Makeup brand removes ad that used same model for different skin color, races

Screenshots of C. Code Cosmetics’ ad campaign featuring the same model representing different races. Photo: C. Code Cosmetics /Facebook
Screenshots of C. Code Cosmetics’ ad campaign featuring the same model representing different races. Photo: C. Code Cosmetics /Facebook

A Malaysian cosmetics brand removed a video today that promoted its new foundation line by using the same model dressed as people of different races and skin color.

Amid online backlash, C. Code Cosmetics removed the 39-second clip this afternoon after it had been up on its social media platforms for two days and viewed nearly 100,000 times. It drew further criticism after retail chain Watsons Malaysia, which carries the brand at its retail stores, shared the same video to its online platforms yesterday.

“It’s clear you don’t have any Indian person involved in this video cause literally, no Indian girl is wearing a flower garland casually like that,” Twitter user @Roshinee_M complained online.

“It is unfortunate but not surprising that such a forced diversity video concept regurgitated such a stereotypical and flawed view of Indians,” the user added. Her complaint was shared more than 1,000 times on Twitter. 

The video showed the same woman lip-syncing to a rendition of the Saya Anak Malaysia (I am a Child of Malaysia) song while appearing in three different traditional outfits. The model’s skin color also appeared visibly lighter while wearing the cheongsam and darker when wearing the jasmine garland – she even placed her hands together and moved her head sideways. 

Watsons apologized to the Twitter user in the replies without acknowledging what it had done wrong.

“On behalf of Watsons Malaysia, we thank you for your time and appreciate your feedback. Rest assured that we will strive to do better moving forward,” the reply said.

While both Watsons and C. Code Cosmetics have removed the offending video from their platforms, the ad and screenshots of the clip are already circulating widely online. Neither companies responded to Coconuts KL’s requests for comment. 

Another Twitter user @Emcheng29 said that C. Code Cosmetics should have just hired different people with skin tones that matched the four colors of their new foundation line, ranging from “ivory” to “sand.” 

“This brand really thought painting their face lighter/darker and acting out stereotypes is what it means to be an anak Malaysia. Couldn’t have just hired actual people that matched the foundation,” the tweet read. 

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