In case you haven’t been on the internet since last Friday: Dove released a very controversial ad over the weekend. In the three-second video, a black model takes takes off her shirt and is then transformed into a white woman. That transformation alone, in a soap ad, has many people claiming the ad is racist, with customers now vowing to never buy Dove again.
The black woman at the center of this ad — and controversy — is now speaking out.
In an opinion piece for the Guardian, Lola Ogunyemi insists she’s no victim. When she first got the ad, she was overjoyed. As a darker-skinned woman, she knows how hard it is to find work as a model, and this commercial for body wash and the opportunity to be the face of Dove felt like a huge break for her.
“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 wrote.
When she filmed it, she thought the concept was great.
“All of the women in the shoot understood the concept and overarching objective – to use our differences to highlight the fact that all skin deserves gentleness,” Ogunyemi wrote. “I remember all of us being excited at the idea of wearing nude T-shirts and turning into one another. We weren’t sure how the final edit was going to look, nor which of us would actually be featured in it, but everyone seemed to be in great spirits during filming, including me.”
But when the ad was released on Facebook, everything changed. Now when you google “racist ad,” Ogunyemi’s picture comes up. She understands how people have seen the ad. When you see that picture of her turning into that white woman, with the body wash front and center, she understands how people took offense.
“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,” Ogunyemi said. “There is a lack of trust here, and I feel the public was justified in their initial outrage.”
But that being said, Ogunyemi still believes in Dove’s concept, and wishes that the company would have fought back against these racist claims, and also highlighted Ogunyemi’s participation.
“The narrative has been written without giving consumers context on which to base an informed opinion,” Ogunyemi 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.”
At this point, Ogunyemi is being posed as a victim to this campaign, when in reality it was a campaign that she was immensely proud of. This was her work as a model, and she refuses to let this one campaign define her.
“I am not just some silent victim of a mistaken beauty campaign,” Ogunyemi wrote. “I am strong, I am beautiful, and I will not be erased.”