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Munroe Bergdorf
Photography Luke Nugent

L’Oréal Paris finally responds to Munroe Bergdorf criticism

The beauty brand came under fire last week for its hypocritical Black Lives Matter statement

L’Oréal Paris has issued a statement addressing its treatment of model and activist Munroe Bergdorf which was brought back to public attention last week when the brand posted in solidarity with the Black community.

Like many brands across industries, last week L’Oréal Paris put out a statement supporting the Black Lives Matter movement in which it claimed “speaking out is worth it”. Many people, however, quickly began to point out that this sentiment was empty, performative, and hypocritical, given its previous treatment of Bergdorf with whom the brand ended its professional relationship with in 2017 after she spoke out publicly against racism and white supremacy.

Figureheads from the fashion and beauty communities including Indya Moore, Clara Amfo, Mykki Blanco, and Kai Isaiah Jamal spoke out in support for Bergdorf who posted impassioned statements in response, detailing 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.

Now, a week and a day since posting the initial statement, L’Oréal Paris and Bergdorf have announced that they have come to an understanding and revealed how the brand will be moving forward in the wake of this criticism. 

In a statement posted by L’Oréal Paris, brand president Delphine Viguier writes that she has had an honest and vulnerable conversation with Berdorf and experienced a “powerful moment of human connection.” 

“Here is what I heard from her,” the statement reads. “Three years ago, Munroe felt silenced by a brand, L’Oréal Paris, that had the power to amplify her voice. While we both agree today that negative labels should not be used to define all individuals in any group, I understand much better the pain and trauma that were behind Munroe’s words back then and the urgency she felt to speak in defense of the Black community against systemic racism.”

It continues: “I regret the lack of dialogue and support the company showed Munroe around the time of the termination. We should have also done more to create a conversation for change as we are now doing. We support Munroe's fight against systemic racism and as a company we are committed to work to dismantle such systems.”

Moving forward, Viguier says the L’Oréal Group – which owns L’Oréal Paris as well as brands including Urban Decay, Lancome and NYX – is forming a UK Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board which Bergdorf has agreed to be involved with. The brand will also be making donations of €25,000 to Mermaids, a charity supporting gender-variant and transgender youth in the UK, and €25,000 to UK Black Pride.

“Speaking out is worth it, only if we are able to listen, learn and grow,” the statement ends. “We all want to contribute to a society in which everyone can live safely, peacefully and equally, and that begins with repairing relationships and moving forward together.”

In her own statement, Bergdorf writes that Viguier reached out to her directly and expressed regret for how the situation was handled three years ago. As an activist, she says, part of her work is to encourage big businesses to understand their responsibility with regards to diversity and inclusion, which is why she thought the consultancy role at L’Oreal was the perfect opportunity to practise what she preaches.

“I believe in accountability and progress, not cancellation and grudges,” she writes. “While what happened three years ago was extremely traumatic for me personally and professionally, sitting on a board to provide a voice and a champion for black, trans and queer voices in the beauty industry is important to me.”

“It feels good to finally have closure on this matter and I look forward to new beginnings with the L’Oreal team. Thank you to everyone who has had my back this past week, I appreciate it massively.”

We thank L’Oréal Paris for taking the steps needed to interrogate the ways it has contributed to systemic racism in the past and moving forward in a way that Bergdorf is satisfied with. We hope that the brand will continue to do the work to support and uplift Black voices in the future.