What Was Dove's Thought Process on This Racial Transformation Ad [UPDATE: Dove Responds]

Remember the days when old soap companies advertised images of black people bleaching off their blackness to reveal white skin? Then you will recall Friday, when Dove posted this multi-frame image [UPDATE: a 3-second video; see bottom of the post for Dove’s response] of a black woman removing her brown shirt and presumably soiled skin color, revealing a pale redhead. The above screenshot by makeup artist Naomi Blake went viral after she posted it to Facebook on Friday. Dove has since removed the ad, but Blake included in the comments that the woman changed to a third and final girl who appears to be non-Caucasian but still light-skinned.


Dove has apologized for “missing the mark,” but how did this happen, the internet wonders, that at least an art director, a marketing director, a photographer, and a social media manager passed this around and thought, “okay”?

Alternative theories on the messaging are that we’re all white inside, or a multi-racial Russian nesting doll came to life and happened to stop shedding her layers at the white person while unfortunately standing next to a bottle of Dove with the label facing the camera? Either way, people on social media are pointing out a very strong and very ugly similarity to golliwog ads.

We’ve asked Dove’s parent company Unilever how it happened and will update the post if and when they return request for comment.


UPDATE 10/8 6:29PM: A UK representative for Unilever has replied with a statement clarifying that the frames were from a 3-second video clip:

As a part of a campaign for Dove body wash, a 3-second video clip was posted to the US Facebook page. This did not represent the diversity of real beauty which is something Dove is passionate about and is core to our beliefs, and it should not have happened. We have removed the post and have not published any other related content. We apologise deeply and sincerely for the offence that it has caused and do not condone any activity or imagery that insults any audience.


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Whitney Kimball

NYC-based freelance writer