‘Where was my support when I spoke out? Where was my apology?’
Munroe Bergdorf has criticised L’Oréal Paris for a post in which the brand stated that “speaking out is worth it” after it failed to support her when she herself spoke out.
As people around the world have been taking a stand against systemic racism and white supremacy in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd by white police Derek Chauvin, the beauty brand shared the statement on its Instagram account alongside a caption reading: “L’Oréal Paris stands in solidarity with the Black community, and against injustice of any kind. We are making a commitment to the @naacp to support progress in the fight for justice. #BlackLivesMatter.”
The statement, however, came as a surprise to many since back in 2017 the brand cut ties with Bergdorf for… speaking out against racism.
When L’Oréal Paris announced Bergdorf as a new face of the brand – its first transgender representative – it seemed to represent a huge step forward for the beauty industry. However, just a week after the campaign launched, the brand ended its partnership with Bergdorf over comments she made calling out racism in the aftermath of a white supremacist and neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia which left one person dead and many others severely injured.
In the post, Bergdorf correctly wrote that all white people benefit from racism, have learned and internalised racist practices and opinions, and must be engaged in dismantling their unconscious racism. In response, L’Oréal Paris ended its professional relationship with Bergdorf with immediate effect.
Three years later, L’Oréal Paris seems to have conveniently forgotten this incident. However, many others have not including Bergdorf who has hit back against the hypocrisy of the brand in her own Instagram post.
“Excuse my language but I am SO angry. FUCK YOU @lorealparis. You dropped me from a campaign in 2017 and threw me to the wolves for speaking out about racism and white supremacy,” she writes, continuing that the “racist snakes” left her to be torn apart by the press because they didn’t want to talk about racism.
“You do NOT get to do this. This is NOT okay, not even in the slightest,” she continues. “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 others in the fashion community have spoken out in support of Bergdorf. Kai Isaiah Jamal commented on L’Oréal Paris’s original post writing “But you don’t stand with my sister @munroebergdorf so what is this performance? We don’t need wolves in sheep’s clothing, there’s enough of them killing us already.” While model Aaron Philip wrote “SHAME ON YOU. YOU DROPPED AND FED @munroebergdorf TO THE WOLVES FOR SPEAKING OUT AGAINST RACISM AS A BLACK TRANS WOMAN HERSELF. @lorealparis YOU DESERVE NOTHING.”
It is unclear from L’Oréal Paris’s statement the exact nature of its “commitment to the @naacp to support progress in the fight for justice” and what form this will take in practice. In contrast, many other brands in the beauty industry have pledged money to organisations fighting racial injustice. Glossier has pledged a donation of $1 million to Black Lives Matter organisations and Black-owned businesses while DECIEM, the parent company of The Ordinary, is donating $100,000 across Black Lives Matter and The NAACP Legal Defence & Educational Fund.
Meanwhile, other L'Oréal-owned brands including Urban Decay, Maybelline, and NYX have all announced donations of undisclosed amounts to organisations including Black Lives Matter and the Minnesota Freedom Fund.