Earlier this month, black-owned natural hair and beauty line Shea Moisture launched their #BreakTheWalls campaign, which is geared towards dismantling the segregation of beauty aisles. Products made specifically for black hair are often pushed into the "Ethnic" section of department stores, isolated from mainstream products that are used for contrasting hair textures. In the commercial for Shea's new movement, a black woman asks: "Is ethnic not beautiful?"
The controversy wasn’t the first time SheaMoisture faced backlash for appearing to shift their marketing strategies. The brand was criticized for “rebranding their products’ ingredients to benefit white consumers.” They strenuously denied that this was the case, saying in a statement:
… we don’t have to change our award-winning formulations to appeal to someone they weren’t made for. We simply innovate new products to solve the needs our community identifies.
The April 2017 ad ended with the slogan “Everybody Gets Love,” prompting users to object with an #AllHairMatters hashtag — a reference to people who dismiss the Black Lives Matter movement by saying “All Lives Matter.”
An article in Ebony mentioned a 2015 partnership with a new investor:
In September of 2015, they announced a partnership with a minority, non-control investor. “We are still an independent, family-owned and operated company – and we are still at the helm…running the business, making the decisions and focused more than ever on YOU,” SheaMoisture said in a statement.
For a brand designed to cater to women with natural and textured hair, this video didn’t seem to align with its mission.
Wow, okay – so guys, listen, we really f-ed this one up. Please know that our intention was not – and would never be – to disrespect our community, and as such, we are pulling this piece immediately because it does not represent what we intended to communicate. You guys know that we have always stood for inclusion in beauty and have always fought for our community and given them credit for not just building our business but for shifting the beauty landscape. So, the feedback we are seeing here brings to light a very important point. 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. 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.