Thai beauty company Seoul Secrets recently released an extremely controversial and egregiously racist advertisement for its new product, Snowz, which the company claims will help your skin retain its whiteness and lead to your success.
The ad shows one model with pale white skin, while another turns black without the product as the narrator intones that Snowz can “help you not return to black.” The pale model smiles and tell us, “Eternally white, I am confident.”
This imagery and notion that white skin is superior perpetuates dangerous, harmful racist ideology, which is unfortunately all too common in not only Thailand, but many other Asian countries. A professor of sociology and anthropology at Thailand’s Thammasat University, Yukti Mukdawijitra, explained the reasoning behind such ideas to CNN: “Thai society wants to be a part of international society, so ideas of beauty are transferred from the West to Thailand as well. Those who look Western, those who are white, those who have bodies that look like Westerners', become preferable — in a way, people in Thailand internalize a colonial attitude into themselves.”
This same emphasis on light skin can be found in Asian countries such as India, whose widely disseminated cream, Fair & Lovely, claims to whiten skin, and is widely used amongst millions of Indians. Similarly, countries such as Taiwan and China have long histories of valuing lighter skin, reflecting a historical desire to demonstrate economic status as someone who does not work outside and burn (as well as adhering to Western standards of beauty).
Seoul Secrets has apologized and removed the advertisement, stating, “[We] would like to apologize for the mistake and claim full responsibility for this incident. Our company did not have any intention to convey discriminatory or racist messages. What we intended to convey was that self-improvement in terms of personality, appearance, skills, and professionality (sic) is crucial.”
Unfortunately, much of the damage is already done.
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