Dove has already issued an apology for offending viewers of its recent body wash ad, but one of the campaign's stars is now saying Dove should have at least defended the “creative vision” behind the commercial.
In an editorial she penned for The Guardian on Tuesday — called “I am the woman in the ‘racist Dove ad’: I am not a Victim” — Lola Ogunyemi said she agreed with Dove’s decision to apologize for how the ad was received, but also that it was never Dove’s intention to portray her “as inferior, or as the ‘before’ in a before-and-after shot.”
Instead, she claimed Dove’s initial objective was to “use our differences to highlight the fact that all skin deserves gentleness.”
Dove’s body wash ad, which was pulled during the backlash, featured several different women stripping off their nude-colored t-shirts to reveal an entirely different woman. In screenshots of the ad, Ogunyemi, who is black, can be seen removing her shirt and transforming into a white woman. Afterward, the white woman does the same, and transforms into a completely different woman, and so on.
“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?’” explained Ogunyemi.
Upon its release, controversy over the ad soon erupted on Twitter, with users calling it “unacceptable” and deeming it racist. Others called for a boycott of the product altogether.
And while Ogunyemi said she understands why the screenshots caused backlash, she ultimately feels that the photos were misinterpreted.
“Having said that, I can also see that a lot has been left out,” wrote Ogunyemi of the public’s outrage. “The narrative has been written without giving consumers context on which to base an informed opinion.”
Ogunyemi, too, said she is upset about becoming the “unwitting poster child for racist advertising” in the wake of the controversy.
“While I agree with Dove’s response to unequivocally apologize 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,” Ogunyemi wrote. “I am not just some silent victim of a mistaken beauty campaign. I am strong, I am beautiful, and I will not be erased.”
In an interview with the BBC on Wednesday, Ogunyemi reiterated that critics might have a different opinion of the ad had they seen the full thing, reports Reuters.
“The screenshots that have taken the media by storm paint a slightly different picture,” she said.
"I don't feel it was racist," she also said.
Dove has since apologized for “miss[ing] the mark” with the ad, but Twitter users have also pointed out that Dove has come under similar scrutiny for a past ad.
Dove has not yet publicly responded to Ogunyemi’s statements.