Shea Moisture, a very popular hair company with deep ties to the black community, is fighting backlash on social media from their recent commercial launched earlier this week that opened with a black woman discussing the difficulties of dealing with her natural hair, but quickly transitioned to two white women -- a blonde and a redhead. One said she didn't "know what to do" with her hair and the other complained about dyeing it.
The intended message was, "Break free from hair hate," but loyal consumers found the juxtaposition was insensitive.
Three college students who are frequent users of Shea Moisture products shared their reactions from the commercial and what this means for them when buying future hair products via Twitter direct message.
"I always knew Shea Moisture as a product used by many women of color, especially black women," said Kayla Thigpen, a freshman political science major at Spelman College. "We are the main consumer of the product due to the fact that it is made for natural, curly, coarse, and kinky hair. With so many hair products catered to mainstream white America, we enjoyed having a hair product that defied those odds. So you can only imagine that the Shea Moisture commercial was like a spit in the face for its black consumers who are also the core consumers."
Thigpen said the main issue with the commercial was representation.
"In the commercial, there is one black woman represented. A light skin black woman with a curl pattern that is easily accepted by white society," Thigpen said. "You would think that the creators of the product would have more sense. For those who use the product, we notice the messages about how the product's origin is in Sierra Leone. Nevertheless, the corporation threw this out of the window in the commercial simply to cross into mainstream America. The commercial does not show any sense of diversity which is what we once praised the product for and that is where the problem lies."
Wyett Woodbury, a sophomore at St. John's University majoring in public relations said the commercial was in "poor taste."
"Shea Moisture turned its back on the people that turned this company into such a huge company," Woodbury said. "I definitely will not use their products anymore."
Maria Stevenson, a junior theatre major at Youngstown State University, had a different view.
"I feel that the whole controversy is blown out of proportion because there are other commercials by the company that have been run that show women of different hair types, specifically catered to black women and they even have them on their official YouTube channel," Stevenson said. "I feel that the biggest thing that people are upset by is that Shea Moisture is reaching out to women and men from different racial backgrounds who have their own personal hair struggle."
Stevenson also commended the brand for trying something different with their commercial.
"People are scared that Shea Moisture is going to forget their base customers, but I highly doubt that seeing that black women do make up the majority of buying hair care products," Stevenson said. "I liked the commercial and I think it's a great way for the brand to do something different and advocate for inclusiveness when so many other brands are so exclusive and only cater to certain people."
So what does this mean for Shea Moisture or other companies that cater to the black community like Cantu?
According to Thigpen, that's still up in the air.
"On the whole Cantu vs. Shea Moisture topic—I've used both," she said. "There are some things I like about Cantu more and there are some I like about Shea Moisture more...I am most likely going to continue to venture into exploring products other than Shea Moisture and Cantu."
"Cantu will be the move until further notice," said Woodbury.
Stevenson said, "I will definitely continue to use Shea Moisture, because it's the only few products that will work on my hair, but I will definitely check out Cantu products too."
After receiving so much heat from the commercial, Shea Moisture is pulling the commercial and released a statement on Facebook to apologize.
"We really f-ed this one up. Please know that our intention was not -- and would never be -- to disrespect our community, and as such, we are pulling this piece immediately because it does not represent what we intended to communicate...You’re right. We are different – and we should know better. We hear you. We’re listening. We appreciate you. We count on you. And we’re always here for you."
Lead Image Credit: Facebook via Shea Moisture