On air: Is white still right in the fashion industry?

lorealIt seems to it was more ‘because you’re white’ than ‘because you’re worth it’ when L’Oreal set about recruiting one its sales teams in France. A court has found that it deliberately discriminated against black, Arab and Asian women who applied to sell one of its shampoos. It wanted an all-white sales team and it got one, and so broke French law. (This upholds a ruling in 2007.)

Prosecutors maintained during the case that the reason for wanting white staff was that it was believed white French women would rather buy from white saleswoman. So the finger is really pointed at all white consumers. The story’s been picked up by thousands of news sites and blogs and is raising a number of broader issues. How would you answer the following questions:

Though illegal, would it accurate for a company to conclude that selling to white women is more easily done by white women? Or for that matter, is selling to black women more easily done by black women? I could carry on with the examples… Do we all prefer to buy from people who look like us?

Do multi-national fashion operators (publishers, designers, cosmetic manufacturers…) favour white people?

Is looking as white as you can still crucial if you’re black or Asian and want to be a model?

Is fashion racist? Is the skin colour of those involved, a crucial factor in the success of a model, magazine or product?

L’Oréal acknowledges the decision rendered by the French Supreme Court and expresses its disappointment in the outcome of this case. L’Oréal continues to reject the accusations of discrimination made against its affiliate Garnier by SOS Racisme. The Group emphasises that respect of individuals is one of its fundamental values.

L’Oréal is convinced that difference and diversity are a source of richness and creativity for all, and does no tolerate any form of racism or discrimination of any kind.

On May 14th, L’Oréal SA received a Diversity Seal of Excellence from Eric Besson, the Minister for Immigration, Integration, National Identity and Unified Development in France. This distinction commends the Group’s commitment to equal opportunities, promotion of diversity, and prevention of discrimination

112 Responses to “On air: Is white still right in the fashion industry?”

  1. 1 patti in cape coral
    June 25, 2009 at 14:34

    There are black, asian, hispanic, arab, etc. women who are quite beautiful, so I’m not sure I understand why Loreal insisted on all white models. It’s more about beauty than race, isn’t it? Also, I understand they wanted to sell products to white French women, but wouldn’t it make more sense to have more diverse-looking models to broaden their customer base? Wouldn’t they sell more that way?

    • June 25, 2009 at 18:22

      I think this may have been more true in past years, but the example of Michelle Obama’s recent visit to France wowed the world of fashion — maybe L’Oreal and others are missing out on an important market they should be reaching for. Times change. Has nothing to do with niche publications such as Colors — we’re talking about the bigger picture.

    • 3 RightPaddock
      June 26, 2009 at 00:42

      @patti in cape coral “Wouldn’t they sell more that way?”

      Not necessarily, if it alienated more of the existing customer base than it attracted from the non-customer base then it will lose, also new customers are less loyal than old customers.

  2. 4 steve
    June 25, 2009 at 14:34

    Anyone into fashion is shallow, so you’d think they’d be shallow about skin color as well, right?

    • 5 Scott [M]
      June 25, 2009 at 18:10


      Actually, some incredibly intelligent people who are not shallow are “into” fashion. Whatever “into” means, or doesn’t mean. Fashion isn’t anymore inherently superficial they any other aesthetic pursuit.

      • 6 SuckMyTampon
        June 25, 2009 at 23:21

        If the fashion industry isn’t shallow, then why do all the models look the same? If you’re not tall and scrawny with a perfect complexion then you’re a nobody in the fashion world. Yes, there are fringe elements such as plus-size models, etc., but they don’t get nearly the coverage that the tall, skinny cookie-cutter look-alike models do.

        Fashion needs to burn in hell with the rest of this culture’s elite’s favorite pastimes.

    • 7 Scott [M]
      June 26, 2009 at 02:48

      The fashion industry is no more or less shallow then any other industry. I am not sure why it is acceptable to engage in generalizations and bigotry, against the allegedly elite and against (apparently) anything to do with fashion. What a dreadfully boring line of thought. There are many people in the fashion industry who incredibly thoughtful, intellectual and interesting. What is incredibly uninteresting: these cliches we repeatedly hear.

  3. 8 Kelly, from Chicago, IL, USA
    June 25, 2009 at 14:43

    I’m a white female, but I also loathe the fashion industry. I think most women look better without make up. I have very strong feelings about the role of female image in the media. (Check out, “The History of the Breast” for a good read about femininity and politics and media!) I love looking at women who look different than I do! But, I think I am in the minority.

    • 9 Meren
      June 25, 2009 at 16:01

      No, Kelly, you are not alone. The human race is so diverse in its beauty and it is a downright crime that we are only given specific models of beauty in fashion, film, art and most other media. I agree that women look better in their natural state (I personally haven’t worn makeup since my 20’s and I am 50 now, and am told that I do not need makeup and I am of average features), and truly wish that “we” wouldn’t push a stylized idea of beauty on our youth (both female AND male). Nature itself is beautiful and we as a people can take after that beauty in so many natural ways…… and in so many beautiful colors. No two of us are alike, and all ages have beauty. I truly wish that “we” would stop pushing ourselves to “stay young” and to “recreate ourselves into something more.”

  4. 10 Tony from Singapura
    June 25, 2009 at 14:45

    Is looking as white as you can still crucial if you’re black or Asian and want to be a model?

    In South East Asia there are many TV commercials for womens cosmetic products that make your skin lighter. Light skin is certainly considered more desirable in this area. People say, “Oh loook at her, nice light skin…”

    In contrast to this in western countries you are more likely to see advertisments for cosmetic products that make your skin look darker (I take it that these products are aimed at caucaisions).

    Maybe we can never be satisfied with how we are born.

  5. June 25, 2009 at 15:11

    Naomi Campbell is the best example that colour isn’t an obstacle to be i the fashion industry.

    Fashion industry is an advertisement whose concern is to attract as many customers as possible through whatever means including the people and the style. Coca-cola is drunk worldwide. But it is advertised in each country according to its customs. Concerning fashion, it has to do with the purchasing power. As there are more white people with more money than black people who can afford to buy expensive items, companies deal with advertisement statistically.

