First off, I want to preface this conversation by saying that this post is NOT paid or sponsored or endorsed by Dove. These are my personal thoughts and opinions, and although I am an ambassador for the brand, I was in no way obligated to post this opinion piece. I’m writing this because I pride myself on being open and honest with all of you about everything from my current lipstick to my bouts of depression. My ride-or-dies know this already, but in case there’s anyone new on here – this is my 100% real and authentic point of view. Whether you agree with it or not, I respect you. I hope you return the sentiment.
Here’s how I found out about it:
So there I was on what seemed like a regular Thursday, scrolling through Instagram when I stumbled on a strange image.
I stopped immediately because I spotted a bottle of Dove Bodywash. But the image in front of me took a minute to process. It was a screenshot. I saw two women – one black and one white. And it appeared as if the black woman was peeling off her shirt to reveal a white woman underneath. My first reaction? Confusion. Not anger, or disgust or even surprise. I was just utterly confused about what the ad was about, or what it was trying to convey. But I was not immediately offended.
It wasn’t until I looked down and read the caption of the young lady who had posted it that I started to feel a little weird. She was visibly upset – her caption including many words in ALL CAPS and exclamation points (!!!). Then I saw it. The word “racist” mixed up in her jumble of angry words. My first reaction? Disbelief. My initial thought process was “There’s no way in hell this was promoted by Dove. They would never put out an ad with this type of messaging.”
So I did some more digging. I went over to the Facebook page – nothing. The post had been deleted but there were still some lingering angry comments from community members who had seen the ad. Still confused. Still needed to see receipts. Then I saw the apology message surface across social media. Oh boy.
Then, I personally started getting comments, DMs, text messages, and side-looking eye emojis. People were asking me what I thought about it. “Do you know who did this? Are you still an ambassador? Are you still endorsing them after seeing this ad?”
Though I understood the inquiries, I refused to comment. Not because I didn’t have an opinion, but because as a former journalist and a responsible influencer, I felt the need to do more research, ask more questions and get more background on exactly what happened BEFORE responding.
Social media is an amazing tool. It allows us immediate access to each other and to pertinent information in as little as 1-2 clicks. But social media is also dangerous. The wrong information can spread really fast with very little effort. So, my silence was not because I didn’t know what to say or how to say it, I just didn’t have the WHOLE story and I owed it to myself and to the brand and to all of you to understand what really happened before publicly commenting on it.
Fast forward to the following day:
I wake up and I see someone has tagged me in the full GIF video ad that Dove originally released:
The 3 second GIF features three different women of different nationalities with flesh-toned T-shirts on. The black model takes off her shirt to reveal a white model, and the white model takes off her shirt to reveal a brown model. My initial reaction? Relief. After seeing that 3 second GIF I finally felt like I understood the intention behind the ad. The purpose of it was to reflect that Dove Bodywash is for everyone. It was not a racially charged subliminal message about black and white women. Do I think it was a poorly-done advertisement? Absolutely. Just for the simple fact that it took me FOREVER to figure out what message they were trying to convey with the imagery. So that was a fail. However, after seeing the ad, I’m convinced their intention was NOT malicious or racially charged. It was just poorly communicated and the fact that it could potentially be seen as racist should have been cause enough for them to pull the ad from being released at all.
Here are my final thoughts:
On big beauty brands making these mistakes:
Let’s be honest, this isn’t the first time we’ve been incredibly upset and disappointed in a beauty brand for making a poor judgment call when it comes to advertising. Just a few months ago, a very popular hair/skincare brand (who shall remain nameless) made a huge mistake on social media that had people in uproar. Hell, I was pissed about that too. It happens. People get angry and rightfully so. But I think, just like with people in life, everyone makes mistakes. I don’t write people off in my life when they make one mistake. You should NOT completely write off a company that has a longstanding history of being inclusive, representing diversity, and supporting diverse communities just because of the mistake of one or two people on their marketing/advertising team.
Companies like this employ hundreds of thousands of people – many of whom work really hard to bring you the products you consume, and many of which do have diverse team members at the table. But as well-oiled of a machine as these companies can be, mistakes are made. I would challenge you to look at the company’s history and overall legacy, and not to single out one lapse of judgment of a team member. Look at the work they do, the organizations they support. Dove has an ENTIRE team of staff dedicated to “Self-Esteem” initiatives. They employ people solely for the purpose of creating programs to educate young girls on the importance of being confident in their own skin. The proof is in the pudding.
And for these big beauty brands, I would challenge them to add even MORE diversity to their internal decision-making teams so that mistakes like this don’t happen. You don’t know what you don’t know. Someone who is not multicultural can’t always make the best judgment call on how to MARKET to a multicultural community. Diversity is key – internally and externally.
On the Dove brand overall and representation:
Out of the MANY major beauty brands on the market, Dove has always done an incredible job of being thoughtful about their marketing and advertising. Take a look at any of their commercials and you will see REAL women of all walks of life represented. Women of different colors and backgrounds, different hair types and nationalities, women of different shapes and sizes. They have gone above and beyond in the past to be inclusive and representative of all women. They are one of the first and only beauty brands that does not rely heavily on celebrity endorsement – just REAL women telling their stories.
Listen, I AM IN ONE OF THEIR COMMERCIALS. There’s nothing “traditionally beautiful” (and I say that with extreme sarcasm based on what the media tells us about beauty) about me. I’m not white or blonde or a size 2. I don’t wear my hair straight, I don’t have a rich daddy. I am a REGULAR black girl with curly hair and curves from Queens, with a dream. And they asked me to be part of a national ad campaign, which I am still incredibly honored to have been part of.
On the issue of supporting black-owned soap brands:
Hell YES. Always. Every day. Go do that right now. Listen, I am an equal opportunity buyer when it comes to my beauty brands but I have ALWAYS been a huge supporter of black-owned beauty. That’s why I created Shop LoveBrownSugar. It’s why I push so hard for black-owned brands on my platform. More of us need to support each other. Please do not wait for one of your favorite mainstream brands to upset you before you pledge support to a black-owned business. Also, your support doesn’t have to be exclusive. I have shower products from brands like SDOTBEAUTY, Harlem Soap, and Brown Crayon Project sitting right next to my Dove Beauty Bar. There’s nothing wrong with supporting both, if you like them! I encourage it.
On social media anger/protest:
I think this is a perfect example of the importance of getting receipts and doing your research before rushing to judgment. Again, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Just try your best to get all the facts before voicing yours. You could be getting someone fired, or worse, damaging someone’s reputation based off of a biased post or a screenshot that was taken out of context.
Ok those are my thoughts on the controversial Dove ad folks! If you read ALL the way to the bottom of this post, you are the real MVP and I thank you. Please let me know what you think in the comments section. I welcome your honest (and respectful) feedback.