Black Model From The Controversial Dove Ad Speaks On Why She Did It

Posted On : October 12, 2017
Lola Ogunyemi

If you’re like us, Ivory and Dove soap have been in our soap rotation for many years. Especially when the Dove Coca Butter soap was released, we were the first to buy. Over the years, Dove’s made some good decisions on marketing their products, but this time…they’re getting heat.

Lola Ogunyemi, an African-American model, was featured in the controversial Dove advertisement. Many social media followers questioned why she chose to model in the ad. She has also been criticized for allegedly being tone deaf and racist. Well, she finally is speaking out and giving her opinion about the beauty brand.

Speaking Out:

When Dove soap released a new commercial featuring an African-American model essentially turning into a Caucasian woman, many people were instantly offended. While they removed the ad, apologized, and admitted that they “missed the mark”, several consumers were instantly offended. All across social media, many followers vowed to be done with Dove.

Social media users were outraged by the implication that black skin is equivalent to dirt. Many people who criticized the imagery said it suggests black skin is dirty and white skin is clean, and noted there is a historical legacy of racism in soap ads. It’s not the first time Dove has been criticized for being racially insensitive in an ad. A 2011 ad that showed two women of color and a white woman standing in front of “before” and “after” signs was also criticized. Simply put, a clean body is not a white body and that’s the message that Dove sent. The message was not well received.

Not only did Dove receive tons of backlash, but many people spoke out against the African-American woman in the ad. While model, Lola Ogunyemi, was excited to be apart of a such an established brand, however, her feelings changed once people began to criticize her. The Nigerian model spoke with The Guardian and shared how she was proud to be apart of a global beauty brand. She thought that she would make people, particularly the black community, proud.

I remember all of us being excited at the idea of wearing nude T-shirts and turning into one another. We weren’t sure how the final edit was going to look, nor which of us would actually be featured in it, but everyone seemed to be in great spirits during filming, including me, Ogunyemi recalled.

When  Lola Ogunyemi shared the 13 second clip Dove ad with her friends and family, they allegedly loved it. She shared that many people congratulated her. What many people don’t know is that there is another fuller version of the advertisement featuring more women of different races talking about their skin. Ogunyemi was really proud of that ad and she wishes that Dove would have released that particular version.

When the full, 30-second TV commercial was released in the US, and I was over the moon again. 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?’ Again, I was the first model to appear in the ad, describing my skin as ‘20% dry, 80% glowing’, and appearing again at the end. I loved it, and everyone around me seemed to as well. I think the full TV edit does a much better job of making the campaign’s message loud and clear.

Lola Ogunyemi, the woman in the Dove advertisement that has been criticized for being tone deaf and racist, is speaking out.

Model Releases Statement

Instead of the full version being shown on Facebook, Dove released the 13 second clip and all hell broke loose. Again, Ogunyemi described to Guardian how the full TV ad was even better, and she was especially proud to feature at the very beginning of it. However, the backlash against the ad has left her not as the face of Dove’s ad campaign but the face of racist advertising, which Ogunyemi described as “upsetting.”

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”. I would have (un)happily walked right off set and out of the door. That is something that goes against everything I stand for.

Ogunyemi revealed that she had a positive experience on the set with Dove and even referred to the shoot as “amazing”. While she appreciates Dove for issuing an apology, she wished that they would have defended the ad in a more eloquent manner.

While I agree with Dove’s response to unequivocally apologise 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. I am not just some silent victim of a mistaken beauty campaign. I am strong, I am beautiful, and I will not be erased.