Lola Ogunyemi, the black woman in a Dove body wash campaign tagged as racist over the weekend, says the ad has been misunderstood and that she is not a victim.
Writing in The Guardian, Ogunyemi said she "jumped" at the chance to do the ad, which was intended to show how all skin deserves gentleness.
Ogunyemi, who is of Nigerian ancestry, was born in London and grew up in Atlanta. She said she has been told all her life she is "so pretty … for a dark-skinned girl."
Working on the ad, she said, was an effort to reverse that "repressive narrative."
"Having the opportunity to represent my dark-skinned sisters in a global beauty brand felt like the perfect way for me to remind the world that we are here, we are beautiful, and more importantly, we are valued," she wrote.
The ad came under fire because a version on Facebook shows her pull off a shirt closely matching her skin tone to reveal a fair-skinned white woman underneath, also wearing a shirt matching her lighter skin.
Critics found it reminiscent of ads from decades past that showed a black person using soap to make their skin appear Caucasian. It also echoed a previous Dove ad that showed three women in front of a "Before" and "After" picture of dry skin that had been moisturized. The woman with darkest skin was shown standing in front of the before picture and the lightest-skin woman was in front of the after picture.
But that was not the intent of the current ad that she was a part of, Ogunyemi wrote.
The full 30-second TV version of the ad, included seven different women of various races. That visual was lost in the shorter Facebook version which showed only Ogunyemi turning into a white woman.
"Again, I was the first model to appear in the ad, describing my skin as '20% dry, 80% glowing', and appearing again at the end," she wrote. "I loved it, and everyone around me seemed to as well. I think the full TV edit does a much better job of making the campaign's message loud and clear."
The public was justified in its initial outrage, she said, especially considering Dove has faced backlash before on the same issue.
"Having said that, I can also see that a lot has been left out," she said. "The narrative has been written without giving consumers context on which to base an informed opinion."
Ogunyemi said she is not "some silent victim of a mistaken beauty campaign. I am strong, I am beautiful, and I will not be erased."
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