First-person POV

Woman who appeared in Dove ad that was widely condemned as racist speaks out


Earlier this week, Dove apologized for a controversial body wash ad, which showed a black woman taking off her shirt, which caused her to “change into” a white woman. The brief internet ad was widely condemned as racist. Now, Lola Ogunyemi, the model featured in the ad, has spoken out about the uproar over the ad. In an Op-Ed published by The Guardian, Ogunyemi challenges the narrative that the ad was inherently racist.

She discusses how she “jumped” at the opportunity of being featured in a Dove ad as a dark-skinned woman, since darker skin is still being marginalized in the beauty industry. “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,” she writes. “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.”

She goes on to describe her positive experience with the Dove team and her understanding that the ad would highlight the idea that “all skin deserves gentleness.” After seeing the first 13-second clip — of her, a white woman and an Asian woman changing into each other — she said she felt proud, as she did with the full version, that shows seven women of different races and ages.  However, she says she can see how the snapshots that circulate would lead to a misinterpretation, and understands the public outrage.

“Having said that, I can also see that a lot has been left out,” she added. “The narrative has been written without giving consumers context on which to base an informed opinion.” Instead of apologizing for causing offense, she argues, Dove could also have defended their creative vision and highlighted why they chose to feature “unequivocally dark-skinned black woman” as the face of its campaign. “I am not just some silent victim of a mistaken beauty campaign,” Ogunyemi added. “I am strong, I am beautiful, and I will not be erased.” She also spoke out in a video Op-Ed for the BBC. Watch that below.

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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