Munroe Bergdorf, a black British model who was fired by L’Oreal Paris in 2017 after speaking out against systemic racism, said Tuesday that she would join the company’s U.K. diversity and inclusion board after conversations with its new leadership.
Bergdorf became L’Oreal’s first transgender representative when she was hired in August 2017 to be a face of the french company’s diversity initiative. The appointment was celebrated as a leap forward for the beauty industry, which has long been criticized for its failure to represent both transgender people and people of color.
But L’Oreal terminated Bergdorf’s contract just days later when rightwing British tabloid The Daily Mail reported on a later-deleted Facebook post by Bergdorf, in which she reportedly discussed the “racial violence of white people” in the aftermath of the white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, V.A. At the time the brand said Bergdorf’s comments were “at odds” with its support for “diversity and tolerance towards all people irrespective of their race, background, gender and religion.” The decision sparked a backlash for L’Oreal, with social media users and black commentators joining Bergdorf’s calls for a boycott of the company.
Earlier this month, L’Oreal released a short statement in support of anti-racist protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd. “Speaking out is worth it,” read an image accompanying the statement.
Bergdorf quickly accused to company of hypocrisy. “You dropped me from a campaign in 2017 and threw me to the wolves for speaking out about racism and white supremacy,” she said in an Instagram post. “THAT is what you get for ‘speaking out’ when employed by @lorealparis.”
On Tuesday morning Bergdorf said that L’Oreal’s new president, Delphine Viguier, appointed in July 2019, had since reached out to her to talk. “We had an open and constructive conversation, she listened to what I had to say and expressed her regret for how the situation was handled three years ago,” Bergdorg said in a statement.
Munroe said she had decided to accept Viguier’s invitation to be a consultant on L’Oreal’s newly formed U.K. diversity and inclusion board. “I believe in accountability and progress, not cancellation and grudges,” she said. “While what happened 3 years ago was extremely traumatic for me personally and professionally, sitting on a board to provide a voice and a champion for black, trans and queer voices in the beauty industry is important to me.”
“It feels good to finally have closure on this matter and I look forward to new beginnings with the L’Oreal team,” she added.
L’Oreal now plans to make donations of just over $28,000 to Mermaids, a U.K. charity supporting transgender youth, and UK Black Pride, an annual event for LGBTQ people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Latin American descent, Munroe said. In her own statement on Tuesday, Viguier confirmed the brand would make donations to “associations that support social justice and causes that are deeply personal to Munroe’s experience.”
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