    However, advertisement should transcend race and colour. Everyone can be attractive depending on style and personality. And why not give advertisement an exotic touch by employing people of different colour and cultures instead of letting it an embodiment of stereotypes?

  6. 12 deryck/trinidad
    June 25, 2009 at 15:28

    I don’t think the fashion operators are generally racist but because the vast majority of their cutomers are middle and upper class whites they tend to market their products using white models. Therefore it will not make good business sense to use non-white models if you want to market a product to white people.

    The major issue for the fashion industry is making money.

  7. 13 Gary Paudler
    June 25, 2009 at 15:37

    Let them go; L’Oreal is doing a GM. For decades, though their critics said that GM was irresponsible for building and aggressively marketing giant gas-hogs, the geniuses in Detroit insisted that they were making the cars that consumers wanted. L’Oreal- I don’t know; is the company run by white people? – is sure that their fortunes lie with marketing to white people and that, bien sur, women of color all really want to look like white women. Ignoring, for the moment, the racism inherent in that philosophy, consider the cynical sexism at the heart of the cosmetics industry: The message to all women of any color or age is “buy our glop or you won’t be considered attractive.”
    Here’s my question (I had to let you know that there was a question coming): What will it take for consumers (don’t you just love being called a “consumer”?) and by consumer, I mean insecure women, to recognize that spew in a bottle is not what makes them attractive, that there is no such thing as “anti-aging”, that their beauty is in their infinite diversity and not in conformity and the homogeneity that marketing promotes? It’s only this context, men are no wiser or more immune to disingenuous marketing. So let L’Oreal dig their own grave marketing to their insecure selves. But yes; not hiring somebody because of their race is illegal. And Duh! Pretty much everybody favors white people.

    • June 27, 2009 at 19:37

      How ironic is it that the picture on top of this topic is of a young Michael Jackson before he embraced the notion that lighter skin and a narrow nose is what beauty is all about?

      You don’t have to be a student of history to remember what you were taught in school regarding the Nazi era, white supremacy, and the myth of the “Aryan race”. The whole ugly issue of racism that the world went to war about in the last century can be traced back throughout history to the pyramids of Egypt and beyond. But you don’t have to look that far into the past to answer the question “is white still right in the fashion industry?”.

      So what explains the fact that those with lighter skin have historically been the enslavers of those with darker skin? Does this fact result in subtle and not so subtle self-hatred on the part of those whose ancestors were enslaved? And is it guilt combined with self-hatred that causes the question to be asked if “white is still right? in the world of fashion and advertising?

      Sorting out the complexities of the human condition has never been simple. Those who offer over simplified answers to complex question based on the low expectation of the audience to comprehend the issues, generally are not disappointed.

      In “the Devil Wears Prada” the magazine editor explains fashion as being meaningful and important in our lives. But it’s good to remember that relative to nuclear war, fashion hair color and the tall thin white “Aryan” models who sell these things to us are at best peripheral.

  8. June 25, 2009 at 15:38

    Enough said.
    But in truth, I care little about fashion whether white, black, yellow or even colourless.

  9. June 25, 2009 at 15:44

    Dear Ros,
    Hi… I do remember very well that during the days of the presidential campaign in the US, many said that Mr Obama isn’t that qualified for the job and that a large portion of his popularity comes from the fact that he’s quite charming and attractive and that women just adore him (which quite true by the way !:), now bearing in mind that he’s dark skinned, does Europe have any hot dark-skinned celebrities or popular politicians who are dark-skinned ?! It seems like the standards of attractivity and charm vary between the US and Europe eh ?! With my love… Yours forever, Lubna in Baghdad…

  10. 17 Auspicious
    June 25, 2009 at 15:48

    Everybody who has colour prejudice is still living in a cave. In their own understanding, the world has fewer possibilities to offer because they think when you prick white skin you get white blood and that blacks produce black blood. And the rightful question then should be: do we have white or black blood? People will stop talking along colour lines the moment they will discover that after all, we have red blood flowing in our veins no matter what skin colour we have.

  11. 18 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    June 25, 2009 at 15:53

    Hi WHYSers!

    I am hoping this post makes it onto the board.

    In response to the question, I believe the specific case of the French example proves what has always been the prejudices governing international standards of beauty – the notion that, whiteness is the universal marker of beauty. This means that, those ideals can be used to be used to measure others. However, non-white communities are seen usually as ethnic and,therefore, as having standards which may be of lesser value than those enshrined in white ideas of beauty.

    Personally, for me that does not except. However, the challenge is that there are real issues of access and power which such issues throw up. The deliberate exclusion of others, based in large part, on subjective standards means that the privilege of one group is directly and indirectly used to disempower others. There is a clear problem with that approach.

    June 25, 2009 at 15:54

    Some of these industries thrive on inflaming our egoes and in this instance their target is women. The Frenchness of dead fibres? To be a human being is to feel yourself from within and then to reach out. I doubt there is any white who feels white this way. The same applies to black people. But really, is there such a thing as a white person or a black person? I have not met any because what I see is just shades of this or that and I am sure the rest is just repeated cultural conditioning which often does not represent the universe within you.
    I speak English language though I am totally curious as to whether there is such a thing in my brain. English or my mother toungue is a mere representations of my inner feelings as a person. Its an adventure of faschinating discoveries which has continued to surprise me but none the less I reserve the right to purge myopia.

  13. 20 Ann
    June 25, 2009 at 16:16

    The whole fashion and beauty industry is racist, sexist, ageist, fatist, heightist, and probably many other ‘ists’ that escape my mind right now. It feeds off and creates self doubt – it is entirely cynical.

    It creates a bizarre ideal of perfection that very few women (and men) can live up too, far less afford to pay for.

    I would like to take some of the heads of those companies to see the fragile mental and physical state of young anorexic girls, some of whom starve themselves to death.

    WOMEN EVERYWHERE – love yourselves just as you are – your smile is more beautiful than anything money can buy.

  14. 21 John in Salem
    June 25, 2009 at 16:28

    Yes, we do tend to buy from people we think we can relate to, but the bias in the high-end Western fashion industry is more about class than race – you’re far more likely to sell a $10,000 evening gown to a white consumer so that’s who you direct your ads at.
    If you want to understand the motivations of marketing companies just follow the money.

