The Chicago Journal

Munroe Bergdorf “Don’t use this movement to improve your public image”

Munroe Bergdorf – The model-activist talks about her thoughts to the recent death of George Floyd and the protests surrounding it in an interview. She emphasized her opinion how public figures at fashion industry for indulging to fit in themselves with the worldwide protests against racism without getting their own houses in place. Fashion houses have been struggling with their responses to the George Floyd murder. Many have been drawing criticism online for tone-deaf responses or virtue-signalling towards allyship.

Bergdorf said on The Guardian: “You can’t use a marginalized movement for capital gain or to improve your public image. White people need to see the humanity in us – I don’t think society ever got over us being property [as slaves].”

Moreover, Jonathan Anderson of JW Anderson and Loewe apologised for posting (and then deleting) an Instagram story that read: “There is only one race.” He posted a photo of the author James Baldwin alongside the apology. 

Likewise, the founder of CR Fashion Book founder, Carine Roitfeld, the posted an image of herself embracing black model Anok Yai with the caption “miss you”, later adding the comment “Anok is not a black woman, she is my friend.” The deleted post was picked up by industry watchdog Diet Prada, with comments accusing her of using her of tokenism. “Before the murder of George Floyd you never posted a black woman before,” read one. Roitfeld later posted that she would like to “sincerely apologise” for the post. 

“It shouldn’t be: ‘It’s such a shame a black man died, but why are people destroying property,’” said Bergdorf. “It should be: ‘It’s a shame people are destroying property, but a black man died.’” Virgil Abloh, Off-White’s designer, also apologized after all the backlash received and seeming more upset with the looting of shops than police brutality and racism. 

Also Bergdorf added also made remarks towards here if fashion wanted to be progressive, it needed to address the inequality within the industry.

Despite the number of models of colour on the catwalk increasing, representation within fashion businesses is extremely performative – with empty platitudes and diversity on the catwalk, but not in the boardroom – and racially insensitive moments are still a regular occurrence. 

 “We need more black people in decision-making roles,” said Bergdorf. “Black people need to be able to call the shots, too, but the reality is we’re not given the opportunity. I think people need to realise that different perspectives make better products.”

Days after being hired for its True Match beauty campaign in 2017, Bergdorf was fired by L’Oréal after writing a controversial Facebook post about the racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a protestor was killed by a white supremacist.

She was axed by the company on social media, with the beauty giant tweeting: “Comments by Munroe Bergdorf are at odds with our values.” Bergdorf said that L’Oréal left her exposed to “racism, misogyny and transphobia” from internet trolls, citing a chilling threat of graphic sexual violence.

This week, Bergdorf also accused the brand of hypocrisy following  its Instagram post in the wake of George Floyd’s death, which pledged to support the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

“I was hired by L’Oréal for my intersections of identity,” said Bergdof. “But when it came down to talking about what I stood for, it was a dealbreaker. Instead of trying to understand systemic racism, they took the attitude of: ‘Shut it down, it’s a PR disaster.’” (The Guardian have reached out to the company for comment).

Surprisingly, The brand did not respond to her Instagram post, which surprised the model. “It doesn’t look good on their behalf,” she said. “I think it’s important to admit when you’ve made a mistake. They’d rather bury their head in the sand.

“My issue with L’Oréal is that they painted themselves as an ethical company, yet they’re not. How can you stand with the black community yet also sell skin-bleaching creams in Asia and Africa?”

Bergdorf also claimed that she was not paid the same as her True Match co-stars, who included the model Neelam Gill. “I was paid £2,500 for that L’Oréal campaign, which was not what other people on the campaign were being paid.

“If brands want to hire black talent, they need to pay them their worth, and if the fashion industry wants to be progressive, they need to address the inequality within the industry.”

Opinions expressed by The Chicago Journal contributors are their own.