How Racist is the Beauty Industry? Take a Peek at The Most Recent, Most Controversial Ads

The fashion and beauty industries are not really role models for highlighting racial diversity, nor are they known for being particularly sensitive. Often it’s just the opposite. Dove, whose “Real Beauty” ads earned a lot of kudos for portraying women of all ages, sizes, and colors, came under fire last week for an ad that showed an African American model turning white after benefitting from the Dove VisibleCare Body Wash (that's how it was perceived anyway). Were people being hypersensitive or did Unilever really eff this one up? Reading the seemingly thousands of posts about the subject, there are good arguments made in both directions--the bottom line is it depends what skin you’re in. Some 40% of women buying skin care are women of color, and this number is growing. Obviously the message of beauty companies hasn’t caught up with reality yet, though there are small moments where companies seem to be getting a clue. Estée Lauder’s new campaign featuring Joan Smalls, Liu Wen, and Constance Jablonski is a baby step. But will we someday open a magazine that isn’t Essence and see an African American model alone in a fancy skin care ad without two other races to “balance” it out? Click through to check out some of the ads that caused a lot of controversy recently.
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The fashion and beauty industries are not really role models for highlighting racial diversity, nor are they known for being particularly sensitive. Often it’s just the opposite. Dove, whose “Real Beauty” ads earned a lot of kudos for portraying women of all ages, sizes, and colors, came under fire last week for an ad that showed an African American model turning white after benefitting from the Dove VisibleCare Body Wash (that's how it was perceived anyway). Were people being hypersensitive or did Unilever really eff this one up? Reading the seemingly thousands of posts about the subject, there are good arguments made in both directions--the bottom line is it depends what skin you’re in. Some 40% of women buying skin care are women of color, and this number is growing. Obviously the message of beauty companies hasn’t caught up with reality yet, though there are small moments where companies seem to be getting a clue. Estée Lauder’s new campaign featuring Joan Smalls, Liu Wen, and Constance Jablonski is a baby step. But will we someday open a magazine that isn’t Essence and see an African American model alone in a fancy skin care ad without two other races to “balance” it out? Click through to check out some of the ads that caused a lot of controversy recently.
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The fashion and

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New in Racist Advertising this Week: OK, so this is a chocolate ad, but Naomi Campbell is named, so that immediately elevates it to the realm of beauty and fashion. "Watch out, Naomi, there's a new diva in town." Naomi Campbell immediately took offense at being likened to chocolate, for obvious reasons. "I am shocked. It's upsetting to be described as chocolate, not just for me, but for all black women and black people," she told the UK's

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Dove Can Turn You White: This one caused an uproar last week thanks to some poorly placed "before" and "after" copy. There is a patch of rough skin behind the "before" and smooth skin behind the "after." We know what Dove was going for in this one. The problem is that the progression from before to after seems to be illustrated by a dark-skinned model turning white.

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L’Oréal Has a Bad History: Back in 2007, a branch of L’Oréal--Garnier--was found guilty of racial discrimination for purposely not hiring non-white women to promote its shampoo. Then in 2008 the company came under scrutiny for lightening Beyoncé’s skin in this ad, which they vehemently denied doing.

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India’s Whitening Industry is Booming: Beauty companies are happy to play on the insecurities of women in India and Asia, offering various creams to lighten their skin. Pond’s pissed everyone off in India a few years ago with a series of commercials showing a lonely women who finally gets the man of her dreams after getting lighter skin.

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Imedeen: This one should be offensive to you as a human being. It’s another company that makes skin whiteners, but in the form of oral supplements. No commentary necessary, don’t you agree?

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Guys Aren't Exempt Either: Vaseline Men offered this handy Facebook app that allowed guys in India to digitally lighten the skin of their online avatars