  15. 22 stephen/ portland, Oregon
    June 25, 2009 at 16:32

    I can t wait to see Sacha Baron Cohen new Mocumentry (Bruno) about models and the Fashion industry; it will show them for the shallow narcissistic morons they really are.

  16. 23 Ramesh, India
    June 25, 2009 at 16:53

    Long time ago I read about the head of L’Oreal quoted as saying they sell hope than anything else!! I don’t blame them for choosing white sales personnel to boost sales. Everything can not be politically correct. For example, the jobs of Air Hostesses and Receptionist(recently HR executives in India) are filled by nice looking women. No furore over male discrimination! Why??

  17. June 25, 2009 at 16:56

    Some people have missed an important point. The company was not recruiting exemplary models, but a SALES force to sell their products to a predominantly white population. Skin toned cosmetics vary for different complexions, but shampoo presumably produces lather regardless of hair type or colour.

    There is no valid reason to discriminate against non-white sales people; it reflects badly on the company. It’s good that they have been taken to task on this.

  18. 25 Abram
    June 25, 2009 at 17:04

    I don’t get it, why the color of human skin gets such a relevance among some particular folks. I am color blind, and I don’t really know what color, I or other people do have.

  19. 26 Mukul, Parsippany NJ
    June 25, 2009 at 17:14

    We all have weakness for good things in life and we all want to look good and beautiful. If there were a pill for looking good then most of us would take it, fashion industry is just taking advantage of absence of this magic pill.
    It is not the fashion industry it is us, stop buying their products if you feel so strongly about their racist agenda.

  20. 27 Donnamarie in Switzerland
    June 25, 2009 at 17:14

    Of course “white is right “is racist. But don’t forget about all the other forms of racism: black-against-black as in Hutu against Tutsi, for example, or the barbaric treatment of Filipino and other south-east Asian workers in the Arabian Gulf, even though those workers share the Muslim faith.

    The question often sounds complex beyond the possibility of resolution, but in fact is simple at the base: it’s “Us” versus “Them.” The way to combat the problem is to merge so “Us” and “Then” becomes “We.”

    I am descended from white Europeans who emigrated to the USA, the first around 1615, the latest in the early 20th Century. None of my ancestors made an interracial marriage. Yet in my own generation, there are two separate black branches, one Asian one, and two Hispanic lines (those “Hispanics” also possess a lot of Amer-Indian blood.)

    When I hold one my beautiful little “mixed race” relatives in my arms, I know we’re all in this together. Spread the word.

  21. 28 steve
    June 25, 2009 at 17:18

    People, let’s not forget that racism is practiced by ALL races, not just whites.


    This story was posted here several months ago.

  22. 29 Tom K in Mpls
    June 25, 2009 at 17:22

    Whenever the topic of mans quest for beauty comes up, all I can think of is Micheal Jackson. ‘Nuff said.

  23. June 25, 2009 at 17:36

    It should be none of any government’s business who the fashion industry chooses, employs, to sell their products. It appears that anything for people of white color is now taboo.

  24. 31 Archibald
    June 25, 2009 at 17:45

    The fashion industry giants should be gutted to provide more money for economic stimulus. They are responsible for a portion of the global economic collapse by constantly providing diversion and distraction with all things frivolous and fleeting for exceptional gains which benefit a handful of wealthy people and bilk the general public of billions.Vanity will be the death of us all.

    • 32 RightPaddock
      June 26, 2009 at 01:00

      @Archibald – and what’s to become of the tens of thousands of people the fashion industry employs. Throw them on the scrap heap to join the 20 million people who’ve lost their jobs in China; few, if any, of whom were employed in the fashion industry.

      The current economic collapse is entirely due to the transformation of what was called FINANCIAL SERVICES into the FINANCE INDUSTRY. Instead of providing plumbing through which money flowed, it discovered means by which to manufacture money. In other words it became a BETTING SHOP (I won’t grace it with the posher name of casino)

      The fashion industry had NOTHING to do with the current economic mess, other than as another victim perhaps.

  25. 33 Anthony
    June 25, 2009 at 17:45

    @ patti in cape coral

    It’s about $$$, so of course they want to relate more to whites in France, I mean, how many arabs/asian/blacks are their compared to whites?

    I’d like to see those “cool black brands” in the U.S. with a bunch of white dudes in the ad’s, lol. (and yes, there is like one or two, but thats about all)\

    Why don’t we see more white women on the cover of Ebony, or on BET (Black Entertainment Television for you that don’t know of it). I’d like to see if a company selling Islamic clothing for women (or even men) would use whites in their ads?

    -Anthony, LA, CA

    • 34 patti in cape coral
      June 25, 2009 at 18:15

      I guess you’re right and money is #1, but I thought there was more diversity in France. Or maybe it’s the same as here where white people generally have more money

      Personally, I think Indian saris are some of the most beautiful things I have ever seen as far as clothing, and I wouldn’t mind seeing them on women of any color, but I’m not expecting to see them in any fashion magazines any time soon. Of course, I’m a total fashion misfit, so what do I know…

  26. 35 Heather in Montana
    June 25, 2009 at 17:52

    I prefer to buy the makeup that models of my own skin color are advertising. The reason for this is simple: I can’t “try on” makeup in the store, but I can see in advertisements if it looks good on the model. If it looks good on her and she has my same skin color, it will probably look okay on me. People of different skin colors wear colors differently. Black women can wear a wide variety of both bright and rich colors, but on most white women these same colors just look horrible. That being said, I do think L’Oreal showed racism by choosing only to appeal to one market, that of white women.

  27. 36 Denise in Chicago
    June 25, 2009 at 17:53

    Shame on Loreal. Queen Latifah is a spokesperson for Cover Girl and they are one of the top-selling cosmetic companies in the world. I love seeing women of all colors (and sizes and shapes, as well). We should all boycott Loreal until they wake up!

  28. 38 Julia in Portland Oregon
    June 25, 2009 at 17:58

    High fashion by nature dictates to society what the designers and their cronies have decided should be important in fashion and more specifically what ‘beauty’ is. They tend to push biases whether based on race, weight and height.

