As a black woman, the above video has made it extremely difficult for me to control my trembling hands as I type these words. I could honestly never imagine witnessing such blatant racism in an advertisement (in 2016!). I now realize that it is quite naïve of me to think that this kind of discrimination no longer exists in the beauty industry.
This is a recent Thai ad for Seoul Secret's skin-lightening pill, Snowz. If you can stand to watch, you'll see model Cris Horwang grace the screen and then confidently state that by "just being white, you will win." She continues to explain that taking the supplement will help your complexion remain pale, but warns that without it, your fair skin will will vanish. Seconds later, another model appears and her disposition shifts from excited and confident to dejected and glum as her skin digitally transfroms from white to black. "Eternally white, I am confident," she says.
Growing up, I was taught a fundamental lesson: everyone from every walk of life and every skin color should be treated equally and be considered beautiful. I'm sure many of us would assume this idea is common knowledge . . . right?! However, the harsh reality is that racism and discrimination — along with self-acceptance — is still a very prominent issue we still battle today, and the beauty industry plays a part.
The media and society have long glorified women with lighter skin, straighter hair, and more slender silhouettes. These ladies have been exalted as ideal interpretations of beauty, while portraying women of color as the opposite.
We black women have been judged by and criticized for our looks for centuries, including our natural kinks and curls, our distinct facial features, and for the color of the skin we were born with. This has resulted in some of us feeling the need to conform to this notion that being black is wrong. Skin-lightening products like Snowz have been used by many who have grown up thinking that in order to be accepted, your skin has to be white. This video clearly proves that this unfortunate desire still exists — and not just within the black community.
This ad has since been removed from the website and Seoul Secret has issued an apology.
"(We) would like to apologize for the mistake and claim full responsibility for this incident. Our company did not have any intention to convey discriminatory or racist messages. What we intended to convey was that self-improvement in terms of personality, appearance, skills, and professionality is crucial."
However, the message behind this advertisement — and even the apology — perpetuates ideas we should all be making strides to end: black isn't beautiful. White skin is better than dark skin. And, the long-held concept that we must alter our appearance to feel beautiful and accepted by others.
There are still large steps left to take by brands, the industry, and the world towards becoming more accepting of diversity, but hopefully, negative messages like this can still spark positive conversations on race and beauty.