Following the mass backlash that Dove received for their 'racist' ad campaign, and the brand’s decision to issue an apology and remove the video, one of the ad’s stars has come out in support for the skincare brand.
Lola Ogunyemi, an Atlanta-raised model of Nigerian descent, has written an essay for The Guardian to share her side of the story. “I am not just some silent victim of a mistaken beauty campaign" said the model "I am strong, I am beautiful, and I will not be erased.”
She explains that she jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the campaign to represent all black women, but wasn’t expecting it to have such a negative effect. “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.”
Overwhelmed by the controversy, Ogunyemi assured that she wouldn’t have agreed to participate if she had any inclination that she, and other black women, would be portrayed as inferior. Ogunyemi writes: “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.”
In defence of Dove, the model assured that her experience with the brand was nothing but positive. During her dealings with Dove, the ad’s concept was clearly communicated as using the models’ differences to unite them in idea that all skin deserves gentleness. “I remember all of us being excited at the idea of wearing nude T-shirts and turning into one another" she writes. "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.” Dove have also released a statement following the ad’s negative reception to clarify their intentions.
She also goes on to explain that what a lot of people are seeing when Googling 'racist ad' is only a small snippet of a longer piece, stating that there were many other ethnicities also represented in the full campaign. Ogunyemi explains to The Guardian: “There were seven of us in the full version, different races and ages, each of us answering the same question: ‘If your skin were a wash label, what would it say?'”
You can read Lola Ogunyemi's complete essay here