Skin-bleaching is big business, but far too often conversations around bleaching are centered around Black communities throughout the diaspora. While skin lightening is a huge issue across Africa and the Caribbean, the biggest market for bleaching products is Asia.
Recently, a Thai beauty brand came under fire after it rolled out a commercial that argued having white skin is essential for achieving success in life.
“You just need to be white to win,” says popular actress Cris Horwang in the 50-second ad for Seoul Secret’s product Snowz.
The commercial shows two women side-by-side, one with pale skin, another whose skin darkens as Horwang talks up the benefits of Seoul Secret’s bleaching pill.
According to the commercial, Snowz will help buyers stay “eternally white,” but cautions that without it, “the whiteness [they] have invested in will just vanish” and they’ll be cast aside.
The ad caused a firestorm across social media, with many in Thailand blasting the company for its blatant racism.
“I’m perfectly fine being dark-skinned and now you’re saying I’ve lost? Hello? What?” wrote one person on the popular Thai website Pantip.com.
Kaewmala, a writer and social media commenter, said the ad illustrates the “craze for whiteness.”
Thai craze for whiteness rears its ugly head again. It never ends. Thai ad agencies are the worst of them all! https://t.co/ixUe65pdrj
— kaewmala 🌼 .|||. (@Thai_Talk) January 8, 2016
Following the backlash, the company removed the ad from YouTube an issued an apology on its Facebook page.
(We) would like to apologize for the mistake and claim full responsibility for this incident. Our company did not have any intention to convey discriminatory or racist messages.
What we intended to convey was that self-improvement in terms of personality, appearance, skills, and professionality is crucial.
This isn’t the first time a Thai ad has been accused of racism. Back in 2013, Dunkin’ Donuts was blasted for using blackface in print advertisement for its charcoal donut.