This article was published on June 9th, 2020
The current escalation of the #BlackLivesMatter movement has led to many businesses releasing statements in support, with many of them directly pledging to elevate their efforts against racism. Not all of these companies, however, have been met with praise.
A world leader in the beauty and cosmetics industry, L’Oreal recently posted on their Instagram account in response to the international protests against police violence and systemic racism in lieu of the death of George Floyd. But while in the midst of their new ‘Lessons of Worth’ campaign, former spokeswoman Munroe Bergdorf has put the beauty giant on blast, calling out their hypocrisy.
Bergdorf, a transgender model and activist, was hired by L’Oreal in August 2017, introduced as the ‘face of modern diversity’ for their True Match campaign to celebrate a variety of skin tones. A few days later, however, she was unceremoniously fired after speaking out online against racism and white supremacy after the violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia which was led by white nationalists and resulted in the death of a peaceful protester. Bergdorf wrote:
“Because most of ya’ll don’t even realise or refuse to acknowledge that your existence, privilege and success as a race is built on the backs, blood and death of people of colour. Your entire existence is drenched in racism. From micro-aggressions to terrorism, you guys built the blueprint for this s***. Come see me when you realise that racism isn’t learned, it’s inherited and consciously or unconsciously passed down through privilege. Once white people begin to admit that their race is the most violent and oppressive force of nature on Earth… then we can talk.”
This statement resulted in L’Oreal officially severing ties with Berdorf, Facebook removing the post, and L’Oreal issuing a rebuttal of her comments on their company site:
“L’Oréal champions diversity. Comments by Munroe Bergdorf are at odds with our values and so we have decided to end our partnership with her.”
Undeterred, Munroe Bergdorf countered with the following:
“I’m an activist. Being an activist means calling people out, not just saying what everyone else is saying and what everyone else wants to think and upholding the common consensus. L’Oréal knew that when they hired me.”
Even though Munroe countered that her quotes were taken out of context, the damage had been done and the model was dropped from her lucrative role as an ambassador for the company.
Fast forward to 2020, George Floyd, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and a slew of companies worldwide issuing statements in support of the peaceful protest demonstrations – L’Oreal jumped on the bandwagon too, issuing a statement on their Instagram account:
“L’Oréal Paris stands in solidarity with the black community, and against injustice of any kind. We are making a commitment to the @naacp to support progress in the fight for justice. #BlackLivesMatter.”
Upon release of this post, however, supporters of Bergdorf came out in droves to show their support for her stance and to demand that L’Oreal – and other companies that have dropped the ball on humanitarian causes making similar claims – to finally do right and practice what it preaches. In the last few days, the activist her renewed her stance against L’Oreal Paris, accusing them of gaslighting and supporting #BlackLivesMatter for spurious reasons. She wrote:
“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.”
Bergdorf went further, accusing L’Oreal of throwing her “to the wolves for speaking out about racism and white supremacy”, asserting her claims that L’Oreal’s intentions are suspect and that activism is not convenient.