Back in August 2017, model Munroe Bergdorf was fired by L’Oréal Paris as a spokesperson for the brand’s diversity initiative after posting a comment on Facebook about unconscious racism in the wake of the Charlottesville protests and white supremacy marches. Munroe said in the comment, which has since been deleted, “Most of ya’ll don’t even realise or refuse to acknowledge that your existence, privilege and success as a race is built on the backs, blood and death of people of colour. Your entire existence is drenched in racism.”
Fast-forward three years: Last week Bergdorf rightfully pointed out the hypocrisy in her firing and L’Oréal now coming out with an anti-racist message itself.
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. With no duty of care, without a second thought. pic.twitter.com/nnBfiP5Oqg
— Black Lives Matter ✊???? (@MunroeBergdorf) June 1, 2020
Today, Bergdorf announced that L’Oréal Paris president Delphine Viguier had reached out to her directly, expressing regret at how the situation was handled three years ago. The brand will reportedly make a statement, and Bergdorf also said that she was accepting a consultancy position on the company’s UK Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board.
I have spoken with @loreal, please swipe for full statement.
Thank you everyone for having my back with this matter over the past three years, it hasn't been easy.
Looking forward to new beginnings and a new positive relationship with the L'Oreal team.
Munroe x pic.twitter.com/DxltLF8Z7j
— Black Lives Matter ✊???? (@MunroeBergdorf) June 9, 2020
Fast Company reached out to L’Oréal Paris for comment and will update this post if it replies.
Between COVID-19 and the current protests against racism and police brutality, many brands are being forced to reconcile the gap between their words and their actions. It’s seeing Walmart CEO Doug McMillon using an emotional ad to praise his more than 1 million “heroes” working in the company’s stores during the pandemic, then reading a New York Times op-ed from one of those heroes lamenting how the company is failing to protect them. It’s Amazon’s less-than-stellar record on executive diversity, police surveillance, sale of racist products, and more. And it’s any major corporation not able to see the connection between the social justice they speak out on and the financial pretzel twists they perform to pay as little in taxes as possible.
Here, though, is a victory.
For Bergdorf, certainly, but also for L’Oréal.
One of the best reactions to making a mistake—no matter how long ago—is to admit it, honestly ask how you can make amends, and then follow through.