Yesterday, Shea Moisture experienced the wrath of Black women worldwide.
Just in case you missed it, the hair care company Shea Moisture, built on the memory of Sofi Tucker from Sierra Leone, released an advert featuring three white women and one mixed race woman… and no Black women whatsoever. Not one nap, kink or coil in sight.
Imagine my incredulity when I saw that Shea Moisture was trending on Twitter last night, and watched this:
My honest first thought after watching the advert was simply: “So… where are the Black women?”
This advert has now been removed from all of Shea Moisture’s social media amidst a collective outpouring of rage that this brand, supported by Black women from the grass roots up, has now completely alienated its original target demographic.
— Brittani McNeill (@_bNatural_) April 24, 2017
Shea Moisture really went all hair matters on us. Wow.
— Brokahontas (@iGiveYouWings) April 24, 2017
Shea Moisture tell me how you're gonna run a "stop hair hate" ad, but not feature the type of hair that gets the most hate ?
— Yadii In My Blood (@BlessedZvy) April 25, 2017
On Shea Moisture’s Facebook page, a barrage of one star ratings were raining down – last night I counted five or six hundred. By this afternoon, that number had risen to over five thousand. Comments on the page allege that those leaving negative reviews had been blocked by the page’s admins.
And then came this:
Wow, okay – so guys, listen, we really f-ed this one up. Please know that our intention was not – and would never be –…
Last night, I considered not wading into this conversation – I don’t like jumping into public draggings of celebrities or brands, and to be honest, judging by what I read on Facebook and Twitter, Shea Moisture have already shot themselves in the foot (and pocket) all by themselves.
But today I changed my mind.
I have seen the trend with brands towards more inclusiveness, and I am here for it. L’Oreal and Pantene, for example, are releasing adverts that show more Black women, and people of colour, featured.
Whether this is about true inclusiveness or just making more money for the brands concerned that remains to be seen – nevertheless, I like to see more people in adverts that look like me. I am happy to see on televisions, online and in magazines, more of a picture of the world that I actually live in, rather than a whitewashed world where I don’t exist.
Money, though, is a key factor in business. Brands go into business to make money. But they make money by catering to a target audience, by catering to their needs.
At its inception, Shea Moisture branded itself as a family-owned company that cared about Black women and their hair care needs, in a market where those hair care needs were being overlooked. And this is what Black women who bought Shea Moisture products bought into.
Finally, a brand that cared about us.
So for a brand, which has reached such a level of success through the support of Black women, to completely erase us from an advert – particularly an advert talking about ‘hair hate’ – feels like a brutal slap in the face.
If #EverybodyGetsLove Shea Moisture, then why do I see nobody in this advert that looks like me? When it was women like me that built you up to where you are today?
So white women shouldn’t be featured?
I have no issues with white women being featured in Shea Moisture adverts, or any other adverts by Black-owned businesses. I think that diversity cuts both ways – and Shea Moisture products are popular with a wide range of people, not just Black women.
But alienating your original consumer base in order to gain new ones is a risky, and possibly fatal, business move. Especially in today’s world where consumers are much more clued up to their power over brands.
When I get home all of my #sheamoisture products are going in the trash. Y'all are gonna learn the value of the black womans dollar today
— Shiann (@shimizzle) April 24, 2017
Do companies make mistakes? Definitely. Will I be throwing my Curling Gel Souffle in the bin? No chance. I made this video on my channel in 2016 about my staple hair products, which at the time were all Shea Moisture ones, and I will not be taking it down because they are some of the products that have helped my hair to thrive since my Big Chop in 2014.
I cannot comment on the quality of Shea Moisture products over the years, as I am relative newbie to the natural hair scene. But now that these products are ‘for everybody’ – will the quality remain the same for my type 4 hair?
If there’s anything that Shea Moisture should learn from this PR disaster, it’s that Black women are more than aware of the power of their voices and their coin, and are not afraid to use either one swifly and unapologetically when they feel betrayed. Whether the company will survive the fallout, only time will tell.