UPDATE (3/31/2016): Emma Watson's representative reached out with a complete statement: "Many artists often have limited control of how their image is used once an endorsement contract is signed. I cannot comment on my client's previous contractual arrangements with Lancôme. However my client no longer participates in advertising beauty products, which do not always reflect the diverse beauty of all women.”
This story was originally published on 3/30/2016.
Yesterday, a 2013 Lancôme advertisement starring Emma Watson began to recirculate around the Internet. The products it endorsed, the brand's Blanc Expert line, is one of many "whitening" beauty lines that caters to the Asian market. As we have said before, whitening products cater to traditional Eastern beauty norms that believe that lighter skin is indicative of higher social ranking, as those in higher classes historically didn't need to perform manual labor in the sun.
While the history of these products is complex, the present-day implications of these items are even more intricate, especially in regard to the word "whitening," which doesn't fully explain that these products are used as brightening tools to even out skin tone. Still, the word "whitening" is triggering—and rightfully so. To see a U.N. Ambassador and activist like Emma Watson participating in a campaign endorsing these types of products is upsetting, and, as such, Internet-goers voiced their opinions and disappointment.
While Watson has yet to post any explanation on her social channels, her representative has issued a statement on her behalf. "I cannot comment on my client's previous contractual arrangements with Lancôme," they wrote. "However, my client no longer participates in advertising beauty products, which do not always reflect the diverse beauty of all women."
Lancôme also responded, in a statement to Refinery 29: "Blanc Expert was created by Lancôme 20 years ago. It helps brighten, even skin tone, and provides a healthy-looking complexion. This kind of product, proposed by every brand, is an essential part of Asian women's beauty routines."
As tends to be the case with most public statements, especially those with contractual implications, both are vague and brief. We hope to hear more from Watson about whether she had any reservations about the line at the time of the shoot, and what she thinks about brightening products and their place in today's beauty routines.