L’Oreal has released a series of commercials that make me a little uncomfortable. The commercials are for L’Oreal’s True Match foundations which are supposed to “precisely match your skin’s tone and texture.” The commercials feature a few celebrities: Beyonce Knowles (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jc50e02zDt8&feature=BFa&list=PLF68B3695EF7533DC), Jennifer Lopez (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njIKU3sZy4E&feature=BFa&list=PLF68B3695EF7533DC), and Aimee Mullins (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0GbUTjQdaY&feature=BFa&list=PLF68B3695EF7533DC).
The script for each commercial is the same. They start with
“There’s a story behind my skin. It’s a mosaic of all the faces before it. My only make up, True Match.”
While the celebrities say this, their ethnic background pops up in a list alongside their face. Why is their ethnicity relevant in this context?
Although physical characteristics can be inheritable, I find myself uneasy with these commercials because to me it seems that they are pushing a one to one correlation between ethnic backgroup and the tone and texture of skin. It seems as if their foundations have a formula for the ethnic combinations. These ethnic components somehow equal one of L’Oreal’s 33 shades. It feels like the same sort of antiquated focus on differences in physical appearance that lead to the creation of racial categories in the first place. What does this mean to people who are the ethnicities listed in the commercial who don’t have the same complexion as these celebrities?
Jennifer Lopez’s commercial is the only one that has one ethnicity; she is listed as 100% Puerto Rican. What is this saying to other 100% Puerto Ricans who do not look like her?
Another complication to this advertisement is the ethnicity vs. race subject. Ethnicity has come to loosely mean your ancestry, whereas race is seen as linked to ethnicity, but a more physical categorization. That being said, would it be more effective for L’Oreal to use racial categories instead? I can think of a few reasons why L’Oreal would be reluctant to do so.
When the commercials were initially released in January of this year they caused a bit of a controversy for other reasons. This article talks about the controversies brought up about Beyonce, L’Oreal, and her skin tone: http://thegrio.com/2012/02/10/beyonce-describes-herself-as-african-american-native-american-french-in-new-loreal-ad/#s:beyonce-true-match-loreal-ad-jpg.
Does it matter?