Last week, Amena Khan made history by becoming the first hijab-wearing model to star in a hair campaign for a major brand. While her collaboration with L’Oréal Paris was well received online, Monday brought an unexpected amendment to her original announcement.
According to Mashable, Amena posted tweets criticizing Israel back in 2014. She is now referencing those posts in her decision to end her partnership with the brand.
“I deeply regret the contents of the tweets I made in 2014, and sincerely apologize for the upset and hurt that they have caused,” Amena explained on Instagram. “I recently took part in a campaign, which excited me because it celebrated diversity. With deep regret, I’ve decided to step down from this campaign because the current conversations surrounding it detract from the positive and inclusive statement that it set out to deliver.”
A L’Oréal Paris U.K. spokesperson released the following statement: “We have recently been made aware of a series of tweets posted in 2014 by Amena Khan, who was featured in a U.K. advertising campaign. We appreciate that Amena has since apologised for the content of these tweets and the offence they have caused. L’Oréal Paris is committed to tolerance and respect towards all people. We agree with her decision to step down from the campaign.”
Not everyone agrees with those sentiments, as many of Amena’s followers are now debating the news in the comments of her announcement post, with some social media users saying she shouldn’t have to step down over her previous tweets. Others referenced a past incident involving L’Oréal and Munroe Bergdorf.
Last September, L’Oréal hired and then fired its first transgender model, Munroe Bergdorf, over social media comments on white complicity in racial violence. Munroe subsequently wrote an open letter in Broadly stressing the importance of intersectionality in the new wave of beauty brands championing inclusivity. “I strongly believe this instance speaks volumes about the true motives of brands and empowerment campaigns,” she wrote. “You can’t just use the images of people of color to profit from an untapped demographic; you need to actually support the people you are representing.”
Of course, the situations differ in that Amena shared that she chose to step down rather than being fired from her role. But as companies increasingly look to spotlight diversity and inclusion, they’re opening up a space for conversations like these — and it’s more important than ever for them to deeply consider the messages they send.
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