George Floyd may have died on May 25, but anti-racism protests and calls against racial inequality live on – and now L’Oréal – the world’s largest cosmetic and beauty company – has made a decision to stop using words like ‘whitening’, ‘fair’, light’ and ‘lightening’ when describing its products.
The French cosmetics giant’s announcement on June 26 comes after ongoing criticism on social media for the company’s controversials skin-lightening products, which make people conform to certain ways of looking. This is especially true in Asia and the Caribbean, where fairer skin is considered ‘desirable’.
Few can forget the disastrous choice of words L’Oréal used when the Black Lives Matter movement reignited after George Floyd’s tragic and appalling death. The brand released a statement saying it ‘stands in solidarity with the Black community and against injustice of any kind’, and channelling its famous slogan, the statement added: ‘Speaking out is worth it.’
Munroe Bergdorf, who was fired as L’Oréal UK’s first openly transgender model in 2017, following comments she made about systemic racism, accused the brand of hypocrisy.
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Excuse my language but I am SO angry. FUCK YOU @lorealparis. You dropped me from a campaign in 2017 and threw me to the wolves for speaking out about racism and white supremacy. With no duty of care, without a second thought. I had to fend for myself being torn apart by the world's press because YOU didn't want to talk about racism. You even tried to get me to incriminate myself with pairing me up with your shady lawyers, when I had done NOTHING wrong. THAT is what you get for 'speaking out' when employed by @lorealparis. Racist snakes. You do NOT get to do this. This is NOT okay, not even in the slightest. I said just yesterday that it would only be a matter of time before RACIST AF brands saw a window of PR opportunity to jump on the bandwagon. Fuck you. Fuck your 'solidarity'. Where was my support when I spoke out? Where was my apology? I'm disgusted and writing this in floods of tears and shaking. This is gaslighting. If you care about me or #blacklivesmatter, don't let @lorealparis get away with this.
At the time, L’Oréal ended her contract, saying her words were ‘at odds’ with the brand’s values. Since speaking out, she has revealed L’Oréal Paris’s new president, Delphine Viguier, later spoke to her and apologised for how the situation was handled at the time of her sacking, and she had agreed to take a consultancy role on the company’s UK diversity and inclusion advisory board. Some good news, at least.
In other news, Anglo-Dutch firm Unilever has made a similar announcement (the company has been criticised for its ‘Fair and Lovely’ range) and Johnson & Johnson has gone even further, saying it will stop selling skin whitening creams in Asia and the Middle East.
From Marie Claire UK