A woman who unwittingly found herself at the centre of an online outrage media storm and at the centre of debates about racist advertising has spoken out, saying she is “no victim”.
This week, after a Dove ad she starred in went live, Lola Ogunyemi accidentally became the face of a media storm around racism.
A 13-second grab of the commercial was posted on Facebook, showing Ogunyemi pulling off a t-shirt, only to turn into a white woman after using body wash.
However, in a piece she has penned for The Guardian, Ogunyemi said though she understood where the criticism was coming from, she felt the clip had been taken out of context.
“I’ve grown up very aware of society’s opinion that dark-skinned people, especially women, would look better if our skin were lighter,” she wrote.
Ogunyemi, who is a Nigerian woman, born in London and raised in Atlanta, says the opportunity to represent her “dark-skinned sisters in a global beauty brand” for her, “felt like the perfect way… to remind the world we are here, we are beautiful, and more importantly, we are valued”.
"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”. I would have (un)happily walked right off set and out of the door. That is something that goes against everything I stand for.
"However, the experience I had with the Dove team was positive. I had an amazing time on set. All of the women in the shoot understood the concept and overarching objective – to use our differences to highlight the fact that all skin deserves gentleness."
Ogunyemi concedes she understands how the snapshots circulating the web - ones of her face being transformed into someone white - have been "misinterpreted", considering Dove has faced similar criticisms in past campaigns.
However, she wants to make clear, she has a voice too. And she intends for it to be heard.
"I am not just some silent victim of a mistaken beauty campaign. I am strong, I am beautiful, and I will not be erased."