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Transgender model, fired by L’Oréal Paris for comments about racism, is face of new campaign

Munroe Bergdorf on “Good Morning Britain” in London on Sept. 4. (Rex Features via AP Images)

British model Munroe Bergdorf became the first transgender woman to appear in a L’Oréal Paris campaign in the United Kingdom late last month.

Bergdorf, an activist and DJ from London, raved about the news at the time. She told Vogue she “couldn’t believe it” and was elated that L’Oréal was “allowing more women to see themselves represented.” The campaign, #allworthit, promoted five new shades of the makeup company’s True Match foundation.

But days later, L’Oréal Paris said that it had ended its partnership with Bergdorf. The decision, which was met with fierce backlash from others in the industry, came in light of remarks Bergdorf made about racism shortly after a white supremacist rally led to deadly violence in Charlottesville.

Now, a rival British makeup company, Illamasqua, has announced that Bergdorf will be the face of its upcoming campaign exploring gender.

“We are not afraid to be provocative and talk about the complex issues that affect our generation — whether they be religion, race, gender or the environment,” Illamasqua wrote on social media.

The Facebook post that led to Bergdorf’s removal from L’Oréal had been reported by the British tabloid Daily Mail weeks after Charlottesville. In it, Bergdorf wrote: “Honestly I don’t have energy to talk about the racial violence of white people any more. Yes ALL white people.”

“Because most of ya’ll don’t even realise or refuse to acknowledge that your existence, privilege and success as a race is built on the backs, blood and death of people of colour,” Bergdorf reportedly wrote in the post, which was later deleted. “Your entire existence is drenched in racism.”

The Daily Mail called it an “extraordinary rant declaring all white people racist.”

In response, L’Oréal Paris tweeted on Sept. 1 that the company “champions diversity,” and it had decided to break ties with Bergdorf because her comments were “at odds with our values.”

Bergdorf fired back, saying her comments had been taken out of context in the Daily Mail article, and that she had been referring to a systemic problem in Western society as a whole.

“We need to talk about why women of colour were and still are discriminated against within the industry, not just see them as a source of revenue,” Bergdorf wrote in a Facebook post. “This reason is discrimination — an action which punches down from a place of social privilege.”

When L’Oreal ended its contract with Bergdorf, black model and DJ Clara Amfo decided to pull out of a L’Oreal campaign in solidarity. “If she’s not ‘worth it’ anymore, I guess I’m not either,” Amfo wrote on Instagram. Illamasqua joined in the protest, tweeting that it stood with Bergdorf and was angered that L’Oreal had dropped her from its campaign.

So when Illamasqua announced its new campaign with Bergdorf, Amfo tweeted “Yes!” with the hashtag #BrandsWithBackbone.

While others joined in support of Bergdorf, not everyone was pleased. One person left an outraged post on Illamasqua’s Facebook page, encouraging others to boycott Illamasqua’s products.

“If her racist comments had been made against any other ethnicity or religion e.g. ‘all blacks’ or ‘all muslims’ I am sure you would have nothing to do with her,” the person wrote.

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