A new promotional ad by hair product line Shea Moisture is being criticized for abandoning the company’s primary market -- black women with natural hair -- and will be removed from the campaign “immediately,” the company announced Monday evening.
Shea Moisture first shared the ad on its Facebook page Thursday and as of Monday evening, it had been viewed nearly 220,000 times.
The ad, which had the caption, “Break free from hair hate. See how these women have finally learned to embrace hair love,” prominently featured a diverse group of women, but mostly white women, sharing their experience with hair hate.
Many black women and men with natural hair commented on the ad or took to Twitter to share their frustrations, some comparing the gaffe to Pepsi’s flop.
“I just want to let you all know that you have essentially lost the segment of the market that put you on top. Not another dime will I give to this company. Black women are sharing this video in natural hair groups and we are not happy,” one Facebook user wrote.
Following the initial controversy, Shea Moisture shared a company statement with HelloBeautiful.com, writing that their black-owned family business does not take any of their community for granted.
“When large conglomerates ignored women of color and simply marketed products to them vs. making products for them, we were there then – serving women who had historically been underserved in the beauty industry – and that will never change,” the company wrote.
Shea Moisture added that its new innovations are aimed at serving all women and not a chosen few.
“As a company, we have chosen to take a more thoughtful and specific approach to our products that is based on those needs – whether hair that is 4c, 3b, 2a, thick, thinning, damaged, dry, coily, curly, wavy, straight … or skin that is dry, oily, or distressed by psoriasis, eczema or any number of conditions – we’ve created a product for it. We make no apologies for solving for and speaking to our community as human beings and not as data points.”
But the response wasn’t good enough for critics and controversy over the video loomed through the weekend, leading the company to officially announce its removal.
“While this campaign included several different videos showing different ethnicities and hair types to demonstrate the breadth and depth of each individual’s hair journey, we must absolutely ensure moving forward that our community is well-represented in each one so that the women who have led this movement never feel that their hair journey is minimized in any way,” the company wrote.
“We are keenly aware of the journey that WOC face – and our work will continue to serve as the inspiration for work like the Perception Institute’s Good Hair Study/Implicit Association Test that suggests that a majority of people, regardless of race and gender, hold some bias towards women of color based on their textured or natural hair. So, you’re right. We are different – and we should know better.”