colour of one of the oldest cultures in the world, the colour of richness of life.

At the Hotel Excelsior Nina Davuluri, together with myself, Lia Beltrami, we presented COMPLEXion. The program was hosted by journalist Tiziana Ferrario. Tullio Serafini, president of the Madonna di Campiglio Tourist Board, which supported the initiative, was present, together with the Aurora Vision team and the Religion Today Film Festival. And so Venice was tinged with intense colours.


COMPLEXion  is an eye-opening and revolutionary documentary that addresses toxic beauty standards through compelling human stories beginning in South Asia.  The vision is simple: to dismantle archaic beliefs and provoke global human acceptance; regardless the color of your skin.All this through the voice and personal journey of Nina Davuluri.

COMPLEXion forces us to be better, dig deeper and answer the question, WHY? The time is NOW!

From Venice to India and Bangladesh

After the lights of Venice, the red carpet, the awards and the glamour, we set off on a long journey to shoot COMPLEXion in Bangladesh and India. Nina travelled back to her places of origin, and along the way met many young girls and even boys, who suffer from   skin colour discrimination; girls who start using bleaching creams as young as 6/7 years old. People who are valued less because they are darker. And Nina said even louder: enough!

Nina in India

Back home, while we were editing the documentary film, she launched a campaign on social media to ask the big companies to at least remove that “fair is better” from the branding of lightening cosmetics. Together with other voices, the campaign touched millions of people and a positive response came in June 2020 from several brands such as Unilever, L’Oreal, Johnson&Johnson. The New York Times covered it at length with an important feature.

Nina Davuluri is not stopping. During the various lockdowns she has continued to carry on the fight and has tried in every way to keep ‘morale high’. We look forward to seeing her in Europe again, to present her work and to bring that enriching colour. Because it is only by valuing differences that the world can evolve in harmony.

Nina and Lia on a train in India

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