Earlier this week, Dove apologized for an ad that has since been removed, of a black woman taking off her brown shirt and turning into a white woman, and then another person of color. Initially, the ad surfaced with a screenshot of the black woman turning into a white woman, sparking widespread backlash. However, after the ad was shown in its entirety, many believed the ad was taken out of context. Nevertheless, Dove apologized for its offense.
Now, the model that was featured in the highly criticized ad is speaking out against racism in the beauty industry, adding that she had no idea she would be in the middle of a controversy.
“I am a Nigerian woman, born in London and raised in Atlanta,” Lola Ogunyemi wrote in an essay on The Guardian. “I’ve grown up very aware of society’s opinion that dark-skinned people, especially women, would look better if our skin were lighter,” adding that the beauty industry fueled this narrative by featuring lighter skin models as the “beauty standard.”
“This repressive narrative is one I have seen affect women from many different communities I’ve been a part of. And this is why, when Dove offered me the chance to be the face of a new body wash campaign, I jumped,” she said.
However, when she woke up to the backlash of the ad, she realized she had “become the unwitting poster child for racist advertising,” as a her face pops up whenever someone Googles “racist ad.” If she knew that she would be “portrayed as inferior, or as the ‘before’ in a before and after shot,” she would have politely declined. But, the experience with Dove was positive, as the models understood the objective to “use our differences to highlight the fact that all skin deserves gentleness.”
When she first saw the clip and then the full television commercial ad, featuring herself, a white woman, an Asian woman, and four other women, she was ecstatic. People congratulated her for being first and representing “Black Girl Magic.” But, she acknowledged that the full television ad, with all seven women, did a better job of getting the message across.
“I can see how the snapshots that are circulating the web have been misinterpreted, considering the fact that Dove has faced backlash in the past for the exact same issue. There is a lack of trust here, and I feel the public was justified in their initial outrage. Having said that, I can also see that a lot has been left out. The narrative has been written without giving consumers context on which to base an informed opinion about,” she wrote.
“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. I am not just some silent victim of a mistaken beauty campaign. I am strong, I am beautiful, and I will not be erased,” she concluded.