Amena Khan steps down from L'Oréal Paris campaign

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Perdita Nouril
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It may sound a little counter-intuitive to cast a hijab-wearing model in a haircare advert, after all, how are we supposed to understand how brilliant the products are if we can’t see the final glossy hair swish? Well, that’s exactly the type of mindset L’Oréal’s campaign is trying to shift. 

Update 23/01/2018

Days after being announced as the first hijab-wearing woman to star in a major hair campaign, Amena Khan has stepped down from her role with L’Oréal Paris. Her decision to step down follows a backlash to tweets she wrote in 2014.

Khan took to Instagram to address her decision to step down, writing ‘“I deeply regret the content of the tweets I made in 2014, and sincerely apologise for the upset and hurt that they have caused. Championing diversity is one of my passions, I don’t discriminate against anyone. I have chosen to delete them as they do not represent the message of harmony that I stand for. I recently took part in a campaign, which excited me because it celebrated inclusivity. With deep regret, I’ve decided to step down from this campaign because the current conversations surrounding it detract from the positive and inclusive sentiment that it set out to deliver.”

The BBC obtained a quote from a L’Oreal Representative, stating “We appreciate that Amena has since apologised for the content of these tweets and the offence they have caused. L’Oréal Paris is committed to tolerance and respect towards all people. We agree with her decision to step down from the campaign.” 

Original story published on 18/01/2018

By teaming up with Muslim beauty influencer Amena Khan to star in their Elvive advert, L’Oréal is encouraging conversations around personal identity and social expectations when it comes to beauty.

Speaking to Vogue, Khan said of the campaign, “How many brands are doing things like this? Not many. They’re literally putting a girl in a headscarf – whose hair you can’t see – in a hair campaign. Because what they’re really valuing through the campaign is the voices that we have.”

“You have to wonder,” she continued, “Why is it presumed that women that don’t show their hair don’t look after it? The opposite of that would be that everyone that does show their hair only looks after it for the sake of showing it to others. And that mindset strips us of our autonomy and our sense of independence. Hair is a big part of self-care.”

Thanks to social media, consumers feel empowered and are no longer afraid to call out cosmetic companies for their homogeneous portrayals of aesthetic ideals. As a result, the cultural shift towards a more diverse representation of faces is finally gaining traction. From Glossier’s Body Hero campaign and Mac collaborating with Patrick Starrr to the influx of inclusive foundations such as Fenty’s 40 shade-strong offering, brands are no longer paying lip service to diversity but making it an integral part of their narrative.

The casting of Khan may be the first of its kind for L’Oréal (and for mainstream haircare brands as a whole), but as one of the biggest advertisers and image-makers in the world, its significance is huge. In part because it sets the tone for so many other brands to follow suit. Khan adds that if these types of campaigns had been around when she was younger it would have boosted her self-esteem. “I think seeing a campaign like this would have given me more of a sense of belonging.” No wonder it’s been met with such rapturous applause. Long overdue, this is one trend we hope is here to stay.