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By: Chelsea Davis-Bibb, M.Ed.

According to Shea Moisture, “Everybody gets love.” However, that wasn’t truly the case in their recent commercial that received a lot of backlash from the African American community. I do understand what the company was trying to do, but the way they did it was unacceptable. I am not a business minded per son, but I do know that when you do have a business, one goal you want to achieve is to try to extend your product to all consumers; but one of the most important parts of growing and expanding, is to not forget where you come from, and more importantly the people who helped you get there. In the ad, the representation of African American women was lacking.


Companies like Shea Moisture who have products that are geared towards the African American community can attribute a lot of their success to Madam C. J. Walker (1867-1919), who was praised for being the first Black woman millionaire in America. A lot of her success was due to her line of hair care products, which were homemade products for Black women.


Recently the CEO of Shea Moisture Rich Dennis, did an interview with the radio show The Breakfast Club, and expressed, “It was a commercial about women and their different hair types and what they do to overcome the challenges that they have with their different hair types.” He expressed that the company should have explained what the campaign was, because it was dropped out of context. “We’re a brand that has stood for this community and were going to continue to stand for this community and we’re going to make mistakes and when we make these mistakes, we’re going to own them,” expressed Dennis.


In addition, I don’t think a lot of people from other races truly understood what the issues were. When talking with a few people of other ethnicities, their immediate reaction was, “What’s wrong with the commercial?” It’s hard to understand a certain situation when you haven’t walked in the shoes of the people who it has affected.

When I first saw the commercial, my first thoughts were, “Where are the black women?” The commercial included one black person, who is actually bi-racial, and two white women. The majority of the consumers who use the product are black women; yet, we were not represented at all. If their goal was to expand to other ethnicities, then they should have included representation from all ethnicities, especially the African American women who truly use the product.


Another issue with the ad was the idea of “hair hate.” Hair is a sensitive subject for African American women, especially for those women who have truly experienced “hair hate.” WOC (Women of Color) have been heavily criticized for how we wear our hair. If it’s an Afro, or perhaps kinky, it may be deemed “nappy,” or even “unprofessional. Unfortunately, it may also be simply just not good. But what and who defines what is good hair and what is not good hair? Having hair like the bi-racial girl from the video, or even like the white women, is glamourized in our society. WOC experience a different form of “hair hate,” and there was no true representation of what really takes place. Now, every woman does experience her own hair struggle, but WOC have a different hair struggle that will always be an issue for years to come.


I have been natural for going on eight years, and it has been a challenging journey. For one, I wasn’t confident about wearing my natural hair because I didn’t think it would fit into the societal norm. Also, I felt that my hair wasn’t pretty enough because it wasn’t long, bouncy, and curly. I know this was an issue that I had with myself, but it was also an issue that society created. Having natural hair is hard, and is high maintenance, and people of other ethnicities don’t realize what WOC go through on a day-to-day basis. I personally use a lot of Shea Moisture products, and even though I didn’t agree with ad, I will still continue to use their products because they do work for my hair. I don’t think people should boycott the company because I do believe that they didn’t mean any harm to what they were trying to do.


After the backlash, Shea Moisture released this statement stating:


“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 ones 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.”

They do know better, and now a lot of other people know better as well. I am glad that this issue occurred. Anytime issues can be exposed, it’s not always a bad thing. In my opinion, I believe it helps people of all races, including Blacks. It allows people to have a better understanding of something that they may not have understood, or didn’t even know the struggle of hair and African American women. In regards to their apology, I personally feel that it was sincere. At the end of the day, they thought they were doing what was best for their company. People make mistakes. Point blank. The truth in the mistake lies in what lesson we all can take from this situation.