Model Lola Ogunyemi Reacts To Controversy Over Dove Ad She Appeared In
The model who appears in the Dove commercial that has been at the center of a racial firestorm this week is speaking out about her experience in a new Guardian opinion piece:. Lola Ogunyemi describes herself as a Nigerian woman, born in London and raised in Atlanta. She reveals that her experiences frequently being told from a young age that she was pretty … for a dark-skinned girl, made it clear to her that society believes darker skinned individuals would look better with lighter skin. Ogunyemi says this narrative is part of why she jumped at the opportunity to appear in a body wash ad for Dove.
She acknowledges that going into the experience she had no idea the ad would be so controversial:
If you Google “racist ad” right now, a picture of my face is the first result. I had been excited to be a part of the commercial and promote the strength and beauty of my race, so for it to be met with widespread outrage was 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 also reveals that she and the other models in the ad understood Dove’s intent:
However, the experience I had with the Dove team was positive. I had an amazing time on set. 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.
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.
Then the first Facebook ad was released: a 13-second video clip featuring me, a white woman, and an Asian woman removing our nude tops and changing into each other. I loved it. My friends and family loved it. People congratulated me for being the first to appear, for looking fabulous, and for representing Black Girl Magic. I was proud.
Ogunyemi says the reaction to the full version was even better:
Then, 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.
Ogunyemi finishes by saying both sides of the argument have merit, but what we love most of all is that she didn’t go into hiding after the backlash came. Instead she stood her ground — she is a beautiful woman and Dove recognized that:
I can see how the snapshots that are circulating the web have been misinterpreted, considering the fact that Dove has faced a backlash in the past for the exact same issue. There is a lack of trust here, and I feel the public was justified in their initial outrage. Having said that, I can also see that a lot has been left out. The narrative has been written without giving consumers context on which to base an informed opinion.
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. I am not just some silent victim of a mistaken beauty campaign. I am strong, I am beautiful, and I will not be erased.
Do you think Dove should have organized a response that included the models from the campaign speaking up about their involvement?
Do you agree that the full version is less offensive? Or do you think the campaign totally missed the mark?
Kudos to Lola for speaking out AND owning her beauty.