“Just being white wins,” says this Thai cosmetics commercial

Fairness fail.
Fairness fail.
Image: AP/Charles Dharapak
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Whiteness is the key to getting ahead in life, says a bizarre new ad for a whitening product from Thailand’s Seoul Secret.

The commercial for skin-lightening pill Snowz shows actress and model Cris Horwang describing her fear of losing the “whiteness [she’s] invested in” and thus losing her fame. Video effects make her pale skin grow slowly darker, until she’s an ashy black. She looks enviously at her white-skinned counterpart, ostensibly a new star who could potentially replace her.

“Just being white wins,” says her pale opponent knowingly.

See the ad in Thai:

Bangkok news site Khaosod English reports that the ad appeared on Jan. 6, and quickly received criticism on social media. In response, Seoul Secret took down the ad and issued an apology today (Jan. 8) on their Facebook page.

The company writes:

“Our company did not have any intention to convey discriminatory or racist messages. What we intended to convey was that self-improvement in terms of personality, appearance, skills, and professionality is crucial.”

Asian countries like India, Korea, and Thailand, where a premium is placed on light skin, have robust industries around skin-whitening products.

survey by Morgan Stanley found that for Indian consumers, whitening was by far the most important consideration when shopping for a skin cream. There, commercials depict paleness as a means to love and success.

This ad is in Hindi but the message is pretty clear:

In Thailand, the beauty industry has a strange and distressing history of racism in its ads. One goes as far as showing a black and kind-hearted man with a note that appearances aren’t always what they seem; another, about a black bear who wants to be white, is just inexplicable.