    We still live in a society of insecure people, myself included, that feel someone else has a more valid opinion about how we should look, feel and behave.

    If we were to trust our own guts more and not allow someone else to dictate to us what we should look like and accept as beautiful, we could have a more balanced society where the individual (as MLK, Jr. said) “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. ”

    Fashion by nature is superficial and promotes superficiality. If people didn’t buy into it, they wouldn’t sell it.

  29. 39 steve
    June 25, 2009 at 18:02

    So do these people feel uncomfortable buying other products from people of different races? I once bought a desk at an Office Deport where the sales guy was albino and black. not a very common occurrence. Should I have felt uncomfortable due to his lack of pigmentation? Of course not. What does it matter what the person looks like so long as they are doing their job?

    Fashion isn’t racist, it’s just mindless and shallow.

    • 40 RightPaddock
      June 26, 2009 at 01:23

      I rather suspect that that the factors that influence a woman buying cosmetics are somewhat different to those that influence a man buying a desk at Office Depot.

      Would you buy a car from someone who cannot drive because they are blind,

      Should car sales showrooms be forced to hire a percentage of blind people.!

  30. 41 Julia in Portland Oregon
    June 25, 2009 at 18:05

    I do believe that fashion should not be allowed to be the exception to rules/laws that promote fairness in hiring practices.

    In the United States we do have rules that help to reduce the abuses in hiring practices….they don’t always work and they are only usually enforced when someone blows the whistle. But, I think that there would be and should be an outcry when these types of breaches of fair hiring occur.

  31. 42 Anthony
    June 25, 2009 at 18:07

    @ Denise in Chicago

    So we should boycott a company for doing the best thing for sales? It’s not racism, it’s business. Now trying to force someone to hire someone of a certain race for no good reason, now THATS racism.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  32. 43 patti in cape coral
    June 25, 2009 at 18:08

    I think if there is really a beauty hang-up about skin color, it must be exclusively a “woman problem.” All the men I know appreciate all types of beauty and skin color on all women (maybe too much!).

  33. June 25, 2009 at 18:11

    But you have to think that as a company your entire scope is to produce a product and sell it. You target your advertisement programme to those who are most likely to buy that product and promote images to that audience that are most likely to get them to purchase your product. There doesn’t have to be a racist motive if you are simply following the best practice for inducing customers to part with their money. After all you would not put the image of a dog on a tin of cat food nor would you place a real image of a big mac hamburger as what you are given at the point of sale on the overhead screen.

  34. 45 Jessica in NYC
    June 25, 2009 at 18:12

    No, Ros!

    I want to buy something from the person who knows most about the product, it’s irrelevant whether he/she is my same color of skin or even gender. Case in point, I buy my facial cleaning products and make-up from male salesman. The products are not made for a men, but my sales person knows the products and what I am interested in. I’ve been his customer for 3 years.

  35. 46 Tom D Ford
    June 25, 2009 at 18:15

    The very idea of Haute Couture fashion is for the wealthy to differentiate themselves from the lesser classes and they spend huge amounts of money to do so. Like Paris Hilton buying dresses at over $5,000 a pop to wear only once.

    Next down the line are the fashion wannabes who try to copy the wealthy by buying lesser quality but overpriced fashions from lesser stores like Macys to differentiate themselves from their lessers.

    I suggest that Classism is the problem and Classists use every thing they can to differentiate themselves, including racism, in their quest to make themselves look better than others.

    I learned long ago that there are two basic generalizations, people who put other people down to try and make themselves look better, and people who build people up in order to make themselves look good. I prefer the second group.

  36. 47 Isham C.
    June 25, 2009 at 18:15

    People are generally more likely to do business with people that look like them. When I grew up, my (mostly black) family wouldn’t let white women tend to their hair. It is as much about culture as it is about race.

    This is one time that I do not agree with the political correct masses. Just because they used white women doesn’t inherently make them racist. I believe people should be more uncomfortable with the idea that the company is openly manipulating the masses this way.

  37. 48 Scott [M]
    June 25, 2009 at 18:18

    If beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the beholder often bases beauty on what they are familiar with—then white woman will perhaps generally find other white women more beautiful, as black women will find other black women more beautiful. This isn’t racism.

    If we take the terrible logic of this case and apply it elsewhere, then anyone who marries someone of the same race is most likely a racist.

    Besides the fact, there is no evidence whether one race may or may not be more aesthetically pleasing in general universal terms of what beauty is. Or does someone know this with certainty?

  38. 49 Anthony
    June 25, 2009 at 18:18

    Lets not forget, in the U.S. blacks only make up 15% of the population, but some people won’t be happy until 50% of everything has blacks in/on it. It doesn’t make sense.

    Also, Blacks don’t really like “white” things, yet whites like “black” things, i.e. blacks don’t really listen to country music, yet plenty of whites listen to rap.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

    • 50 Isham C.
      June 25, 2009 at 18:33

      While I will say that it sucks to be you, as whites get shafted when it comes to being politically correct, it’s somewhat necessary. The “majority” has a bad tendency to forget that those minorities exist, unless they’re bombarded by them.

      I would also like to take exception to your stereotype of the black community. There are blacks who do like those “white” things, such as golf, country, and the republican party. They aren’t “shunned”, so to speak. I could go more deeply into this, however I’ll leave it be to see if you reply. – Isham

    • 51 Vijay
      June 25, 2009 at 18:51

      In the USA maybe,but 95% of the worlds population do live in the USA

  39. 53 Denise in Chicago
    June 25, 2009 at 18:19

    Anthony, LA.–
    Yes, we should boycott them and no, racism is NOT good for sales. Loreal earns plenty from minority customers so they MUST hire people from all backgrounds. BTW, I am a white woman.

  40. 54 earthsunmoon
    June 25, 2009 at 18:20

    It seems sort of… democratic to me that the fashion industry reflects by % in it’s models the people it “serves”

    I am pretty sure far more people with white skin globaly read high fashion magazines and isn’t it almost accurate that the models in those magazines are higher percentage of white skin?

  41. 55 Lesley, PDX OR
    June 25, 2009 at 18:21

    It is about elitism more so than racism who can really afford “fashion” only those with $$$$ no matter of colour.

