I had the opportunity to talk with Shea Moisture CEO, Richelieu Dennis for a quick chat at the 2017 Curl Fest festival this past weekend. Like many, I was not a fan of the controversial ad released back in May of this year and I was very vocal about my disappointment which I shared personally with Dennis.
I chose to continue my support for Shea Moisture and rather than issue a 10 reasons why checklist to satisfy your reading pleasure, I thought I share the good, ugly and bad that emerged over this AD which I wrote back in May for another issue.
Friend: Did you see the new Shea Moisture commercial, they are are cancelled!
Me: No, I didn’t – what happened?
And so it begins,
By now you have either heard or read about the recent controversy surrounding Shea Moisture hair care line which led to a public apology and interview calling for forgiveness by SM’s CEO.
A commercial ad for Shea Moisture was released online featuring three women; two were caucasian, and the other woman was racially ambiguous with a similar loose curl hair pattern to the caucasian women. “Hair Hate” was the tagline and each of the women talked about when they began to embrace their hair in its natural state. The result was a social media onslaught of protests, criticism and threats to ‘cancel Shea Moisture’ from its primary consumers.
The primary consumers in question: women of color aka ” black women “.
The commercial excluded the very core demographic that launched the now multi-million dollar hair product line as a global enterprise. Where was the kinky curly; 4 hair type naturals? Aside from a quick glimpse in the form of hollywood squares towards the end of the ad, the ‘darker hue’ black woman is not shown. For many, this was a direct SLAP in the face and middle finger to the consumers that have supported Shea Moisture since its inception, therefore this was no simple digest folks.
As seen on the back label of ALL of their products – and I do mean ALL , the inspiration behind the line came from Dennis grandmother (Sofi Tucker) who was creating impact among young women in one of the community villages in Bonthe Sierra Leone, Africa.
Using water, raw african shea butter, and ‘whipping it’ with some of earth’s essential oils, young women of color now had a ‘go to’ product line that would advance their hair growth and restore it back to its healthy state similar to the women of their ancestral lineage .
To honor Sofi’s legacy, with each purchase of any Shea Moisture products – a percentage of the monies obtained is used to empower many disadvantage women in communities alike where Sofi was birthed.
I can attest that Shea Moisture products lives up to its name.Their pay it forward mission was my buy-in as a loyal consumer and here we are 20 years later, looking at what appeared to be their new global campaign ad by Shea Moisture; a company that has pride itself as the F.U.B.U (for us by us) line for women of color and yet it excludes ‘us’.
For the darker hue women of color, the commercial was a reminder of the negative stereotype that is often associated with dark skin women in America. The ‘lighter hue’ represents the ‘better’ and ‘acceptable’ beauty standard for women of color and the darker hue is revered as the contrary. The women chosen for the ad are not to blame, but the person[s] behind the marketing ad idea.
” Where are the 4 hair type women? Not one sheer resemblance of the black women that has grossed Shea Moisture more than 33 million dollars in product sales to date is seen in the new ad
According to Neilsen; African-Americans currently hold a buying power of $1 trillion, a number that’s estimated to reach 1.3 trillion by 2017. And they’re blowing ALOT of those bills on cosmetics, spending nine times more on ethnic-targeted beauty and grooming products than the general market.
Black women in particular, spend an estimated $7.5 billion annually on beauty products, shelling out 80%percent more on cosmetics and twice as much on skin care as their non-black counterparts. Yet, they’ve been grossly underserved by the cosmetics industry throughout history. “
The consumer outrage is more than the subtle argument about Shea Moisture’s decision to diversify their brand. Shea Moisture has grown exponentially over the years and has become one of the top brands of the hair care industry. I think Shea Moisture has ‘too many product lines’ to keep up with these days. I prefer the ‘less is best’ option and stick to what works for my hair.
Dennis says the company made a huge error in releasing the ‘unapproved ad’ and they’re conducting an in-house investigation to find the employee(s) who disobeyed the company’s chain of command rule.
Sadly, that’s neither here or there at this point. It happened, now what?
Shea Moisture has grown exponentially over the years placing them in the top tier groups of the hair care industry. They now have a variety of product lines for every kinky and curly hair women of color, thus creating a product line that caters specifically to caucasian women in particular would not be far fetched. Dennis explains that Shea Moisture expansion project was never intended to leave out its primary consumer base, and while the ‘AD’ served to draw new consumers (similar to Pantene’s new GOLD series), it was poorly executed.
Natural Hair Is Healthy Hair
I’ve been a ‘natural’ as they say since birth through adulthood which by default makes me part of the ‘natural hair community’. I’m going to spare the long and or concise description of what it is to be a natural but essentially it is wearing your hair in its natural state and avoiding perms, texturizer’s, and or chemical enhanced products that alter the thickness and density of your hair.
Caring for your natural hair takes more time, commitment and patience than getting your hair done at the salon or by someone else. For many women of color birthed on American soil, we know this all too well. Based on your career path and or family goals, the choice of D.I.Y-ing (doing it yourself) always comes into play. When I went loc-free I four years ago, I shared the same sentiments as the many advocates of the natural hair community.
What products will I buy now? Will they work for my hair as they do on others? How do I find out my hair texture (4a -4b-4c) ? What is low and high porosity? And lastly, what is the infamous L.O.C method?
For ‘naturals’ and returning ‘naturals’ aka women who have ‘big chopped’ (cut off all damaged hair strands from heat and perms) having a ‘go to’ product line that allows them to care for their hair and wear their natural hair is important. The irony here is that even amongst women of color, we have different hair texture types and there is no one product solution for ALL so finding one that works for you is KEY. For me, and many of ‘us’ – Shea Moisture is that ‘go to’ product.
Celeb or not, I am brave enough to have an honest and respectful discourse w/another about my likes /dislikes, views, etc, and move on thereafter. I saw and heard both sides, and I can say unapologetically that one bad error, doesn’t negate 20 years of Shea Moisture’s commitment and continued efforts to its longstanding primary consumer base.
Our concerns made its way inside the boardroom; and apologies and swift changes made its way outside of the boardroom. Glad to know, Shea Moisture is still here for US.
One Love PLUMS!