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Brief Published: 17 Jun 2020

L’Oréal & Munroe Bergdorf Reconcile Following Racism Row

Extra
L’Oréal x Munroe Bergdorf

Black British transgender model and activist Munroe Bergdorf has reconciled with French beauty behemoth L’Oréal – returning to its diversity board three years after a very public fall-out mired in accusations of racism. The turnaround proves that progress is possible even following significant acrimony.

Far preceding the 2020 Black Lives Matter (BLM) uprisings sparked by George Floyd’s death, in 2017, Munroe Bergdorf – the first openly transgender model to front a L’Oréal campaign – was dropped by the brand after her comments about white racial violence. They were made in the wake of brutality during the white supremacy group Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.

Claiming to have been “thrown to the wolves” by the brand for raising the subject of white supremacy well before it figured on most brands’ radars, she was swiftly hired by British beauty brand Illamasqua – a retailer renowned for its progressive perspective on cosmetics and embracing diversity by challenging beauty norms.

However, the high-profile row was reignited when L’Oréal issued a statement condemning racism following Floyd’s death, to which Bergdorf hit back – creating an unexpected olive branch in the form of L’Oréal’s new President Delphine Viguier. Viguier reached out to begin talks, stating: “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 defence of the black community against systemic racism. I regret the lack of dialogue and support the company showed Munroe around the time of her termination.”

In the move that potentially sets a new tone for the legion of businesses seeking to improve themselves (and their reputations) in response to BLM protests uprisings, Bergdorf accepted the apology.

In a lengthy Instagram post telling her 387k followers that they’d had an open and constructive conversation, she sought to highlight, “why allyship is a necessary component of anti-racist work.” She also stated she believes in “accountability and progress, not cancellation and grudges. While what happened 3 years ago was extremely traumatic […] 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.”

For more on brands supporting trans and queer voices, look out for our Brands Back Pride, 2020 report, publishing on July 2.

Also look out for our full report on brands responses to the BLM movement, Actions Speak Loudest, on June 30.

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