    • 56 Scott [M]
      June 25, 2009 at 18:40


      Last time I checked Loreal was a cheap brand. Usually companies market to their customers elite or not.

  42. 57 Scott [M]
    June 25, 2009 at 18:22

    If I say I am generally not attracted to black men or Asian men, does that make me a bigot? Are people not allowed to have aesthetic opinions? Because this is an aesthetic opinion and nothing more. Aesthetic opinions can of course be influenced by other social opinions, but they are still aesthetic opinions, which cannot be accurately debated with any certainty.

    This is a case of people without the correct intellectual tools debating something that is well above their levels of thought and critical thinking.

  43. 58 Kristina in Portland
    June 25, 2009 at 18:23

    I don’t think I’m necessarily influenced by a salesperson or model’s race, but I do tend to be intimidated by salespeople of any race whom I perceive to be very beautiful or very hip. I’m a middle aged white woman who is neither.

  44. 60 Sofia
    June 25, 2009 at 18:26

    Perhaps people of color should just patronize those companies that indicate specifically that their products are manufactured with them in mind and stop buying from those companies whose target markets are ‘white’ people.

    That could give an indication of wether ppl of colour are significant to the bottomline of the companies that are ‘colour averse’ . Will those companies be sustained by selling to and targeting white customers only?


  45. 61 Tom D Ford
    June 25, 2009 at 18:28

    Quite frankly, back in the day of the Supermodels like Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, and Linda Evangelista, I preferred Elle Macpherson because she was an athlete swimmer, always looked like she was having fun, and she always smiled.

  46. 62 Lisa from Pennsylvania, US
    June 25, 2009 at 18:28

    I had a summer job a couple years ago selling advertising space for a local university telephone directory. They specifically recruited college students for the job. Advertisers would want to appeal to local students, what sense would it make to hire middle aged sales people to pitch an advertising space dedicated to college students? It only makes sense to hire someone who matches the demographic to which you want to appeal. Its not that people wouldn’t necessarily buy from someone who isn’t similar to themselves, its just less likely. I’m sure there are plenty of psychological studies to prove my point.

    • 63 Jessica in NYC
      June 25, 2009 at 18:55

      Lisa, it’s shampoo! Not all people who live in France are white.

      Like my doctors, I want the person who is the best at their job. I don’t care about the race, I care about they person knowing their product.

      • 64 RightPaddock
        June 26, 2009 at 01:44

        Jessica – they are hiring sales people, i.e. glorified shop assistants – they are not hiring Vidal Sassoon’s.

        Would you ask the person from whom you buy your potatoes how to make Vichyssoise.

  47. 65 Chris Brand
    June 25, 2009 at 18:28

    I am a white male who works in advertising, and have worked with many companies branding themselves to different demographics. There is no question that race plays a role in certain brands, especially with fashion. The black demographic that buys clothes at places like “Baby Phat”, or “Fubu” would not want to buy their clothes from white sales people, therefore these companies do not hire them. Just as Abercrombie and FItch is a brand for white college kids, and it is no surprise that they hire a white sales staff. This is all market driven, and it is ludicrous to blame companies for hiring accordingly.

  48. 66 Scott [M]
    June 25, 2009 at 18:28

    Should we allow people that are generally considered to be ugly to model, just because they want to?

    1) If a portion of the purpose of your job is to be beautiful,
    2) and we accept beauty is subjective,
    3) then there is no way to make a case against this.

  49. 67 Ann
    June 25, 2009 at 18:28

    That so called brand expert you have on air right now is talking a load of cobblers regarding the two parts of the mind….he needs to do some proper psychology study!

  50. 68 David
    June 25, 2009 at 18:29

    Color of skin is not the only issue here. Every model is 20-35 years old, or younger. Their photos are also then airbrushed. The ideal the advertisers portray is not even real- it is all fake and an attempt to meet what they consider society’s ideal beauty. People aren’t buying things because models look like they do, they buy more because the models look more like they want to look! No one looks like a model but a model, statistically they are beauty freaks…and even models don’t look like their photos (thanks to airbrushing).

  51. 69 Reverend Wallace Ryan
    June 25, 2009 at 18:29

    I find a lot of Europeans not only have a prejudice against people of colour but also against Aboriginal Peoples too! I think the white people of Europe have to think long and hard about their pathological racism towards those who are different or live their lives according to their traditions.

    I don’t care if the person serving me at a store is purple, pink or green…we are all the same underneath and those who say any different should be ashamed of themselves and their terrible ignorance.

    I for one, think all people are naturally beautiful and don’t need anything the cosmetic industry is selling anyway…especially vanity!

  52. 70 Donnamarie in Switzerland
    June 25, 2009 at 18:30

    I used to use Arancil cosmetics until they went out of business. I then started to buy L’Oreal cosmetics, not because of their advertising but because their products were competitively priced and met my needs.

    Perhaps most women buy their cosmetics only as a result of advertising but some, perhaps many, of us buy them based on pricing and suitability.

    WHYS’s focus on advertising borders on the obsessive. The colour of the woman in the ad has nothing to do with why I buy a particular product.

  53. June 25, 2009 at 18:32

    I am white. I think the whole reverse discrimination issue is bunk. White people have been given a leg up (especially in Western society) from the day they were born. Most of us have never experienced that feeling of “other” that comes from being not only a minority in the population you live in but in the entire society’s public face (ie magazines, etc). If we knew what this felt like I think we’d be uniformly cheering on efforts to help people of color reaffirm their public image.

    As for the will someone buy clothes more readily from someone who looks like them – I’m afraid they will. A friend and I were looking at J. Crew online and she (also white) said she said that she thought they shouldn’t be using a black model because black people were shaped differently, specifically that they were more curvy in the hips. “So why would I buy clothes from someone who doesn’t have the same body type as me?” she asked. I think I must have gone totally slack-jawed because the model was tall and thin, as models tend to be, and my friend is my height (5’6″) and has one of the curviest figures I’ve ever seen! She’s got to be 39-29-40 or something. She was right that the model wasn’t her body type, but not in the way she thought! I don’t know what weird psychological disconnect was going on in her head, but it was a very odd experience.

