A recent controversial Dove campaign shows a series of images of a black woman lifting her shirt to reveal a white woman. The advertisement was posted to Facebook and quickly went viral after many described the advert as racist.
Dove quickly pulled the ad and issued a statement to apologize. “An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of colour thoughtfully,” the brand wrote on Twitter. “We deeply regret the offence it caused.”
Lola Ogunyemi, the black model featured in the ad, shared her side of the story by writing an essay in The Guardian.
Ogunyemi says that she was excited when she was first cast and realized the importance of a black face in a major beauty campaign. “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 said.
But she wrote her feelings would have been a lot different had she known how the final ad was going to turn out. “If I had even the slightest inclination that I would be portrayed as inferior, or as the ‘before’ in a before and after shot, I would have been the first to say an emphatic ‘no.’” Ogunyemi adds that if you Google “racist ad” her face is the first one that comes up.
And while she writes that the ad’s message may have been misconstrued due to the edit, this is indicative of a greater problem. “There is definitely something to be said here about how advertisers need to look beyond the surface and consider the impact their images may have, specifically when it comes to marginalized groups of women. It is important to examine whether your content shows that your consumer’s voice is not only heard but also valued.”
Ogunyemi believes that Dove was right to “unequivocally apologise” for the ad and took issue with the way she has been portrayed in the ad since its release. “I am not just some silent victim of a mistaken beauty campaign. I am strong, I am beautiful, and I will not be erased.”