Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announced last Tuesday they have made a deal with multibillion-dollar consumer goods corporation Procter & Gamble, despite the company selling skin-whitening creams.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Archewell Foundation said the multi-year “global partnership” with Procter & Gamble will seek to “unleash systemic cultural change” by “building more compassionate communities.”
The creams P&G sells advertise that they reduce the production of melanin in users’ skin and have been criticized by many who say the products are creating a toxic belief that light skin is superior to dark.
In India, Malaysia, and Singapore, P&G brand Olay sells White Radiance moisturizer, which promises to create “radiant and brighter skin,” while lightening the tone. The company also sells Olay White Radiance Light Perfecting Essence in the Philippines to “inhibit melanin formation in the deepest layer of skin.” In Nigeria, people can buy Olay Natural White cream for “pinkish fairness.”
“Meghan has talked a lot about the issue of race and racism, so this does stick out like a sore thumb,” said former P&G executive Alex Malouf.
Some cosmetic firms have recently stopped selling skin-lightening creams over accusations that they are deeply racist. Johnson & Johnson dropped its Fine Fairness line, sold in Asia and the Middle East, after an investigation. L’Oreal stopped using the names “white/whitening,” “fair/fairness,” and “light/lightening” for its products, and Unilever is renaming its Fair & Lovely brand, which is popular in India.
The skin-lightening industry is worth over $7 billion a year, and P&G, unlike other companies, isn’t willing to give that up. It has promised to continue selling its White Radiance and Natural White products, and Olay is defending the creams by likening them to tanners.
Nina Davuluri, the first Indian American to win Miss America, slammed P&G for the whitening creams and said she is shocked P&G is still selling them. Davuluri said the creams sell a “racist” ideology “that you need white skin to be beautiful, you need white skin to be successful.”
San Jose State University Professor Joanne Rondilla, who has researched skin-lightening creams sold in the Philippines, said Harry and Meghan have a “responsibility” to speak out about the products. “Like everyone else around the world, I saw that interview with Oprah that Meghan did,” said Rondilla. “It was important for her to bring up these issues of colorism. I don’t think this partnership advances that conversation.”
“The fact that P&G has continued to be complicit in human rights abuses, in environmental devastation, is reason enough why this partnership shouldn’t be formed or shouldn’t continue,” said Robin Averbeck from the Rainforest Action Network. “It showed that full due diligence on the company was not done.”
When Markle was 11 years old, she wrote to P&G, objecting to “sexism” in a dish soap commercial that included the line: “Mothers around America are fighting greasy pots and pans.” She also appeared in an interview with “Nick News” in 1993 to talk about her campaign, saying she was “furious” by P&G’s soap advertisement. “When they heard this, the boys in my class started saying, ‘Yeah, that’s where women belong — in the kitchen,’” Markle said at the time.
The company subsequently changed the ad to “people all over America” instead of “mothers.”
Jumping off her five seconds of fame from nearly 30 years ago, Meghan and Harry’s partnership with P&G focuses on “build[ing] a more equitable and just future for women and girls,” according to the Archewell website.
Now that Markle is financially benefiting from her relationship with P&G, she’s not so keen on taking morals stands. As the new woke czar of corporate America, she’s definitely not above being selective when it comes to her gender and racial outrage. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Markle, it’s that her most important social cause has always been herself.