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Emma Watson's Rep Responds To Her Controversial Beauty Ads

Update: In response to the controversy surrounding Watson's former beauty ads, a spokesperson for the actress says: "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.”

Lancôme has also responded in a statement to Refinery29. "Blanc Expert was created by Lancôme 20 years ago," the company says. "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."
This article was originally published on March 29, 2016.

Even with all the controversy surrounding them, it seems like skin "whitening" products aren't going anywhere soon. Global Industry Analysts predicts that the whitening industry will be worth some £14 billion by 2018. And from that £14 billion, plenty of people are getting paid.

At first glance, one such person appears to be actress Emma Watson — a feminist who has spoken out in favour of gender and racial equality. Online magazine Gal-Dem recently pointed out that Watson was the face of Lancôme's "Blanc Expert" line abroad, reportedly from 2011 to 2013. Though Watson's campaign is three years old and appears to be more focused on brightening dark spots as opposed to overall skin bleaching, it has prompted an online dialogue with users.
Many on Twitter and Instagram are calling out the actress for supporting an industry that is "designed to make us feel like our skin is a problem that we can pay for them to solve," Gal-Dem's Naomi Mabita writes.
Others feel that the ad simply promotes the correction of dark spots, acne scars, and other forms of hyperpigmentation and therefore doesn't pose a threat.

Watson, who was first announced as the French brand's global ambassador in 2011, isn't the only actress who has been criticised for appearing in certain beauty ads. Back in 2008, actress Priyanka Chopra starred in a controversial commercial for Pond's White Beauty.

"I was such a kid, I didn't even know what I was doing then — I was like 22 or something. But I realised that it made me feel how I felt as a kid. I used to, jokingly, be called 'kali' by my family, and that means 'dark girl.' I used to use those [whitening] products as a kid and I thought they would work...and I guess I grew from that," Chopra told Refinery29. She later added, "In any part of the world, judging someone's looks or judging how they are by the colour of their skin is such a primitive thought."

Of course, different countries have different beauty standards that are often rooted in race and socioeconomic status. "In the case of the Far East, in countries like Japan, Korea, and China, it doesn’t have to do with trying not to be Asian," says Dr. Evelyn Nakano Glenn, a sociologist at University of California, Berkeley. "In those cultures, there’s a long tradition for women of light skin to be equated with beauty, and also there’s a class element. [It means] you’re not working in the sun, which is an important [distinction] in an agricultural society."
It should also be noted that the word "whitening" (which is used to describe the serum in the ad) isn't always a sufficient translation. “It’s such a one-dimensional word. It doesn’t speak to radiance and luminosity and transcendence, and all these things that these products are supposed to do,” says Christine Chang, co-founder of Korean beauty e-commerce site Glow Recipe. “It’s not about shade of skin, but about an overall glow.”

Adds France Winddance Twine, PhD, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara: "Language really matters. In Asia you can say 'whitener,' in the Caribbean you can say 'bleaching,' in India you say 'lightener.' In the U.S. you say 'fade cream,' and if you’re marketing to older women, you say 'anti-aging.'” But that doesn't necessarily mean they’re all meant to bleach your skin — a practice which does still exist in many parts of the world.
Still, in other countries, the popularity of skin-whitening is more blatantly tied to racism and discrimination based on skin tone — which explains the controversy and politics surrounding similar products.
We've reached out to Lancôme for comment and will update the post when we hear back. But tell us: What do you think about Watson's ads? Are they harmful or harmless? Let us know in the comments below.