Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are fending off backlash for a partnership they engaged in with a beauty care line that peddles skin-whitening creams – which many have raised their eyebrows at considering the pair are stout anti-racism advocates, reports said on Monday.
After the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced last week that they landed a deal with Procter & Gamble (P&G), the manufacturer of the popular and oft-controversial Olay line of skin management and lightening creams a former executive with the company criticized the move in an interview with The Mirror.
"Meghan has talked a lot about the issue of race and racism, so this does stick out like a sore thumb," Alex Malouf, a former Procter & Gamble executive, told the publication.
The "global partnership" with P&G was established to "build more compassionate communities," and according to the Daily Mail, the Olay brand currently sells the "White Radiance" moisturizer in India, Singapore and Malaysia.
Many skin-lightening creams tout the product’s ability to mitigate the production of natural melanin, which gives skin its various levels of pigmentation.
Throughout the years, loud critics have called for such products to be removed from shelves, arguing that the creams promote the colorist notion that pigmented skin is in some way in need of lightening.
An investigation into Johnson & Johnson’s Neutrogena Fine Fairness Overnight Brightening Cream conducted by Buzzfeed last year forced the company to drop the skincare line which was readily available in Asia and the Middle East.
The cream includes "white lily extract" to achieve "long lasting fairness" and according to the brand’s website, "restores skin’s natural whitening power," the outlet reported at the time.
After much pushback the company elected to discontinue the Fine Fairness line "based on conversations with retailers" but added that that the product "uses a retinol formula to lighten stubborn dark spots — it does not bleach the skin."
The brand further announced on Instagram in June 2020 that it would donate $200,000 to the NAACP and Black Lives Matter and maintained, "We have a responsibility to use our voice to speak up against systemic racism."
Meanwhile, L'Oreal Group has also announced plans to remove the terms "white/whitening," "fair/fairness" and "light/lightening" from its product names and other companies like Unilever said they plan to rename its "Fair & Lovely" product taglines.
P&G is also known for owning brands such as Crest, Oral B, Gillette, Pampers and Tampax.
Nina Davuluri, who was the first Indian American to win Miss America, has argued that the creams promote a "racist" ideology "that you need white skin to be beautiful, you need white skin to be successful."
Furthermore, Joanne Rondilla, a professor at San Jose State University, pressed that the Sussexes should have used their "responsibility" to address the concerns about the product with the company.
"It was important for [Meghan} to bring up these issues of colorism," she told the Daily Mail of the Sussex’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey in which they raised racism concerns within the royal palace. "I don’t think this partnership advances that conversation," she added.