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Nigerian Model Featured in Controversial Dove Ad Defends Campaign

A Nigerian model at the center of a controversial advertisement for the beauty brand Dove is challenging accusations that she was a willing participant in a campaign that critics say is racist.
A Dove ad on Facebook showed women of different ethnicities morphing into each other.
A Dove ad on Facebook showed women of different ethnicities morphing into each other.Dove

A Nigerian model in a racially insensitive advertisement for soap company Dove is defending the original vision for the commercial, which features a series of women of different races removing nude T-shirts and turning into one another.

Critics have slammed the campaign, saying that it promotes the harmful and racist idea that lighter complexions are the ideal standard of beauty.

But Lola Ogunyemi, who is the face of the campaign, said she disagrees

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"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 in an editorial for The Guardian.

Related: Dove Apologizes for Racially Insensitive Facebook Advertisement

Dove, which is owned by Dutch-British transnational consumer goods company Unilever, apologized and removed the campaign, saying that it "missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully."

Ogunyemi said that as a dark-skinned woman she is well aware that society has historically valued light skin and the negative impacts that can have on young women, including herself.

"And this is why, when Dove offered me the chance to be the face of a new body wash campaign, I jumped," she wrote. "If I had even the slightest inclination that I would be portrayed as inferior, or as the 'before' in a before and after shot, I would have been the first to say an emphatic 'no.'"

Initially, Ogunyemi said she "loved" the first Facebook ads, but she said she was quickly "overwhelmed" by the calls to boycott. She said she understands why the snapshots of the campaign can be "misinterpreted," but said the outcry lacked context.

Related: 'Dirty Chinese Restaurant' Game, Criticized for Racism, Will Not Be Released

"While I agree with Dove’s response to unequivocally apologize for any offense caused, they could have also defended their creative vision, and their choice to include me, an unequivocally dark-skinned black woman, as a face of their campaign," she wrote.

A Dove ad on Facebook showed women of different ethnicities morphing into each other.Dove

The incident is not the first time the Dove brand has come under fire for "before and after" ads that are perceived to be racially insensitive.

In 2011, the company also apologized and pulled similar advertisements that featured a model with darker skin standing in front of a "before" sign, and models with white skin standing in front of the "after."