Munroe Bergdorf accuses L'Oréal of racial hypocrisy

Priya Elan Deputy fashion editor

Munroe Bergdorf, the model and transgender activist, has accused L’Oréal Paris of hypocrisy after it posted a message on social media in support of the Black Lives Matter movement days after the George Floyd killing.

Bergdorf was hired by the beauty company in August 2017 but was fired days later after a controversy over comments she posted on Facebook in response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which an anti-far-right protester was killed by a white supremacist.

With fashion brands such as Nike now speaking out about racial injustice after Floyd’s death in police custody sparked protests across the US, L’Oréal Paris shared a statement on Instagram saying: “L’Oréal Paris stands in solidarity with the black community, and against injustice of any kind. We are making a commitment to the @naacp to support progress in the fight for justice. #BlackLivesMatter.” 

In response, Bergdorf posted a message that accused the company of throwing her “to the wolves for speaking out about racism and white supremacy” when she was sacked.

In August 2017, Bergdorf was announced as one of the faces of L’Oréal’s True Match diversity campaign to launch a range of foundations for a variety of skin tones. But she was dropped at the start of September after her post on Charlottesville came to light.

The post caused controversy because of remarks including: “Honestly I don’t have energy to talk about the racial violence of white people any more. Yes ALL white people. Because most of y’all don’t even realise or refuse to acknowledge that your existence, privilege and success as a race built on the backs, blood and death of people of colour. Your entire existence is built on racism.”

Facebook removed the post and said it violated its standards, while the beauty company tweeted: “L’Oréal champions diversity. Comments by Munroe Bergdorf are at odds with our values and so we have decided to end our partnership with her.”

Bergdorf responded that the media had reported parts of the quotes out of context and accused L’Oréal of hypocrisy.

In the aftermath, she told the Guardian: “I’m an activist. Being an activist means calling people out, not just saying what everyone else is saying and what everyone else wants to think and upholding the common consensus. L’Oréal knew that when they hired me.”

L’Oréal Paris recently launched a campaign called Lessons of Worth fronted by the Oscar-winning African American actor Viola Davis.

The Guardian has contacted L’Oréal Paris for comment.