The Woman In The Dove Ad Says She's Not A Victim, Defends Initial Concept

racist dove ad 2017

A Dove advertisement recently sparked debate on the Internet with some people questioning whether it had racist undertones. In the ad, women models morphed into each other. The lineup saw a black woman transform into a white woman, who then turned into an Asian woman. Evidently, Dove wanted to say everyone should treat their skin with tenderness, but some people thought Dove was showing a before-and-after concept with dark skin as the "before" and light skin as the "after." Now Lola Ogunyemi, the black woman in the ad, has come to the company's defense. According to her, the concept was far from racist, and people have been misconstruing the company's intent. Ogunyemi wrote,

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. I would have (un)happily walked right off set and out of the door. That is something that goes against everything I stand for. However, the experience I had with the Dove team was positive.

Lola Ogunyemi told The Guardian she firmly understood the bitter reaction toward the Dove advertisement. She recognized Dove had, in the past, created ads that bordered on racist. However, Ogunyemi wrote that in this instance, Dove wanted to be on the right side of history. She explained,

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

The criticism to which Lola Ogunyemi referred to includes a 2011 Dove advertisement that portrayed three women near a before-and-after image of broken and healthy skin. The "before" side showed a black woman, and the "after" side showed a white woman. The company apologized after posting that ad, noting that all women were supposed to be examples of the "after," but it hadn't come across that way.

Similarly, Dove issued a swift apology this time. The Unilever brand tweeted that its advertisement had "missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully." Dove expressed regrets for any offense the ad caused. However, in Lola Ogunyemi's opinion, she would have liked to see the company justify its concept. Ogunyemi wrote,

While I agree with Dove's response to unequivocally apologise 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. I am not just some silent victim of a mistaken beauty campaign. I am strong, I am beautiful, and I will not be erased.

Lola Ogunyemi explained how proud she and her family were when they all watched the advertisement together. Now that she has revealed her side of the story, it gives food for thought to people who jumped to the conclusion that Dove meant to inject subtle racism into the ad. In fact, even some social media users seemed to agree that the full video did come across better than the screenshots. Take a look:

The controversy around this advertisement joins other heated discussions about entertainment, media, and marketing. It seems now, more than ever, marketing experts are being asked to step up to the plate and deeply consider the far-reaching implications of their efforts.