Last year, L’Oréal Paris launched the #YoursTruly Campaign to celebrate diversity. The diversity campaign focuses on the brand’s True Match Foundation, which features 23 shades that cater to almost 100% of the racial/ethnic make up of the UK. Of course. L’Oréal Paris needed beautiful models of all backgrounds as ambassadors to not only showcase the range of their foundations but also to represent that “L’Oréal remains committed to celebrating diversity and breaking down barriers in beauty.” They even modified their trademark to “because we are ALL worth it,” to emphasize this pledge to diversity.
A couple of weeks ago, the stunning Munroe Bergdorf joined the ranks of the True Match Foundation and made history as L’Oréal’s first transgender model. For a few days, L’Oréal really appeared committed to its mission of diversity. Yet, in the wake of the Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a frustrated Bergdorf reminded L’Oréal that her diverse look also came with a diverse voice with a facebook post which went viral.
Her post received mixed reviews. Some people encouraged and cosigned Bergdorf’s comments while others denounced her as racist and called for L’Oréal to fire her, and then there were some in between. Following such social media attention and discussion, news headlines began to read “Bergdorf claims ‘ALL White People’ are racist in Facebook rant.” After misleading headlines and countless negative social media outcries to L’Oréal, Bergdorf was fired. L’Oréal, ironically, claimed that Bergdorf’s comments conflicted with their values of diversity.
In summation, a black transgender model, who was selected for a cosmetic giant’s diversity campaign, was fired because passionately talking about systemic racism doesn’t support previously-mentioned corporation’s definition of diversity and tolerance. Now whether you agree word for word with Bergdorf’s comments or not this situation begs for a few questions to be answered.
Now that diversity is “on trend,” are fashion and cosmetic companies allowed to use WOCs/POCs to fill their quota, while silencing the voices that come with these bodies? Models tend to use their platforms to bring attention to the social issues that matter to them. Are POC models, who were very recently sparse in mainstream fashion, not allowed to discuss the racism that once limited their exposure?
Social issues can only be resolved if people know that there is a problem. For example, makeup artists and hair stylists need(ed) to be informed that with more diverse models being cast that there is a wider range of foundations, color palettes, and hair products that need to be carried to their appointments. If models like Leomie Anderson and Naomi Campbell don’t talk about past experiences of having to do their own hair and makeup due to unprepared stylists, then things do not change. But these issues and incidents find their roots in systemic racism, literally the standard of beauty being defined as white, so why is that particular topic not allowed to be discussed?
Also, are POC’s the only ones at risk for losing their jobs for making inflammatory comments about other races? For example, earlier this year James Charles tweeted about catching Ebola because he was preparing for a trip to South Africa; however, CoverGirl not only let Charles keep his endorsements but also defended him. Or take Jeffree Star, he currently enjoys his own makeup line and other endorsements despite his very checkered past of racist remarks and flagrant usage of the N-word. And I would be remiss if I failed to mention Cheryl Cole’s longstanding relationship with none other than L’Oréal despite her being arrested after committing a verbal and physical racial attack. Although Cole was convicted of physical assault, there were several witnesses who heard her yelling racial epithets during the attack.
There is an egregious double standard in this industry that supposedly values diversity and equality. White women and men are given multiple chances after cruel racist jokes, verbal assaults, and borderline hate crimes. Meanwhile, a black transgender woman is immediately terminated for vocalizing her opinion about accountability, white privilege, and the violent history of systemic racism.
Diversity without inclusion is tokenism. Meaning, if these companies hire POC models for their diverse looks and bodies, but punish them for vocalizing their diverse experiences and opinions, there is no true commitment to equality. I only have one question left. L’Oréal, are we ALL really worth it?
By Jenaé Steele