By now you’ve probably heard about the paper-bag “diversity” campaign Carol’s Daughter recently launched. Black women of all hues are voicing out on the web, “Where are the brown-skinned faces?” Hopefully cocoa-cutie and Disney Princess Tiana will keep her kids line even though she doesn't have a polyethnic look the company is pushing. “What’s ‘polyethnic?” you’re thinking. Here’s a quote from marketing guru and company CEO Steve Stoute from the campaign's press release:
What we’re doing now is moving into a polyethnic space. We want to be the first beauty brand that truly captures the beauty of the tapestry of skin types in America. When I say polyethnic, I mean women who are made up of several ethnicities. If you ask them what they are, they’re going to use a lot of different words to describe themselves. That’s in line with the Census data coming out — people are checking much more than two boxes. We believe we’ve put together a shoot that celebrates many different ethnicities, to become a mirror of what America’s really becoming.[...]“They will serve as cultural ambassadors in bringing forth this acceptance that the definition of beauty is now colorless.
Singers Solange (Black and Creole), Cassie (Black, Filipino and Mexican) and Victoria’s Secret model Selita Ebanks (Black, Irish, Native American) are the new spokeswomen representing diversity. All three ladies identify with multiple cultures. All are without a doubt gorgeous. My disappointment with this campaign has nothing to do with their beauty. Nor do I have a problem with founder Lisa Price expanding her brand. Curly heads of various ethnicities use Carol’s Daughter. The company should take advantage of their growing diverse pool of customers. But brown-skinned women buy Carol’s Daughter products too. I mean come on. Chrisette Michelle, Anika Noni Rose, Kimberly Elise, Brandi, Maybeline model Tomiko Fraser—women like them don’t represent diverse beauty? According to the press release, Lisa Price “designed the new campaign ad to reflect the recent demographic shift reported by the U.S. Census.” Lisa designed this? That stings. If it weren’t for black women, of ALL hues, Carol’s Daughter would not be sitting in Macy’s shelves, on HSN, online, etc. Black women backed Lisa Price from the days she was selling oils and creams out of her kitchen. Mind you, her stuff is expensive. Launching a campaign solely with a calablansian, racially-ambiguous mainstream image excludes many women, especially the customers who first supported her.
It’s no secret that darker-skinned women have always been deemed as “unmarketable” and not beautiful. But why is polyethnic marketing in general so focused on women? Even CEO Steve Stoute said, “When I say polyethnic, I mean women who are made up of several ethnicities.” Why this deterrence away from black women’s features, especially in black media? Of course this marketing doesn’t impact black men. Think about it. If there were a hair and skin line for black men do you think Mr. Stoute and Lisa Price would hire Tiger Woods, Boris Kodjoe, Jessie Williams ("Grey’s Anatomy") to be their ONLY spokesmen? I’ll answer for you. HELL NAW. Black men would have a fit. You know some celeb like Tyrese or Romeo would be up in the campaign mix too. Nearly every time I see or read something about multicultural marketing, the models are usually mixed-race women. Or when people get upset over a celebrity’s skin being lightened in an ad or magazine cover it’s a woman. Males are rarely the subject of these controversies. Companies using images of biracial people in their marketing is a great thing. Biracial people want to see reflection of themselves just like anyone else. Unfortunately this is happening at the erasure of brown-skinned women. God knows, there are barely a handful of brown-skinned beauties in the media at the moment.
Radio One founder Cathy Hughes said in April’s issue of Ebony Magazine (which is really good by the way) that this type of multicultural marketing is becoming a trend in black media:
If you look on television, look at ads, in print, everything is interracial now. Everything is a Black woman and White man or a Black man and a White woman. There’s this emphasis on a ‘colorless society.’ Why should we give up our Black culture? Are the Asians?... Do you think the Latino/Hispanics are going to give up being Latino or Hispanic because they have married other people? So why are black folks the only culture being called upon to be colorless? That trickles down, [and] greatly impacts African-American media.
What’s next? Women who look like Solange, Selita and Cassie will be considered too dark or too black for cultural products? I’m not saying the three ladies should not be spokeswomen. If Carol’s Daughter is going to push diverse beauty then be diverse. Show a range of colors and hair textures. The only differences I see in the spokeswomen are their hair styles and fashion tastes. Good marketing doesn’t alienate the customers who helped propelled the company. Many women online have said they’re not buying Carol’s Daughter products anymore. It will be interesting to see what kind of impact this may have. CEO Steve Stoute is supposedly a marketing wiz so the company may do very well. Until then, I’ll take my rich, brown skin and dark green dollar bills elsewhere.