  54. June 25, 2009 at 18:33

    PS I’m from the US.

  55. 73 Lauren
    June 25, 2009 at 18:34

    I appreciate magazines such as Colors and Ebony, which provide an opportunity to empower women of minority races who have traditionally been believed to be secondary in beauty to white women in this country. I do think the Fashion Industry is racist against minority women but, like most other industries, many are too close-minded to recognize an effort to empower such women as anything but “reverse racism” … which is bogus.

  56. 74 Anthony
    June 25, 2009 at 18:38

    @ Denise in Chicago

    OK, and some white people buy Ebony, so should they be FORCED to put white people on the cover? Even having a magazine thats a “Premiere publication for African American men and women.” (their little motto) is racist, but I’m sure you wouldn’t be complaining about that.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  57. 75 steve
    June 25, 2009 at 18:39

    These companies may not be “racist” as your guest in California says, but they sure as hell are shallow. They promote shallowness, and I see racism as an extension of shallowness.

    • 76 Jessica in NYC
      June 25, 2009 at 18:52

      You’re hilarious. I’m sure you look at the woman wear frumpy cloths versus the ones that are stylish and wearing make up.

      …we should not throw stones in glass houses.

  58. 77 Barent
    June 25, 2009 at 18:41

    I really take issue with what Robin just said about racism having a genetic/neurological component. 100,000+ years ago most tribal conflicts would have had such a limited range that different races would have had little or no contact with one another. It’s difficult to imagine then that natural selection would pressure the brain to develop in such a way given that this selective pressue would not have existed when our brains were first developing. I think its much more likely that the study Robin is referring to is a better example of cultural programming vs. genetic selective pressure.

    • 78 Ann
      June 26, 2009 at 04:21

      I completely agree with you – I was very cross and wrote a hasty post earlier. What worries me was the he was given scientic validation to what really are SPECULATIVE theories. It’s been a while since I did my psychology degree, but I cannot remember there being any scientifically proven link between the functioning of the limbic system and racial preference. The idea that we are genetically preprogrammed to be attracted to our own skin colour is popular psychology nonesense – so could the man on the show (sorry forgot his name) please show me some evidence to support his claims. If I’m wrong I will apologise.

      These ideas disturb me because they can give scientific validation to racism and look where that led us to in the past with the eugenics movement.

  59. 79 James in Oregon
    June 25, 2009 at 18:44

    This is not a corporate thing. This is not a fashion thing.
    I’m sure L’Oreal offices in other offices in large cities are lovely and diverse workplaces.
    This is a French thing.
    There, I said it. I know it’s racist to say it, but French people are racist jerks.

    • 80 Scott [M]
      June 25, 2009 at 18:55

      I love the way this comment did not get censored, but some of my past comments have, which were less offensive and based on sound logic. I also would have loved to hear feedback on those comments. Whoever screens your posts and makes these editorial decisions is (perhaps) terrible at their job. Is there a way to file a formal complaint against the BBC on the methods of blog approval, because I am incredibly dissatisfied with the method and the lack of transparency—Yes, I have read the rules.

      I guess if you make it a joke you can be racist. I personally don’t find James’ comment as being offensive, because I realize the context—-however, based on the alleged standards you have exercised in the past on WHYS, the BBC should find this comment offensive.

  60. 81 Vijay
    June 25, 2009 at 18:46

    Is white still alright in the fashion industry?

    First of all cosmetics are a waste of money ,just like most of the fashion industry,women are made to feel insecure and then sold products to “correct”their faults.

    White women have the purchasing power,however there is no need to descriminate against non white people who sell or promote cosmetics or fashion,they are just demonstrating or givin information about a product.

  61. 82 Anthony
    June 25, 2009 at 18:49

    In the States they’re smart. They put a bunch of different races in their commercials at the same time. They hit like 4 birds with one stone.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  62. 83 Tom D Ford
    June 25, 2009 at 18:50

    Cindy Crawford once said words something like:

    “Even I don’t look like Cindy Crawford when I wake up in the morning!”

  63. 84 yuriyuri
    June 25, 2009 at 18:52

    it is very interesting, in japan, as homogenous as a coutry it is,a lot of women’s fashion magazines have white women on their front cover. they are used to create certain images that publishers want. on the contrary, if approched by a salesperson, we would much rather buy products from the people from same complexion than a different one. i guess it is the difference between image and practicality.

  64. June 25, 2009 at 18:54

    If you want more diversity in a sales force. You’ll need to monetize the benefits of being a multicultural sales force.

    This can be done profitably but it requires the changes in sales strategy.
    Sales teams instead of individual one on one sales interaction with customers would work. Training and development of successful sales techniques that use multicultural teams using such techniques as group demonstrations highlight the virtue of diversity and inclusion. In contrast a single person selling technique represents only a single racial group, and excludes other races. packaging and point of sale advertisements traditionally focus on only one person at a time and therefore fail at using the values of multiculturalism to promote sales. These can also be changed to represent a stronger racial diversity and benefit from the persuasive power of inclusion.

  65. 87 Chris
    June 25, 2009 at 18:54

    I am a white male who works in advertising, and have worked with many companies branding themselves to different demographics. There is no question that race plays a role in certain brands, especially with fashion. The black demographic that buys clothes at places like “Baby Phat”, or “Fubu” would not want to buy their clothes from white sales people, therefore these companies do not hire them. Just as Abercrombie and FItch is a brand for white college kids, and it is no surprise that they hire a white sales staff. This is a worthwhile discussion, but I believe people don’t realize that this is driven by the market, not the other way around.

  66. 88 Chrissy in Portland
    June 25, 2009 at 18:54

    I’d like to draw attention to the Dove Company and their Campaign for Real Beauty and their ads that had women of various colors, shapes and sizes. Their website also offers self esteem tools for young girls and has a link to local self esteem workshops.

    How many other companies in the fashion and beauty industries are trying to empower women by helping them work on the inside and not just the outside??


