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Transgender model Munroe Bergdorf hits out at ‘racist’ Dove advert

Mayer Nissim October 9, 2017
Munroe Bergdorf and the "racist" Dove advert (ITV/Twitter)

Munroe Bergdorf and the "racist" Dove advert (ITV/Twitter)

Transgender model Munroe Bergdorf has hit out a short-lived Dove advert which showed a black woman removing her brown T-shirt to become a white woman in a light beige top.

The video then showed the white woman taking off her top and turning into an Asian woman.

Attention was drawn to the advert by makeup artist Naythemua who posted: “So I’m scrolling through Facebook and this is the #dove ad that comes up…. ok so what am I looking at….”

Bergdorf appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Sky News and the Victoria Derbyshire show this morning to brand the visual “racially insensitive”.

The model, who in the past has sparred with GMB’s Piers Morgan, found common ground with the presenter and co-host Susanna Reid.

Related: Trans model Munroe Bergdorf, sacked for calling out racism, performs Maya Angelou poem

“This harks back to nineteenth century feelings, to adverts where children are depicted as black, scrubbing off their blackness and turning white,” she said.

“It makes you wonder if the crew is as diverse as the cast. There is a precedent in the beauty industry that white is pure and light and fresh and black isn’t.”

The first few seconds of the "racist" Dove advert
The first few seconds of the “racist” Dove advert
The third person in the "racist" Dove advert
The third person in the “racist” Dove advert

Morgan said: “I thought what on earth was going through the minds of Dove…the imagery was just so stark and so obviously liable to cause offence.

“It does make you a bit cynical and wonder if Dove are doing this to get publicity.”

Reid noted that the insensitivity appeared to be at odds with Dove’s corporate image of celebrating diversity.

“This is so ironic because Dove try to project this image that they’re about embracing difference,” she said.

“This has been part of their marketing strategy and in doing so they are stumbling at every block.”

Past Dove controversies
Past Dove controversies
Previous Dove product issues
Previous Dove product issues

As Reid acknowledged, it’s far from the first time that Dove has been criticised for insensitivity in its adverts.

A previous shower gel advert showed backdrops of “before” and “after” skin with a woman with darker skin lined up in front of the “before” panel than that in front of “after”.

Dove’s Summer Glow and Soft Shimmer Nourishing Lotion was said to be suitable “for normal to dark skin”.

Dove's past issues with adverts
Dove’s past issues with adverts

As others on social media noted, Bergdorf later told Sky News and BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show that the Dove advert had historical parallels with more blatantly racist posters from the past.

“It fits the narrative of the beauty industry discriminating against women of colour in this way,” she said.

“The narrative is of black people being seen as dirty, scrubbing their skin and becoming white – that was actually used in advertising historically.”

She wondered how many people had signed off the advert, and whether or not it was shown to people of colour.

After the social media backlash, Dove issued an apology via its own channels.

Comparing Dove to old racist soap ads
Comparing Dove to old racist soap ads

“Dove is committed to representing the beauty of diversity,” it said in a Facebook post.

“In an image we posted this week, we missed the mark in thoughtfully representing women of color and we deeply regret the offense that it has caused.

“The feedback that has been shared is important to us and we’ll use it to guide us in the future.”

Dove advert criticism
Dove advert criticism

They added on Twitter: “An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offense it caused.”

Bergdorf attracted mainstream press attention earlier this year – including sparring with Morgan on the GMB sofa, when she was sacked by L’Oreal for her critique of institutional racism.

She schooled Morgan on the concepts of institutional racism and institutional sexism, and noted that his insistence on taking such things personally made him part of the problem, rather than the solution.

Black model and BBC Radio 1 DJ Clara Amfo quit a L’Oreal campaign over the sacking of Bergdorf.

Clare Amfo
Clara Amfo (Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images For RedBull)

She wrote on Instagram of Munroe and the controversy: “If she’s not ‘worth it’ anymore, I guess I’m not either” using the #IStandWithMunroe hashtag.

L’Oréal ambassador Cheryl’s representatives later issued a statement after her own past conviction for assault was brought up by Bergdorf in her interviews.

A spokesperson for Cheryl said: “More than 14 years ago Cheryl was unanimously acquitted of a charge of racially aggravated assault.

“She is disappointed to find her name involved in Munroe Bergdorf’s media interview.”

Trans model Munroe Bergdorf with Lorraine Kelly
Munroe Bergdorf with Lorraine Kelly PinkNews Parliamentary Summer Reception (Chris Jepson for PinkNews)

After the incident, Bergdorf called for a boycott of L’Oréal

“Identifying that the success of the British Empire has been at the expense of the people of colour, is not something that should offend ANYONE. It is a fact. It happened,” Bergdorf said.

“In today’s society the lighter your skin tone (people of colour included) the more social privileges you will be afforded. Whether that’s access to housing, healthcare, employment or credit.

“A person’s race and skin tone has a HUGE part to play in how they are treated by society as a whole, based on their proximity to whiteness.”

Bergdorf later became the new face of Illamasqua after losing the L’Oréal contract.

“As a longstanding Illamasqua collaborator, we are angered to hear that Munroe Bergdorf has been dropped from the L’Oreal True Match Campaign,” the brand said.

Munroe Bergdorf (Instagram)
Munroe Bergdorf (Instagram)

“Illamasqua is a brand that stands proudly and unashamedly for diversity and equality.

‘We don’t stand or accept any form of racism, but we also believe Munroe’s comments have been edited out of context by a certain media title (who we won’t bother naming) without telling a true story.

“In order for our generation to move forward and create a more inclusive society, it’s not just about showing diversity.

“We must all be free to talk about social issues in a constructive and tolerant way.”

More: advert, Black, Dove, GMB, munroe bergdorf, piers morgan, racist, sky news, susanna reid, Trans, victoria derbyshire, White

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