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Model from ‘racist’ Dove campaign breaks silence

Joseph McCormick October 10, 2017

A model from an advertising campaign by Dove deemed ‘racist’ has broken her silence.

The public and campaigners hit out a short-lived Dove advert which showed a black woman removing her nude coloured T-shirt to become a white woman, also in a nude top.

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

Transgender model Munroe Bergdorf has criticised the campaign.

And now the model featured in the ad has spoken out.

Lola Ogunyemi wrote a comment piece for the Guardian saying she is no victim and that she was happy to have been booked for the modelling gig.

She writes: “Having the opportunity to represent my dark-skinned sisters in a global beauty brand felt like the perfect way for me to remind the world that we are here, we are beautiful, and more importantly, we are valued.”

Adding: “All of the women in the shoot understood the concept and overarching objective – to use our differences to highlight the fact that all skin deserves gentleness.

“I remember all of us being excited at the idea of wearing nude T-shirts and turning into one another. We weren’t sure how the final edit was going to look, nor which of us would actually be featured in it, but everyone seemed to be in great spirits during filming, including me.”

Ogunyemi says she understands the reaction to the campaign, partly attributing it to screengrabs circulating around the internet.

“I can see how the snapshots that are circulating the web have been misinterpreted, considering the fact that Dove has faced a backlash in the past for the exact same issue,” Ogunyemi continues.

“There is a lack of trust here, and I feel the public was justified in their initial outrage.”

But Ogunyemi also partly defends the campaign, saying that she wishs, rather than apologising, Dove had fought back against the accusations of racism.

“The narrative has been written without giving consumers context on which to base an informed opinion,” Ogunyemi writes in the Guardian.

“While I agree with Dove’s response to unequivocally apologize for any offense caused, they could have also defended their creative vision, and their choice to include me, an unequivocally dark-skinned black woman, as a face of their campaign.”

She goes on to say she is proud of the campaign, that she is not a victim, and that she won’t let it define her.

“I am not just some silent victim of a mistaken beauty campaign… I am strong, I am beautiful, and I will not be erased.”

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….”

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

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

On GMB speaking to Bergdorf, 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.”

Susannah Reid also 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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