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Reuters/Chris Helgren.
NOT A VICTIM

The black model in the “racist Dove ad” is defending the campaign

By Yomi Kazeem

The black woman at the center of the controversial Dove ad is speaking out.

In an op-ed for The Guardian, Lola Ogunyemi, a British-Nigerian model featured in the Dove campaign says the ad (which has now been pulled amid calls for a boycott of Dove products) has been “misinterpreted” and insists Dove’s intentions were not divisive. ”All of the women in the shoot understood the concept and overarching objective–to use our differences to highlight the fact that all skin deserves gentleness,” Ogunyemi writes. She suggests the images shared on social media, which prompted much of the outrage, did not provide enough context for the campaign.

Lola Ogunyemi, top, and fellow model in the Dove ad.

Ogunyemi says she was pleased with the final edit released via a 13-second clip on Facebook followed by a full TV ad which she says “does a much better job of making the campaign’s message loud and clear.” But she also acknowledges the initial outrage over the ad was justified as there’s a “lack of trust” among the public.

That trust deficit stems from decades of racist ads for beauty products which portray black people as undesirable and lighter skin as a higher standard of beauty. This isn’t Dove’s first misstep. It’s not just beauty products either. In China, a detergent brand faced criticism last year for an ad which portrayed a black man as a proxy for dirt.

For her part, Ogunyemi says she’s aware of demeaning racial stereotypes in the beauty industry and hoped to “remind the world” of the beauty and value of black skin by taking part in a campaign for a global beauty brand.

“If I had even the slightest inclination that I would be portrayed as inferior, or as the “before” in a before and after shot, I would have been the first to say an emphatic “no”,” she writes. ”I am not just some silent victim of a mistaken beauty campaign.”