In case you missed it, Dove's new soap ad went viral for all the wrong reasons when people accused the company of racism. After seeing this screen grab uploaded by makeup artist Naythemua, you can probably see why:
This image quickly spread throughout the internet, enraging thousands and inciting a boycott of all Dove products.
"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," said the London-born Nigerian woman. "If you Google “racist ad” right now, a picture of my face is the first result. I had been excited to be a part of the commercial and promote the strength and beauty of my race, so for it to be met with widespread outrage was upsetting."
Ogunyemi explains that she was thrilled to partake in the ad, and had a great experience on set working with the Dove team. When she saw the ads, first the 13-second online spot and later the full 30-second TV commercial, she was elated:
"People congratulated me for being the first to appear, for looking fabulous, and for representing Black Girl Magic. I was proud."
But when the internet started spreading an out-of-context screen shot of the commercial, Ogunyemi appeared to be reduced to the inferior— a mere "before" picture. In the larger context of the commercial, many women of many different ages, sizes and skin tones remove their shirts and "transform" into other people—not just a black woman transforming into a white woman.
But at the same time, Ogunyemi understands the backlash, and believes Dove could (and should) do more to ensure that they are sending the clearest, most positive message possible.
"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. 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."
Of course, Dove has apologized for the insensitive ad, both on Twitter and in a larger statement found here.
But in the end, there is one big thing Ogunyemi wants people to know:
"I am not just some silent victim of a mistaken beauty campaign. I am strong, I am beautiful, and I will not be erased."
To read Lola Ogunyemi's essay in full, click here.