Lola Ogunyemi is a model who has unwillingly become the face of "racist ad" after she appeared in a Dove body wash campaign. If you Google "Dove racist ad" you'll find three second clips from a longer commercial concept that shows Lola Ogunyemi take her nude T-shirt off, and morph into another woman who is also wearing a nude t-shirt. In the TV-commercial Lola morphs into a pale strawberry blond, who morphs into an olive-skinned brunette, and so on. The idea is obviously to show a diverse group of women, making it clear that all skin, and all skin colour, deserves a gentle body wash. A pretty simple concept, that backfired spectacularly when it was edited down to a 3 second clip to roll on Facebook. Since the short clip only shows Lola morphing into a pale white strawberry blond, the concept isn't clear and what viewers see is a soap basically promising to wash a person into white. That sort of image is from a bygone era....
Lola makes it very clear in this Guardian post that she is not a victim in all of this, and she'd do the ad again. She was after all chosen to be the first one in the ad, the leader of the pack of women talking about their delicate skin.
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.
Lola shows a lot of understanding for the core concept of the campaign in her Guardian writeup, as well as seeing clearly how the 3-second clip warped the images. She understands why Dove would apologise and pull the concept.
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. I had an amazing time on set. 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.
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.
Then the first Facebook ad was released: a 13-second video clip featuring me, a white woman, and an Asian woman removing our nude tops and changing into each other. I loved it. My friends and family loved it. People congratulated me for being the first to appear, for looking fabulous, and for representing Black Girl Magic. I was proud.
Then, the full, 30-second TV commercial was released in the US, and I was over the moon again. 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?”
Again, I was the first model to appear in the ad, describing my skin as “20% dry, 80% glowing”, and appearing again at the end. I loved it, and everyone around me seemed to as well. I think the full TV edit does a much better job of making the campaign’s message loud and clear.
There is definitely something to be said here about how advertisers need to look beyond the surface and consider the impact their images may have, specifically when it comes to marginalized groups of women. It is important to examine whether your content shows that your consumer’s voice is not only heard, but also valued.
Lola could have a future career as a diplomat, judging by this paragraph where she notes that the public have only seen a small part of the big picture. She defends the creative concept, and strikes a very important point when she says that Dove should have defended the campaign, and their choice to include her. The 3-second Facebook edit was a massive failure, but the original 30-second concept was inclusive to all women and now it will no longer be seen.
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.
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 was on BBC this morning to defend the advert she was the principal talent in, see clip. If you want to see more of Lola and her talents, check out her hooping skills in this video.