CAIRO – 11 October 2017: Model Lola Ogunyemi, announced in an article she wrote for The Guardian that she does not think that the recently trending Dove ad is racist.
Earlier this week, Unilever-owned Dove beauty brand released a short 3-second advertisement on their Facebook page showing a dark-skinned woman who takes off her shirt to reveal a Caucasian woman beneath. The aim of the ad was to promote the brand’s nourishing body wash. Consumers took screenshots of the ad and blew up social media with them; accusing the company of racism.
An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offense it caused.
— Dove (@Dove) October 7, 2017
When the outrage broke loose, Dove tweeted an apology for not “representing women of color thoughtfully.” However, this was not the first time Dove released an alleged racist ad. In 2011, they released an ad that shows skin “before and after,” with a black woman on the “before” side and a white woman on the “after.”
It's amazing that a big brand like Dove thought these 2 ads would be good marketing. Washing off skin color??? Wtf? pic.twitter.com/s2AGIpFcFj
— Tai Lopez (@tailopez) October 11, 2017
Ogunyemi was approached by Dove to participate in the campaign. Eager to represent women of color in a global brand, Ogunyemi jumped at the opportunity. “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,” Ogunyemi wrote in The Guardian.
Originally from Nigeria; Ogunyemi was born in the United Kingdom and raised in the United States. She mentioned in her article that she was very “aware of society’s opinion that dark-skinned people, especially women, would look better if our skin were lighter.” This notion, however, is one that continues to affect millions of women of color around the world.
Ogunyemi continues to say that she does not see the ad as racist, because its initial intention was not to be offensive but understands how people could perceive it as one. She explained to the BBC that the concept essentially was to underline in the TV ad that the body wash product is suitable for all skins. “There is a line in the 30-second version that says ‘all skin deserves gentleness’,” Ogunyemi explained.
The model at the centre of the Dove advert branded as 'racist' says she would make it again @MrDanWalker @BBCNaga pic.twitter.com/WH2JMx3P0G
— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) October 11, 2017
Although Ogunyemi is aware that the ad is perceived as racist, in her interview with BBC Ogunyemi said; “Yeah, I would do it [the same ad] again.” Ogunyemi mentioned that she is conscious that society perceives women of lighter skin as more beautiful than those of darker skin. This concept is noted as colorism, a by-product of racism.
The subject of racism makes people feel uncomfortable because the causes of racism are not the most refined. As a result of years of feeding racist messages to people of color through the media, concealed racism that is evident in ads became normalized. Eventually, people developed a blind eye to racism in commercial products not knowing that there are subliminal messages that are fed through different media channels. Therefore, it is no surprise Ogunyemi would “do it again.”
With the efforts of many self-love advocates and influencers, women of color have finally begun to accept themselves and feel comfortable in their own skin. However, when a global advocate for women’s empowerment and “real beauty” releases an ad that conveys racism on a platform dominated by young impressionable girls, it tarnishes not just its own, but all the hard work self-love supporters have achieved throughout the years.