The model featured in a controversial Dove ad is speaking out to defend it. The soap ad, which shows how Dove transforms a black woman into a white woman and then an Asian woman, has been panned by critics as being racist and tone deaf. The black model featured in the ad, Lola Ogunyemi, is defending it and saying that its meaning was taken out of context. “I don’t feel it was racist,” she shared in an interview with the BBC on Wednesday.
Ogunyemi says the overall concept of the ad was to celebrate diversity. The original ad was 30 seconds long and something the model was happy with. "I loved it. The 30-second version was made for TV." She says, "There is a line in the 30-second TV commercial that says 'all skin deserves gentleness."
The shorter, social media image being shared caused a firestorm. In it, Ogunyemi takes off her t-shirt to become a white model, which many interpreted as Dove saying that white skin was somehow better or cleaner. Even after seeing the social media version, Ogunyemi says she was "happy" with it. "I thought it was fantastic." She says that the screenshots gave an incorrect portrayal of the ad's intent.
As the NY Post shares, Ogunyemi is Nigerian. She was born in Britain and raised in the United States and has spoken out about being very aware of race and how it affects women and the portrayal of beauty.
Dove apologized for the ad. The company issued a separate statement Sunday, saying the ad "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."