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Munroe Bergdorf
Photography Luke Nugent

#IStandWithMunroe: L’Oréal Paris’s BLM statement criticised by industry

Figureheads from the fashion and beauty communities have rallied against the brand’s ‘performative allyship’, supporting model Munroe Bergdorf

There has been an outpouring of support from the fashion and beauty community for model and activist Munroe Bergdorf, as anger grows towards L’Oréal Paris for their Black solidarity hypocrisy.

The brand ended its professional relationship with campaign face Bergdorf in 2017, when she spoke out publicly against racism and white supremacy. On Monday, L’Oréal Paris shared a statement on its Instagram account, claiming that “speaking out is worth it”. The accompanying caption read: “L’Oréal Paris stands in solidarity with the Black community, and against injustice of any kind.” 

Instagram users quickly began to point out that this statement was empty, performative, and hypocritical, given their previous treatment of Bergdorf, who wrote an impassioned statement in response. “You do NOT get to do this. This is NOT okay, not even in the slightest,” she wrote in an Instagram post. “Fuck you. Fuck your 'solidarity'. Where was my support when I spoke out? Where was my apology? I'm disgusted and writing this in floods of tears and shaking. This is gaslighting.” 

Many in the fashion and beauty and wider community spoke up to support Bergdorf and condemn L’Oréal Paris, calling on the brand to apologise. Figureheads who have spoken out include Alex Brownsell, Sharmadean Reid, Drag Race’s Aquaria, Matty Bovan, King Princess, Mykki Blanco, Indya Moore, Edie Campbell, Tom Rasmussen, Kate Moross, Kai Isaiah Jamal, Laura Whitmore, Freddie Harrel, Emma Dabiri, Harris Reed, Harry Lambert, Richard Malone, Jamie Windust, Maxim Magnus, and Aaron Philip. The comments of L’Oréal Paris’s original post were also flooded with the hashtag #istandwithmunroe.

Clara Amfo, who in 2017 cut ties with the brand in solidarity with Bergdorf asking that she be removed from all L’Oréal Paris imagery and campaigns, wrote in her Instagram stories that the brand’s “attempt to capitalise on black pain with their performative allyship will spin me out forever. You should be fuming too.” 

Writer and stylist Aja Barber also released a video – well worth watching in its entirety – on performative allyship and brand’s only speaking up for the black community now that it is palatable in which she touched on Bergdorf. “Again and again we watch as Black people are demonised for talking about our oppression until white people can commodify and capitalise on our oppression,” she says.

“When you fire a Black person for talking about white supremacy but then you want to post about it on social media three years later that is disingenuous, that is your attempt to make money off of Black people being murdered in the streets because it is palatable.”

L’Oréal Paris has thus far remained silent – that is, except for a black square posted the following day. The brand has not responded to Dazed Beauty when we reached out for a comment, or released a general press statement.

In response to this silence, Bergdorf posted a longer statement outlining the emotional, mental, and professional harm the brand caused her, and why Black Lives Matter is not here to be co-opted by brands for their own gain.

“Black Lives Matter is a movement for the people, by the people. It is not here to be co-opted for capital gain by companies who have no intention of actually having difficult conversations regarding white supremacy, police brutality, colonialism and systemic racism,” Bergdorf writes. “It cannot be reduced to a series of corporate trends by brands like L'Oréal who have no intention of actually doing the work to better themselves or taking ownership of their past mistakes or conscious acts of racial bias. I would not have been sacked if I had said what I said and was a cisgender, straight, white woman.”

She continues: “This could have been a moment of redemption for L'Oréal, a chance for them to make amends and lead by example. We all get things wrong, we all make mistakes, but it's where you go from there that is a signifier of who you are. L'Oréal claiming to stand with the Black community, yet also refusing to engage with the community on this issue, or apologise for the harm they caused to a black female queer transgender employee, shows us who they are - just another big brand who seeks to capitalise from a marginalised movement, by widening their audience and attempting to improve their public image. Brands need to be aware of their own track record. It's unacceptable to claim to stand with us, if the receipts show a history of silencing black voices.”

L’Oréal Paris’s Black “solidarity” post is, as many have already pointed out, a galling act of performative allyship. Right now, we’re calling on the company and other major beauty brands to do the work, to support and uplift Black voices, and to look inwards and interrogate the ways it has contributed to systemic racism in the past – whether that’s a lack of Black people in its campaigns or in the cosmetics they produce, the people involved in the creative or business structures. Beauty brands must acknowledge the ways in which they have benefitted, and most of all, put their money where their mouths are – which L’Oréal Paris has so far failed to do. We await further response from L’Oréal Paris and will report when we do.