Bridgerton Season 2 Was a Refreshing Turn for South Asian Beauty—Here’s Why

Bridgerton season two has been out for almost a month, yet my social media feeds continue to be dominated by the grandeur of scenes in the Regency-inspired series. While many posts are fawning over the Bridgerton brothers (I don’t blame them; I am too), there’s also been a larger conversation online surrounding the South Asian representation the show held for many. The show featured key details on-screen, like a pre-wedding Haldi ceremony and a violin version of the classic Bollywood song “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Ghum,” but also made sure to keep things the same way off-screen, working with consulting agency For the Culture to help plan events for the series.

The biggest part of the show that resonated with many, however, were characters Kate and Edwina Sharma, played by Tamil actresses Simone Ashley and Charithra Chandran. I’ve seen no shortage of posts talking about why the duo’s appearance on the Netflix series is a refreshing turn in terms of how South Asian beauty is shown on-screen. For years, South Asian women have always been shown in one specific light—that our beauty was not meant to be admired immediately and that if any form of love or affection was shown our way, it was a “shocking” plot point.  

While making colorist comments or typecasting South Asian women may seem like a funny or entertaining bit for writers on a TV show, it can be a reality for many. It’s one thing to see these experiences on-screen, but when you go through them yourself, it starts to solidify those thoughts in your head. While colorism is prevalent in the media, it’s something deeply rooted in our culture as well. Lightening skin creams are commonly sold in Indian supermarkets, there’s a rarity of darker-skinned actresses in Bollywood, and many older aunts will make a comment if you apply bronzer. The issues even seeped into my own off-screen love story, as I married someone with much lighter skin than me and was told that I was lucky to do so. While I consider myself lucky to have met my husband for a lot of things, the fact that he has lighter skin is not one of those reasons. 

Some may think it’s frivolous to be overjoyed at characters in a TV series—but for South Asian women, it goes far beyond surface level. As someone who grew up seeing women who look like me be deemed as unlovable, I spent a large part of my youth giving into my insecurities. I was obsessed with rom-coms—determined to romanticize everything but myself. While I loved watching Kate Hudson fall in love with Matthew McConaughey for the millionth time, seeing the same type of woman be the ideal “catch” taught me as a young woman that I didn’t deserve to be loved in that way. Seeing characters like Kate and Edwina Sharma simply exist in peace without any negative connotation toward their skin tone or culture was refreshing. It was not only heartwarming to see Anthony fall in love with Kate (and not have the plot point make that surprising), but I was also left in awe to see South Asian sisters who carried themselves with such confidence and shook up the ton. It all brought immense joy to many, including me. It may sound corny, but it healed the inner romance-loving insecure teenager in me. While Bridgerton didn’t teach me to love myself (I eventually learned that on my own), it was a reminder that everything I thought about myself growing up was untrue.

While I’ve seen many posts on how the portrayal of Edwina and Kate felt for South Asian women, I’ve also seen a variety of users online talking about the makeup used on the show. Even in 2022, it still takes a lot of searching to find products that work well with darker skin tones, and it’s rare to see makeup artists whose application on darker-skinned women doesn’t hide prominent features but instead accentuates them in the most beautiful way. 

When I talked to Bridgerton‘s resident makeup artist, Erika Ökvist, she told me that she believes that anyone working in makeup should know how to handle all skin types because that’s just part of the job. She previously worked on a TV series in Bangladesh and mentioned a rule she held was that she would not allow any form of skin-lightening to be used in her process. When I was younger, colorism made me feel like I couldn’t use bronzer, darker blushes, or play too much with warmer makeup that was identical to my skin tone. When I asked Ökvist about my favorite look from episode eight, where Kate dances with Anthony in a beaded orange gown to a classical version of Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball,” she told me she used all those techniques that I once thought were wrong for me in creating her stunning look. She matched eye shadow that held the same depth and warmth as her skin tone, using deep bronze tones from Pat McGrath’s Bronze Seduction Mothership V Eyeshadow Palette. I no longer hold the colorist beauty standards to myself as I once did, and speaking with Ökvist about the looks she curated for both the characters of Edwina and Kate, she taught me even further to push my boundaries with how I apply makeup and what I’ve been shown about beauty for a large part of my life.

I’ve seen multiple posts about users questioning which blush was used, especially on Simone Ashley. Ökvist mentions that she used many colors, and actually looked to the clothes to decide the shade. She wanted the lip and blush color to be in harmony with the costumes—a technique I’ll definitely be picking up on.

When I asked Ökvist which product out of everything she used would be a must-have, she replied by telling me “Something that we pretty much used on everyone was the Skin Fetish Balm Duo. It’s a really lovely highlight for day-to-day wear. If I didn’t have time to put any other makeup on, I would put on that.” 

Working on a TV show means the makeup will be worn for extremely long hours on set. In order to create a key “glow from within” look, a priority step was ensuring bright-healthy looking skin. Ökvist  wanted each actress to glow on-screen, and this primer was key in doing that.

I’ve heard nothing but raving reviews about this foundation, so I wasn’t surprised when I found out this was the foundation used on the Bridgerton set. Most of Pat McGrath’s makeup is made to be “skin-like” and this product is no exception. A trick that Ökvist uses for a seamless makeup look is treating the face like an oil painting, using thin layers to build up the foundation and concealer.

I’ve used this product myself, and it’s fluidity is perfection. It’s not only hydrating and easily blends, but easily covers up blemishes and pigmentation. I’ve always found it tricky to find concealer that works with my skin tone, but this one does the trick.

While filming the series, there were a few of scenes where the only light used was candlelight. This sometimes can make it tricky for makeup to look right on camera, but this under-eye powder was brightening and helped that area look better.

This lipstick in the shade “Furs” was key in creating Kate Sharma’s no-fuss and low-key makeup look.

When creating Kate’s makeup look for episode eight, Ökvist used the warm and bronze colors from this palette to pair the makeup with her costume and  make it a cohesive look altogether.

Next, I Binged Bridgerton Season 2 Immediately—Here’s My “Princesscore” Shopping List

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