It’s a beautiful thing when diversity is a part of a major brand’s marketing and social media strategy in an organic way. Case in point, when MAC Cosmetics posted the image above of an African American model backstage during New York Fashion Week with the kind of full lips most of us got the message were undesirable as kids and that we’d never expect to see showcased in a natural manner that didn’t require a press release to let the world know, “hey we think black is beautiful now because diversity is in.”
But sadly, not all of MAC’s 8.1 million followers were ready for such a display of “unconventional” beauty because almost as soon as this picture went live, so did the racists, spewing their vitriol about the model’s “fish lips,” or more boldly, “n-gga lips” as some commenters remarked.
And the degradation didn’t stop there. “Holy sh-t I thought this was jay z” one person wrote, while another asked, “wtf are these lips,” and still another encouraged, “stop testing on animals/monkeys.”
The nasty remarks were the kind of textbook antebellum Jim Crow taunts optimists like to say the nation has gotten past in 2016, and yet here they were being made by young white girls whose avatars look like they haven’t been out of high school for more than a day. But what wasn’t on the timeline was a response from MAC or any semblance of defense for the model being shown by the brand.
Personally, I’m on the fence about so-called “clapbacks” from brands. I think there are always going to be people who disagree with certain choices companies make and not every criticism deserves a response. There’s also the issue of needing to reflect said brand at all times, and if you aren’t a company known for witty comebacks and commentary on social media, doing so can become a PR nightmare.
MAC isn’t known for its social media persona. In fact, while it’s collections are bold and funky, the retailer’s online persona is pretty vanilla. But when it comes to shutting down racism, a so-called read isn’t necessary, what is sometimes needed is a good old-fashioned exposure of bigotry that says we see what’s happening in our feed and we won’t tolerate it.
Turns out, we aren’t the ones feeling a way about the lack of response from MAC, as demonstrated by the comment below:
DEFEND THIS MODEL WHOM WAS DEGRADED FOR HER NATURAL, FULL LIPS. YOU GUYS WILL DEFEND ANIMAL TESTING BUT NOT A MODEL WHO REPRESENTS YOUR BRAND AND WAS UTTERLY TORN APART FOR HER BEAUTIFUL NATURAL LIPS? WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS COMPANY? YOU WILL REPLY TO BASIC SH-T BUT NOT COME TO THE DEFENSE OF THIS MODEL?
ATTN also pointed out the difference in MAC’s silence versus the polite, yet direct, way Adidas shut down the homophobia some of their followers displayed when they posted an image of two women embracing this past Valentine’s Day. MAC didn’t need to put out a full-fledged statement on this matter, but a few blocks, deletes, and responses to assure loyal patrons of color their silence wasn’t an indirect admission of complicity with the hatred would’ve been nice. But perhaps that’s too much to ask?