“To have the opportunity to show that I do feel beautiful, and I am valued in media was extremely exciting for me. So for it to come out and be taken out of context and then to spiral into global controversy was really overwhelming and quite upsetting as well,” Nigerian model Lola Ogunyemi said in a video published by BBC.
If you haven’t seen the latest Dove commercial, just do a Google search of “racist ad” and see what comes up. Ogunyemi was happy to represent her “dark-skinned sisters in a global beauty brand,” but unfortunately, it was jaded by those screaming racism.
Dove initially released a shorter version of the ad on Facebook before it aired on television. In this 30-second version, Dove seemed to mimic Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” music video concept of different races morphing together as one (and ironically, an African-American woman turns into a Caucasian woman in the music video, too. Where were the accusations thrown at Jackson back then?) The ad showed Ogunyemi removing her shirt and turning into a Caucasian woman, then she removed her shirt and turned into an Asian woman. Dove immediately issued an apology for all who found the ad offensive.
Oddly enough, many aren’t aware the ad was actually completed a month ago. Ogunyemi said in an interview with RobinHoodUKIP that she had been sharing the ad with her friends on social media, as she was excited and happy with how it turned out. She never would’ve imagined she’d be the center of a viral controversy.
“I don’t feel it was racist, however, there is a case for the context of the situation and I feel that there is a position where Dove maybe could have taken that into account,” Ogunyemi said. “Given they’ve been in similar situation before where they’ve received backlash for content they have posted. This is something they could have pointed out before it goes to air.”
Ogunyemi concluded the interview by confirming even given all that she knows now, she still would do it all over again.
I agree completely with her stance. Dove overlooked their creative concept––they should’ve assumed people would make a fuss about it, given how racial division is being portrayed in media every day. However, I think Dove didn’t see their concept as racist because they viewed all the women in the ad on an equal spectrum. Why did the order in which they removed their shirts be the deciding factor of whether or not it was racist?
“I am the woman in the ‘racist Dove ad’. I am not a victim,” Ogunyemi wrote as the teaser for an opinion article she wrote for The Guardian. If Ogunyemi is denouncing any victimhood being brought upon her, I think people should leave it alone and allow her to have the positive reinforcement she deserved from the beginning.
Dove’s goal was not to be racist, or paint a picture of white representing ‘purity.’ This argument is so over-used, and frankly, an easy one to make––unfortunately an attempt to create a commercial promoting diversity by hiring models of many different races backfired by an unfortunate misrepresentation people took out of context. As a result, a bandwagon of “it’s racism” voices followed.
It’s quite sad and unfair to Ogunyemi whose chance to show her beauty nationwide has turned into a political and social hot topic in the news. But, I think we should all admire her bravery and class for handling the issue head-on, and expressing her opinion despite the backlash she may soon receive, too. While I don’t think our racial tension in the U.S. is nonexistent, I do think it’s important to remain objective and aware of how these racial conversations are put into play and taken out of context by groups driven by specific agendas.
So, to put it in a lighter perspective, let’s celebrate diversity within the ad and Ogunyemi’s appearance that wouldn’t have been possible to see on T.V. nearly 60 years ago. As Michael Jackson once said, “It don’t matter if you’re black or white.”