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Carol’s Daughter “Diversity” Rant

April 27, 2011


Selita, Solange, and Cassie, showing their “diversity”

I know I’m late on this but I felt compelled to say something about this new ad Carol’s Daughter recently released showing “Beauty in Diversity” with the company’s new ambassadors: model Selita Ebanks, singer Solange Knowles, and  singer (?) ahem, diddy’s girl aka Misa Hylton-Brim/J. Lo hybrid and Delia’s model Cassie Ventura .

According to Steve Stoute, Carol’s Daughter chairman and lead investor:

“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. There are no longer boxes of white, black, Latina, Asian. More and more women are checking the other box, they share the vision and embody the messaging in their attitude, appearance, projects and core values.”

As far as the ethnicities being represented by the ad, Cassie is African-American, Mexican and Filipina, Selita is Native American, Irish, and African-American, and Solange is African-American and French Creole.
Selita goes on to say:

“Carol’s Daughter doesn’t have just one direct demographic. Solange’s hair is a different texture than mine; so is Cassie’s. Our skin and body types are different. Today, people are blended, and I think the three of us are a prime example. Women in my family range from vanilla to the deepest chocolate.”

I’ve read a good amount of comments made by people about this ad on various blogs and the consensus is that people are not satisfied.
My take on this?  I as well, am not satisfied.  While I appreciate Steve Stout and Lisa Price’s message in their new campaign, it doesn’t paint the picture of diversity. Sure Solange, Cassie, and Selita are all made up of different ethnicities, but unfortunately the picture of the three of them together doesn’t exactly spell out diversity.  To me, their ethnic diversity is more internal than external. From a consumer’s perspective, you cannot tell that Selita and Cassie are made up of multiple nationalities, just by looking at them in this ad. Shoot, even to me, as an african-american woman, also being a similar shade to the three of them, I don’t see a vast difference and either of the women, nor do I SEE the diversity. And sorry, but Cassie’s colored contacts do nothing to show to the ethnic diversity they are attempting to portray.

Problem #1

What are they advertising here? Stout claims that he wants the brand to be the first to “capture the beauty of the tapestry of skin types in America”. But what does that really mean?  Then he goes on to say that many women are using more than one ethnicity to describe their racial background. That’s great and all, but what does that really have to do with the tapestry of skin types he speaks of? To me, he is only showing one skin color in the ad. There’s no dark skinned or brown skinned multi-ethnic women of color in this ad and I don’t see a variety or even a “diverse” melting pot of skin types. And whether or not Selita is a different race from Solange, this ad doesn’t show that. I know they are different ethnicities because I follow black entertainment and pop culture but really, what average consumer is going to know that their ethnicities vary or even do the research to find the ethnic differences between the three women if they don’t know? You might as well place Keri Hilson and Beyonce in an ad and show “diversity”. I can find more diversity in “My Black is Beautiful”, or GAP, or United Colors of Benetton ads.
Selita goes on to say that the women in her family range in a plethora of skin tones ranging “from vanilla to the deepest chocolate.” So instead of this ad showing women that support what she says, it actually makes it even more apparent that the range of skin tone is what’s lacking.

Problem #2

Carol’s Daughter is a full fledged bath and body/hair care line, so assuming they have different target audiences, who are they trying to attract-haircare customers or those who buy their bath and body products? Selita speaks about how her hair is different from the Solange’s and Cassie’s, so I’m assume they are reaching out to their hair customers. But then she goes on to talk about skin tone, so maybe both? We all know that one’s skin tone has nothing to do with determining their hair type, so who knows….Maybe they are trying to attract all the multi-ethnic brown women of the world?- But then again, isn’t that who their targeted audience has been since the start of their company? 
What is not clear is their focus, in addition to how they are actually successfully embodying their theme of diversity through this ad.  And from an advertising perspective, I’d have to wonder if a woman of a darker skin tone who may or may not be of multiple ethnicities, could relate to this ad? Would she be more motivated to buy Carol’s Daughter without seeing anyone that looks similar to her in this ad?
Honestly I doubt it. When it comes to advertising with a theme, things need to be clear for the consumer. The picture of diversity has NOT been painted. To someone who doesn’t know Selita’s, Solange’s, and Cassie’s background, this ad would just look like Carol’s Daughter’s new ambassadors are 3 light skinned black women- yes I said it. And that is their main mistake. It should not be required for a consumer to have to do research to get a complete understanding of a company’s point of view. point-blank-period.
Interested on seeing what Selita, Cassie, and Solange have to say about “good hair”? Click here for a link to their video response with Lisa Price. I will add that Jada Pinkett-Smith and Mary J. Blige are still ambassadors for Carol’s Daughter. If this new ad had included them, it is then that I believe “Beauty in Diversity” would’ve been more of a cohesive theme.

Any thoughts? Agree or disagree?


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