  67. 89 Lisa from Pennsylvania, US
    June 25, 2009 at 18:55

    Sometimes the sale of a product comes down to minor details like age, or in this case skin color. Such details upon someone’s level of involvement in a decision (i.e. you’re more involved in the decision to purchase a car than to purchase toothpaste because it involves more details and money). In a situation where one is purchasing make up (especially less expensive make up you could find in a drug store, such as that of L’Oreal), you’re less involved. Because you’re not thinking about the details of the product you’re more likely to pick something off the shelf that somehow appeals to you on a subconscious level. Subconsciously everyone prefers people that are similar to themselves. You’re not thinking “Oh the model in those advertisements is Caucasian, and I like that because I’m white too,” in fact you’re probably not thinking about the specific advertisement at all.

  68. 90 Jessica
    June 25, 2009 at 18:59

    I agree that the fashion & beauty industries are going to show their products on a person who fits the target audience; that’s just part of advertising.
    I personally don’t buy fashion mags because the women I see in them don’t look like me: short, busty and plump with glasses and wavy hair. That’s not the industry’s ideal. As a teen I got fed up with the magazines showing something I wasn’t and feeling bad about myself. I don’t want my young daughter to grow up feeling bad about herself if she doesn’t perceive herself fitting the model of beauty. She is beautiful, regardless of her skin color, hair color, eye color, etc.
    I also don’t see anyone who looks like my mom or grandmas. Are these women any less beautiful because they are grey and wrinkled?

  69. 91 Vinod
    June 25, 2009 at 19:01

    I am an Asian living in USA.

    When we go to shop for stuff, we DO NOT look for people that look like us to buy stuff from. But, we look for people who are helpful, it just so happens – in some cases – that people that do not look like us may not like to help us!

  70. 92 Jeremy
    June 25, 2009 at 19:08

    It is not racist to cater to specialized groups of ethnicity. Different races have different needs such as hair and dermatological specialties. Genes carried down from previous generations of the race are what these companies are really catering to. It just so happens that certain genes are specific to certain races (or groups of a race). Products focused toward black characteristics should be promoted by a black person, toward white by white, chinese by chinese, and so on. You can even get down to specifics of regions (such as in the US and China). In the US, there are products that sell in the southeastern states but do not do so well in the northeastern states. This goes for food to skincare. There are advertisements in the south that have southern black people with a southern dialect, and in the north that have northern black people with northern dialects (specific to New York, New Jersey, etc.). It is just good marketing, nothing more. In the French debate, so long as the other ethnic portions of the country are equally represented, what is the problem?

  71. 93 Vivien
    June 25, 2009 at 19:08

    I just listened in on the radio, and the gentleman, Richard, was talking about Asian want to be white, since a lot of the products are to make the skin white.

    I do not agree with him. For a lot of older generation Chinese, pale skin means you do not have to work in the fields, t means your family have money and you are from the upper class. It is not race. Our old books described ideal women with “snow white” skin and black hair. That is before any Chinese know there are white people in the world. 🙂

  72. 94 GB
    June 25, 2009 at 19:13

    I think that the crux of this issue has largely been avoided. People are generally not honest in discussions of racial prejudice, in terms of their personal experience or beliefs, and those who would seem at a loss as to how to address it. That said, I think it is ludicrous to suggest, as many of the callers did, that racism is a nonfactor in the fashion/cosmetics industry; it is akin to saying “models don’t diet.” Simply undelievable given the mountain of evidence to the contrary. Things have been improvimng, albeit rather slowly, but racism remains a huge problem in our society. I was also appaled to hear the doctor defend these prejudices by implying that one who was not like me might attack my tribe. Tribes still exist but the reference was quite disingenuous. The fear response he described may have began as a defence mechanism but our society is vastly different. I mean, people may defecate outside of the toilets but not necessarily beceause they had to. We all experience urges many of which can be suppressed. For one reason or another we tend not to: fart/burp in polite company, scarf down a meal at a company event despite feeling starved or have sex with every naked person we encounter no matter how aroused we may be!

  73. 95 Jennifer
    June 25, 2009 at 19:16

    Re: Do we all prefer to buy from people who look like us?

    I have brown skin and I tend to like fashions modeled by people that are like me. Isn’t that part of it? You like the way the fashion is on someone else so you want to try it.

    One’s sense of style at times can be impacted by their culture/race. They make certain fashion styles acceptable or a “look” when others wouldn’t think so. There are just some people I don’t find beautiful or fashion savy so I am not persuaded to purchase items that they model.

  74. 96 Jennifer
    June 25, 2009 at 19:20

    Re: L’Oréal is convinced that difference and diversity are a source of richness and creativity for all, and does no tolerate any form of racism or discrimination of any kind.

    Didn’t Beyonce do a Loreal feria hair color ad?

    Discrimination? Uh, no….

    June 25, 2009 at 19:31

    They are rasist jerks I agree totally. They have also been exhibiting some ego trips. Remember here we had a debate of the French President tellig Muslim women not wear bla bla. Here is a French company which won’t market to them or let them handle their product. The French should stop this theatre of the absurd at this age. Are they trying to preserve the white or French identity and where did they get this weird notion? This will only radicalize France negatively.

    Most women are liberated from ignorance appart from those who want to be victims of conglomerate driven exploitative cultures. Although I am not here to recommend it to anyone because we are created with different features, I find it ok these days when I see pretty unassuming young women; white/colored who are none the less beautiful after shaving like Michael Jordan. They are just out to set their own standards and if you don’t, they approve of who they are. I approve

    People should forge ahead instead of being held hostage in a role that is wrongly assigned to them.

  76. 98 jamily5
    June 25, 2009 at 20:03

    Archibald, you make a valid point.
    Anthony: Check out the former lead singer of Hootie and the Blowfish, Darius Rutker. (hopefully I spelled it right).
    Your comments about what are white and black “things,” are totally off the mark, but quite stereotypical.

    Maybe the question should be:
    What is the desired skin tone?
    White people want to tan their skin, just a bit: but not too much.
    Darker people are given cosmetics to lighten their skin.
    Insecurity abounds.

  77. 99 Suzette
    June 25, 2009 at 20:13

    As a fair-skinned woman, I am more likely to buy cosmetics and hair-care products that are marketed with models that look more like me, as I feel these products tend to be more “type” specific. However, the color of the model doesn’t matter to me with products like clothing and perfumes.

