If you’ve missed all the controversy surrounding the latest wave of beauty influencers, then have you actually been living under a rock? OK, to recap, L’Oréal Paris hired black transgender model and activist Monroe Bergdorf back in October as the face of its True Match campaign. Days later she was unceremoniously dropped after she posted comments on her Facebook page about endemic racism in response to the Charlottesville rally. Next up, in mid-January this year, came the announcement that Amena Khan was to be the face of L’Oréal Paris Elvive, despite (or because of) the fact that, as a hijab wearing Muslim, her hair wasn’t on show. And again, after ‘derogatory’ comments about Israel made back in 2014 (we use inverted comments because no respectable media outlet is able to report the content of the tweets in question as they were rapidly deleted), the beauty blogger tendered her resignation, a decision that was supported by the brand.
Of course, to be clear, racism comes in many forms. As GCN has not seen the exact contents of all Khan’s tweets, we cannot judge whether they could be classed as political commentary or discrimination. The prevailing opinion, however, appears to be that the tweets condemned Israel’s actions during the Gaza War. Even The Daily Mail can’t come up with any more dirt than that.
But we’re not taking sides here, what we are saying, however, is that it is apparently fine for an Israeli woman, white in appearance, to voice support of the IDF. And doing so poses no risk to her high-profile contracts. Yes, because if you missed it, Revlon has appointed Gal Gadot, best known for her role as Wonder Woman and a vocal supporter of the IDF, ambassador. And that appointment caused beauty blogger @MuslimGirl to turn down a Revlon Changemaker award.
Or, if we need another example, why is OK for Penelope Cruz, an ambassador for Lancôme (owned by L’Oréal, need we point out) to voice her support for the Palestinian cause and not Khan? Because Penelope Cruz is white?
“White women and men are allowed to apologize and get their career back on track. Minorities on the other hand, one red card and you’re out,” Nafisa Bakkar, Co-founder of Amaliah.com told Huffington Post. And the Cruz-Khan differential proves that she is absolutely right. Cruz, first appointed in 2012, continues to front campaigns for L’Oréal-owned Lancôme.
In short, the beauty industry wants to be seen to be diverse but it doesn’t want diversity to be heard. Seen but not heard, we’re infantilizing whole ethnicities and expecting them to be beyond reproach, something we never require of their white counterparts. L’Oréal et al would do well to remember that diversity of opinion exists too.