Curly Hair Slammed in Nivea Ad

2011-11-21 11:00:03

Curly Hair Slammed in Nivea Ad

Why does Nivea think natural hair is uncivilized?


There has been some time for things to clearly come into focus since the initial release of Nivea’s poorly conceived, and badly-received, advertisement. At the beginning of August, the international body and skincare brand published an ad that portrayed a clean-shaven African-American man throwing the head of another black man with a big, kinky Afro and equally full beard. The copy that accompanied the image read, “Look like you give a damn — civilize yourself.”

Throughout the company’s time as a staple beauty brand, they have recruited a number of models with natural and curly hair to represent their brand around the globe. The beginning of this year marks Nivea’s “100 Years of Skincare,” and to celebrate, they enlisted Barbadian singer Rhianna to not only perform at the festivities, but also to act as a spokesperson for the brand. So, when they released the controversial ad in the September issue of Esquire, many people were surprised at the racial-insensitivity coming from a company that is usually first in line to promote tolerance and inclusion.

Social Media Backlash

Once images of the ad hit the Internet, social media sites like Twitter and Facebook were lit up with angry consumers. People felt the ad was not only disrespectful to the curly hair community, but was also ignorant to the historical reference it was making towards the need to civilize oneself. The notion of somehow being less sophisticated or groomed by wearing varying ranges of naturally curly and kinky hair has long been a topic of contention. At different points throughout history, and even in some parts of the world today, wearing natural hair is a form of social pride.

Consumers tweeted their rage and openly vented their disgust with what they felt was more negativity aimed at people who chose to keep their hair natural. Within a day people had the company’s misstep spreading on the internet like wildfire and even got the issue to be a trending topic on Twitter, showing the power of the curly hair community at its best.

The Aftermath

After the widespread outcry at the imagery in the ad, many media outlets including news sites and blogs began to cover the story. Most of them shared the same confusion towards the portrayal of natural and curly hair as uncivilized, as well as the anger towards the company for carelessly allowing the ad to be run nationally. Clutch Magazine made references to the “Planet of the Apes,” and some of the comments left by our CurlTalk readers reflected similar sentiments of sarcasm and hurt.

Shortly following the outbursts where many curly-haired men and women publicly declared their intentions to abandon the brand, Nivea released an apology that sought to explain their total and complete shock at the bad reception of their ads. In a letter released by parent company Beiersdorf AG, they explained that they intended for the ad to be entertaining and lighthearted, and expressed their continuing efforts to maintain diversity, tolerance and equal opportunity as tenets of their brand.

Want More?

Bad advertisements aren't a rare beast - especially when it comes to using natural hair as the butt of their jokes. See what Summer's Eve's last advertisement campaign consisted of!

Final Thoughts

What do you think: did the ad go too far, or are people being too sensitive?


Kristian Richards

Kristian Richards

I don't really think this is "curlist" (mostly cause I don't think curly headed folks are, as a whole, a marginalized community) but it sure as hell is racist. and colonialist. YUCK.
Whoever advised Nivea that an advert like this would be a good idea - SHAME ON YOU! 'Curlist' attitudes like this belong in the dark ages. It only takes a curly girl/guy who is already insecure about their hair to look at that to be damaging.(I prefer the guy's 'head') in the ad anyway!!!
Good post, but I find it interesting that individuals and companies who hire seemingly smart and witty folks to 'think' up great ideas, don't vet them well enough to ensure that zero threats to the validity or credibility of the ad or company could be jeopardized. It seems they purposely push the envelope, then issue an apology which is borderline laughable. You mean to tell me that a multi million or billion dollar company doesn't vet ads to ensure they are politically correct?! BS. I work in Diversity at my company and we ensure we don't send out any image that may be offensive. So, Nivea - shame on you and I believe that the individuals in the board room that gave the thumbs up on this ad were prepared for some backlash, but were also smart enough to believe that although it may be bad press, it's still press and everyone is talking about Nivea!