Lola Ogunyemi said as a Nigerian woman, born in London and raised in Atlanta, she has grown up aware that models with darker skin are rarely seen in the media, so she “jumped” at the chance to be the face of a global campaign.
“Having the opportunity to represent my dark-skinned sisters in a global beauty brand felt like the perfect way for me to remind the world that we are here, we are beautiful, and more importantly, we are valued,” she wrote in a piece for the Guardian.
She added that some of the clips circulating on social media do not show the full advert and as such, the ad’s message has been “misinterpreted”.
The Dove campaign, which appeared on Facebook in GIF form, showed a black woman, Ogunyemi, removing her t-shirt to reveal a white woman underneath.
The images went viral after American makeup artist Naomi Blake shared the photos on social media.
In the Guardian article, Ogunyemi said the full Dove TV advert intended to “highlight the fact that all skin deserves gentleness”. However, this message was lost in the 13-second clip that appeared on Facebook.
The model went on to suggest she did not know the images would be edited in this way.
“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 said.
In response to the backlash the advert received, Dove said in a statement: “This did not represent the diversity of real beauty which is something Dove is passionate about and is core to our beliefs, and it should not have happened.
“We have removed the post and have not published any other related content. We apologise deeply and sincerely for the offence that it has caused.”
The brand may have apologised, but for many this is not enough. In a HuffPost UK video, five black women spoke out about the advert, with many saying the apology fell short.
Elizabeth Dale said: “I’m completely disgusted with the new Dove advert. With their apology, they didn’t acknowledge anything or any wrong doing.”
Amel Mukhtar added: “It was incredibly racially insensitive and showed a vast ignorance of a history in which blackness has been linked to dirtiness, to uncleanliness.”
Ogunyemi said that while she agrees that Dove should have apologised for any offence caused, she believes the company could have “defended their creative vision” and the initial decision to use a dark-skinned model
She said: “I am not just some silent victim of a mistaken beauty campaign. I am strong, I am beautiful, and I will not be erased.”