Emma Watson's Rep Responds To Her Controversial Beauty Ads

Update: In response to the controversy surrounding Watson's former beauty ads, a spokesperson for the actress says: "Many artists often have limited control of how their image is used once an endorsement contract is signed. I cannot comment on my client's previous contractual arrangements with Lancôme. However, my client no longer participates in advertising beauty products, which do not always reflect the diverse beauty of all women.”

Lancôme has also responded in a statement to Refinery29. "Blanc Expert was created by Lancôme 20 years ago," the company says. "It helps brighten, even skin tone, and provides a healthy-looking complexion. This kind of product, proposed by every brand, is an essential part of Asian women's beauty routines."
Advertisement
This article was originally published on March 29, 2016.

Even with all the controversy surrounding them, it seems like skin "whitening" products aren't going anywhere soon. Global Industry Analysts predicts that the whitening industry will be worth some $20 billion by 2018. And from that $20 billion, plenty of people are getting paid.

At first glance, one such person appears to be actress Emma Watson — a feminist who has spoken out in favor of gender and racial equality. Online magazine Gal-Dem recently pointed out that Watson was the face of Lancôme's "Blanc Expert" line abroad, reportedly from 2011 to 2013. Though Watson's campaign is three years old and appears to be more focused on brightening dark spots as opposed to overall skin bleaching, it has prompted an online dialogue with users.

Many on Twitter and Instagram are calling out the actress for supporting an industry that is "designed to make us feel like our skin is a problem that we can pay for them to solve," Gal-Dem's Naomi Mabita writes.
Others feel that the ad simply promotes the correction of dark spots, acne scars, and other forms of hyperpigmentation and therefore doesn't pose a threat.

Watson, who was first announced as the French brand's global ambassador in 2011, isn't the only actress who has been criticized for appearing in certain beauty ads. Back in 2008, actress Priyanka Chopra starred in a controversial commercial for Pond's White Beauty.

"I was such a kid, I didn't even know what I was doing then — I was like 22 or something. But I realized that it made me feel how I felt as a kid. I used to, jokingly, be called 'kali' by my family, and that means 'dark girl.' I used to use those [whitening] products as a kid and I thought they would work...and I guess I grew from that," Chopra told Refinery29. She later added, "In any part of the world, judging someone's looks or judging how they are by the color of their skin is such a primitive thought."

Of course, as we've written about before, different countries have different beauty standards that are often rooted in race and socioeconomic status. "In the case of the Far East, in countries like Japan, Korea, and China, it doesn’t have to do with trying not to be Asian," says Dr. Evelyn Nakano Glenn, a sociologist at University of California, Berkeley. "In those cultures, there’s a long tradition for women of light skin to be equated with beauty, and also there’s a class element. [It means] you’re not working in the sun, which is an important [distinction] in an agricultural society."
Advertisement
It should also be noted that the word "whitening" (which is used to describe the serum in the ad) isn't always a sufficient translation. “It’s such a one-dimensional word. It doesn’t speak to radiance and luminosity and transcendence, and all these things that these products are supposed to do,” says Christine Chang, cofounder of Korean beauty e-commerce site Glow Recipe. “It’s not about shade of skin, but about an overall glow.”

Adds France Winddance Twine, PhD
, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara: "Language really matters. In Asia you can say 'whitener,' in the Caribbean you can say 'bleaching,' in India you say 'lightener.' In the U.S. you say 'fade cream,' and if you’re marketing to older women, you say 'anti-aging.'” But that doesn't necessarily mean they’re all meant to bleach your skin — a practice which does still exist in many parts of the world.
Still, in other countries, the popularity of skin-whitening is more blatantly tied to racism and discrimination based on skin tone — which explains the controversy and politics surrounding similar products.
Tell us: What do you think about Watson's ads? Are they harmful or harmless? Let us know in the comments below.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article referred to the product as a skin lightener and has since been updated.
Advertisement

More from Celebs & Influencers

Update: The hair clips that round out the beauty look at Fendi may not be your thing, but there's still something really rad to take away from this playful...
When we think of high-profile women who sport major tattoo ink, names like Kat Von D, Miley Cyrus, and Ruby Rose come to mind. But Paris Jackson, ...
BTS with my two favorites - #kimkardashian & the #MasterPaletteByMario ❤️🎨😚 #MakeupByMario A photo posted by Mario Dedivanovic (@makeupbymario) ...
Last night's MTV Video Music Awards show was teeming with feel-good moments. Beyoncé (sort of) surprised us all, Blue Ivy slayed, Kanye was, well, Kanye...
I could not love this human being anymore. New hair vibes. ❤️❤️❤️ #bestcollaborator #kristenSTEWART #hairbyADIR #bleachedhair @chanelofficial A photo...
Gigi Hadid showed up to the Moschino show at Milan Fashion Week with a platinum blonde bob, Teen Vogue reports, and you can hardly tell it's her. Between ...
Perfect humans Adam Levine and Behati Prinsloo brought a child into the world today. And, even without meeting the mini Angel, we can assume she is a thing...
Pretty sure I murdered this look ,,,, who you think wore it best ? 🙋🏿🤔 A photo posted by ROBERT KARDASHIAN (@robkardashian) on Sep 20, 2016 at 8:24pm...
Every Sephora has a different atmosphere, depending on where you work. I worked at the Sephora in Times Square, where it's hectic from 8 a.m. until ...
i come alive in the fall time pic.twitter.com/NHeVl3Q7Nn— The Weeknd (@theweeknd) September 21, 2016 There are certain events in life that you know ...
Smackers' Flip Gloss might be long gone and Victoria's Secret Halo perfume discontinued, but the 2000s are making a comeback nevertheless — and in a major ...
We always imagined this day would come: Kim Kardashian-West, she of the extravagant lifestyle and impeccable contour, has live-streamed a video in which ...
FRINGE! by @hairbyadir pic.twitter.com/PGL2Jah8YO— Jessica Biel (@JessicaBiel) September 20, 2016 For years, Jessica Biel has exemplified hair goals — ...
⚡️⚡️HOW TO GET AN INSTANT GLOW! ⚡️⚡️ ⁉️is your skin dull and dry and in need of some major GLOW? This mask is perfect for instant glow and anti aging ...