A man walks by the logo of French cosmetics group L'Oreal in the western Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret, France, on February 7, 2020. (REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes)
French cosmetics company L'Oreal said on Tuesday it regretted sacking a black transgender model in 2017 after she described all white people as racist, and offered her a new job helping to shape the firm's diversity policies.
Protests against the death of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, at the hands of police in the United States have sparked a global debate about racial inequalities - putting pressure on major brands to do more to bring about change.
L'Oreal's sacking of Munroe Bergdorf faced renewed scrutiny last week, as the firm shared a post expressing solidarity with the black community that some social media users - including Bergdorf - said was at odds with its earlier actions.
On Tuesday, however, L'Oreal Paris brand President Delphine Viguier said she had offered Bergdorf a seat on a newly formed UK diversity and inclusion advisory board, a role accepted by the British model.
"I understand much better the pain and trauma that were behind Munroe's words back then and the urgency she felt to speak in defense of the Black community against systemic racism," Viguier said in a statement posted on social media.
“I had an honest, transparent and vulnerable conversation with Munroe Bergdorf. We listened to each other and shared our feelings and perspectives on the situation with open hearts and minds. It was a powerful moment of human connection. Here is what I heard from her: 3 years ago, Munroe felt silenced by a brand, L’Oréal Paris, that had the power to amplify her voice. While we both agree today that negative labels should not be used to define all individuals in any group, I understand much better the pain and trauma that were behind Munroe’s words back then and the urgency she felt to speak in defense of the Black community against systemic racism. I regret the lack of dialogue and support the company showed Munroe around the time of the termination. We should have also done more to create a conversation for change as we are now doing. We support Munroe's fight against systemic racism and as a company we are committed to work to dismantle such systems. Here is how we will move forward: As we stand united in our advocacy against all forms of racism, we will take action together. The L’Oréal Group is forming a UK Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board of voices inside and outside the company, who will influence and inform our action plan. I have invited Munroe to participate on this Board and thank her for graciously accepting. We will honor Munroe’s advocacy for both the Trans and Black communities. L’Oréal will be donating to associations that support social justice and causes that are deeply personal to Munroe’s experience. Speaking out is worth it, only if we are able to listen, learn and grow. We all want to contribute to a society in which everyone can live safely, peacefully and equally, and that begins with repairing relationships and moving forward together. I thank @munroebergdorf for her willingness to do this.” - Delphine Viguier – L’Oreal Paris Brand President Image credit: @lukenugentphotography
"I regret the lack of dialogue and support the company showed Munroe around the time of the termination. We should have also done more to create a conversation for change as we are now doing."
Bergdorf, who was fired days after becoming the first transgender model to appear on a British advertising campaign for the company, said it "feels good to have finally closure on this matter".
"I hope this reconciliation is proof that we can all find a way to put aside our differences and work together to push for a more progressive, fair and equal world," she wrote on Instagram.
The London-based model and activist said L'Oreal had also committed to contributing 25,000 euros ($28,000) each to transgender charity Mermaids and LGBT+ group UK Black Pride.
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