Munroe Bergdorf graciously rejoins L’Oréal three years after it dropped her for calling out white supremacy
L’Oréal Paris has re-hired Munroe Bergdorf, three years after the model and award-winning trans activist was dropped by the company for her posts calling out the “racial violence of white people”.
Bergdorf was hired the beauty brand’s first ever transgender model in August 2017, but was axed weeks later, when the Daily Mail seized upon comments she had made as white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia and killed anti-fascism protester Heather Heyer.
Cutting ties with Bergdorf at the time, L’Oréal suggested her posts asserting that “all white people” are responsible for racism were “at odds with” the values of “diversity and tolerance towards all people”.
But on Tuesday it was announced the company has reversed its stance, re-hired the model as a diversity consultant, and made sizeable donations to two LGBT+ charities.
Munroe Bergdorf offered a new role with L’Oréal Paris.
In a post on social media, Bergdorf explained: “This week, I spoke with L’Oréal Paris new president, Delphine Viguier, who reached out to me directly.
“We had an open and constructive conversation, she listened to what I had to say and expressed her regret for how the situation was handled three years ago.
“Shortly L’Oréal will release a statement on their plans to make a charitable donation of €25,000 to Mermaids, supporting gender-variant and transgender youth in the UK, and €25,000 to UK Black Pride, an annual safe space to celebrate diverse sexualities, gender identities, cultures, gender expressions and backgrounds.”
Bergdorf added: “As an activist, part of my work is to encourage big businesses to understand their responsibility with regards to diversity and inclusion.
“It’s imperative that in all industries, a wide range of people from different backgrounds and experiences are in the room at all levels and in decision making roles, to reduce oversight and to create a product that is built with all people in mind.
“So when L’Oréal offered me a consultancy role, to sit on their UK diversity and inclusion advisory board, helping to influence and inform the brand, I thought that it would be the perfect opportunity to practise what I preach and take up that seat at the table to be the representation that we deserve as a community.
“I believe in accountability and progress, not cancellation and grudges. While what happened three years ago was extremely traumatic for me personally and professionally, sitting on a board to provide a voice and a champion for Black, trans and queer voices in the beauty industry is important to me.
“It feels good to finally have closure on this matter and I look forward to new beginnings with the L’Oréal team. Thank you to everyone who has had my back this past week.”
I have spoken with @loreal, please swipe for full statement.
Thank you everyone for having my back with this matter over the past three years, it hasn't been easy.
Looking forward to new beginnings and a new positive relationship with the L'Oreal team.
Munroe x pic.twitter.com/DxltLF8Z7j
— Black Lives Matter ✊🏾 (@MunroeBergdorf) June 9, 2020
The activist concluded: “Over the past three years I have realised my responsibility as an activist is to help to unite us as people, regardless of our identity. We are all in an exciting time of change. I hope this reconciliation is proof that we can all find a way to put aside our differences and work together to push for a more progressive, fair and equal world.”
L’Oréal Paris ‘regrets’ lack of dialogue and support for Munroe Bergdorf
Delphine Viguier, L’Oréal Paris brand president, said: “I had an honest, transparent and vulnerable conversation with Munroe Bergdorf. We listened to each other and shared our feelings and perspectives on the situation with open hearts and minds. It was a powerful moment of human connection.
“Here is what I heard from her: Three years ago, Munroe felt silenced by a brand, L’Oréal Paris, that had the power to amplify her voice.
“While we both agree today that negative labels should not be used to define all individuals in any group, I understand much better the pain and trauma that were behind Munroe’s words back then and the urgency she felt to speak in defence of the Black community against systemic racism.
“I regret the lack of dialogue and support the company showed Munroe around the time of the termination. We should have also done more to create a conversation for change as we are now doing.”
Viguier continued: “We support Munroe’s fight against systemic racism and as a company we are committed to work to dismantle such systems.
“Here is how we will move forward: As we stand united in our advocacy against all forms of racism, we will take action together.
“The L’Oréal Group is forming a UK diversity and inclusion advisory board of voices inside and outside the company, who will influence and inform our action plan.
“I have invited Munroe to participate on this board and thank her for graciously accepting. We will honour Munroe’s advocacy for both the trans and Black communities.
“L’Oréal will be donating to associations that support social justice and causes that are deeply personal to Munroe’s experience. Speaking out is worth it, only if we are able to listen, learn and grow.”
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She concluded: “We all want to contribute to a society in which everyone can live safely, peacefully and equally, and that begins with repairing relationships and moving forward together. I thank Munroe Bergdorf for her willingness to do this.”
U-turn comes after anger over ‘hypocritical’ Black Lives Matter message.
The company’s about-turn comes after strong criticism from Black and LGBT+ people over its message in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Its message had claimed: “L’Oréal Paris stands in solidarity with the Black community, and against injustice of any kind.”
Viral messages pointed out the brand’s “hypocrisy” in claiming to support who rail against injustice given its past treatment of Bergdorf.
Bergdorf had tweeted: “I had to fend for myself being torn apart by the world’s press because YOU didn’t want to talk about racism.
“You do NOT get to do this. This is NOT OK, not even in the slightest… Where was my support when I spoke out? I’m disgusted and writing this in floods of tears.”