Dr Monika Singh Gangotra is a trained psychologist, mother and soon to be published children's author. Releasing in July, Sunflower Sisters is an uplifting and empowering book about colourism and sisterhood. I spoke to Monika about the lasting impact her elders' words had on her body image growing up...
Monika: "I grew up under the glorious Australian sun just a stones throw away from the most beautiful beaches in the world. It was perfection but I often look back at my childhood with pangs of regret. Oh how I wish I had created more memories of that time. Playing in the sand, hunting for mini beasts in the rock pools, rolling down the sand dunes until every nook and cranny was filled with golden grains of sand or riding a boogie board, the waves pushing me back to the shore.
These memories. These adventures. They were the best times but there was often a shadow cast upon them. Slip (on a t-shirt), Slop (on some sunscreen), Slap (on a hat) was a very popular sun safety campaign when I was young. But my elders were more concerned about the sun changing the colour of my skin, crossly saying I had gotten a “permanent tan” whenever I’d return from a sun-filled escapade. Trails of sand would follow me to the shower where I was told to scrub scrub scrub the “sun burn” off my skin that was making me look dirty. Sun safety was practiced so I wouldn’t get a tan. Not to ward off the potentially damaging effects of sun exposure.
I believed I wouldn’t ever be beautiful if my skin got too dark and carried that throughout my whole life. It affected so many of the choices I made about being outside. Until I became a mummy.
I never want my daughter to carry these ridiculous notions of beauty. I want her to explore without worrying about the colour of her skin. Now the way I feel about the sunshine on my skin is pure freedom. Which is why I wrote Sunflower Sisters.
The colour of your skin has nothing to do with how beautiful you are and we want to make sure that everyone understands how amazing they are, exactly as they are. Playing safely in the sunshine should never bring you anything other than warmth and happiness."
Kate: Now that you're able to fully embrace the sunshine season, what are you most looking forward to this summer?
Monika: Picnics in the British summer sun with my babies is what I am most excited for this summer.
Kate: I love the quote 'Your body is the least interesting thing about you'. What's the most interesting thing about you?
Monika: I think the most interesting thing about me is that I can eat a whole green chilli without breaking a sweat!