    I lived iin India and did some modeling there. A photoshoot I did was supposed to be on the cover of an Indian fashion magazine, but the editor changed the deal for the cover and had the photo published in the interior of the magazine, because the model was not Indian. The designer was told that they could not have a non-Indian model on the cover. I figure that is fair enough if the magazine is an Indian magazine, targeting Indian women, and also because of the argument that women of color have not been fairly represented in the fashion industry media.

    On the other hand, then, I think the argument that models used in Vogue, Glamour, Cosmopolitain, etc. magazines are mostly white because these are all magazines that were originally started in western European countries, or in the US, where the majority of the population is/was white, and that these cosmetics companies and magazines would logically use models that represent the majority of the population is a fair argument. However, I think that they should have at least a proportional representation in their magazines and ads that reflect the minority populations of their society as well. And, since most of these companies are now multinational corporations, selling all over the world, I think their ads should either be “internationalized” to reflect the world’s diverse populations, or that they should cater to each individual market.

  78. 100 Deryck/Trinidad
    June 25, 2009 at 21:02

    @ patti in cape coral
    I think if there is really a beauty hang-up about skin color, it must be exclusively a “woman problem.” All the men I know appreciate all types of beauty and skin color on all women (maybe too much!).

    Patti you are so right. I’m a man and SECRETLY I LOVE WOMEN OF ALL RACES, BUT DON’T TELL THAT TO MY WIFE.

  79. 102 RightPaddock
    June 26, 2009 at 00:33

    The report says that L’Oreal was recruiting SALESFORCE.

    It follows then that L’Oreal would want to hire those who it thinks can best SELL its products. I would guess L’Oreal’s existing customer base in France is predominantly attractive white women. If that’s the target audience of its current campaign then It follows that it will hire people to whom that audience will best relate, other attractive white women, rather than say ugly old guys — like me.

    Do the French courts know more about the successful selling of women’s cosmetics than L’Oreal — I don’t think so.

    If L’Oreal sales decline, then it will have to reduce production, buy less raw material and reduce shipments, which will result in all sorts of people in all sorts of places losing their jobs!

    Private enterprise should decide what’s best for its continued success, not out of touch old men with guaranteed lifetime incomes sitting in stuffy French courts.

  80. 103 Pat, Potsdam, USA
    June 26, 2009 at 00:49

    If anything, I wold expect a company making shampoo and other similar products would want saleswomen with different types of hair. African Americans, at least, often have a great deal of trouble finding products that work well for their hair. L’Oreal seems to me to be very short-sighted in their view of women.

  81. 104 Dennis Junior
    June 26, 2009 at 03:36

    NO…But, most people would be going to another store to purchased their products from White Representatives…

    ~Dennis Junior~

  82. 105 Tanya
    June 26, 2009 at 09:07

    Why is everyone talking about models? The lawsuit was about salespeople. I expect salespeople to know a lot about the products they stock and, based on their expertise, be able to recommend the appropriate cosmetics for anyone.

    I’m very fair. I went into a Sephora in NYC to purchase sunscreen before a trip to Puerto Rico. A black, female, sales associate was the first to spot me and ask if she could help. I explained what I was looking for. She quickly pointed out the more popular sellers and explained some of the differences. I asked her about two in particular and she prefaced her answer with, “well, I haven’t tried them myself…” we both had a good laugh. She went on with her explanation, I made my selection and was happy with my purchase.

    To reiterate, if the salespeople are knowledgeable about the product and their customers’ needs, it doesn’t matter what ethnicity they are.

  83. June 27, 2009 at 12:20

    The fashion industry like most industries is narcissistic. In The Greek Myths Narcissus died of looking too long at his reflection. Fashion has an especially ubermensch tag which in fact is again unfair because it is the trademark of most industries. How else can you defeat the competition if you dont think you are superior? There is nothing special about Fashion.

  84. 107 anu_D
    June 27, 2009 at 13:21

    So if a business percieves having white salewomen will boost the sales……what’s wrong with it??

    In business the aim is to get the return on investment without breaking any rules.

    And the business doesn’t have to prove or justify to anyone their basis for thinking…their perception is good enough for them to do what they thunk is right.

    Also I have seen RACISM or perceptions of it to be a white man/ white world’s problem…..

    Dunno Why??…probably an overcompensating response from the subconcious psyche.

    the black & brown nations are free of any color bases racism problems

    • 108 RightPaddock
      June 29, 2009 at 20:10

      @anu_D wrote “the black & brown nations are free of any color based racism problems”

      Yeah, of course its just the whites who are racist,

      But not the discrimination against coloureds in South Africa by the Bantu and Zulu elite, or the maltreatment of the Sheedhi by the Sindhi, Punjabi and Mohajirs elites of Pakistan, or the oppression of the Koreans by the Japanese, or the abuse of SE Asian female guest workers in the Arabian Gulf states, or the killing by the Egyptian military of black Africans that try to enter Israel, And lets not forget the genocide of black African Darfuri’s by their Sudanese Arab brothers.

      They are something else eh, like what brother!! They all seem to have a racial element to me.

  85. 109 globalcomedy
    June 28, 2009 at 04:45

    That’s interesting. In a country where all people are French, apparently “race” does exist.

    A variation of this is trying to do business in Japan. Unless you have a Japanese partner (regardless of the product), people won’t deal with you. Is that “race”, or just a particular customer?

  86. June 29, 2009 at 06:21

    There appears to be some six different skin, as many hair colour as well a number body shapes and stature which appear to combine in all proportions to produce a never ending variety individual human types, women. Add to those: social status, wealth, age, profession and so forth. It is up to producers of any merchandise to target among that vast array who are those who will buy their produce. Make money and survive, otherwise disappear. And let those who claim they are without sins throw the first stone.

  87. June 30, 2009 at 16:35

    Very interesting idea. I’d not really considered this option before. I currently have two blogs and another launching on Wednesday. But I know that with part-time blogging, I am limited in how much I can do. Having some static sites may be a great addition to my growing network. Something to think about.
    Now I’m off to check out this Garry Guy. : )

  88. August 3, 2009 at 04:47

    I think that we are all the same ….

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