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Posted: October 11, 2017

Model in ‘racist Dove ad’ speaks out: ‘I am not a victim’

Apology From Dove After Facebook Ad Called Racially Insensitive

By Helena Oliviero, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Dove apologized this week following a backlash over a body wash ad showing a black woman taking off her shirt to reveal a white woman, with many on social media calling the ad racially insensitive. 

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Dove removed the post from its Facebook page and said the company “missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully.”

Meanwhile, Lola Ogunyemi, one of the women featured in the Dove campaign is speaking out

Ogunyemi, a Nigerian woman born in London and raised in Atlanta, and who according to her Facebook page, attended Emory University, wrote an op-ed for The Guardian on Tuesday in response to the controversy. 

The headline: I am the woman in the 'racist Dove ad'. I am not a victim
“From a very young age, I’ve been told, ‘You’re so pretty ... for a dark-skinned girl.’ I am a Nigerian woman, born in London and raised in Atlanta. I’ve grown up very aware of society’s opinion that dark-skinned people, especially women, would look better if our skin were lighter,” she wrote. 

Historically, and in many countries still today, darker models are even used to demonstrate a product’s skin-lightening qualities to help women reach this standard, she said. 

“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 wrote

Ogunyemi said if she had any idea that she would be portrayed as inferior, or as the “before” in a before and after shot, she would have refused to be a part of the ad campaign. 

That said, Ogunyemi said the experience with Dove team was positive. She supported the campaign’s objective as using “our differences to highlight the fact that all skin deserves gentleness.”

“There is a lack of trust here, and I feel the public was justified in their initial outrage,” she wrote. “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.”

While Dove’s ad has been taken down, there are screenshots from the ad circulating widely. One is a group of four images from the ad that show only the black woman turning into the white woman.

Many were stunned by the ad. Dove, which is owned by British-Dutch company Unilever, is known for ad campaigns celebrating women of all races and shapes.

Ogunyemi thinks Dove could have also discussed their decision to include her in the campaign and why it was important. 

“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,” she said. “I am not just some silent victim of a mistaken beauty campaign. I am strong, I am beautiful, and I will not be erased.”

Read the full piece in The Guardian here.


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