Remember Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty? It kicked off in 2004, aiming to increase female self confidence by using "real" women all ages, sizes and backgrounds as models in product ads while funding positive self-esteem organizations like the Girl Scouts and Girls, Inc.
If the above image doesn't spark your memory, their short film, "Evolution," certainly will.
The 2006 video showcased the disturbingly long process it takes to bring a model's face from barefaced to advertisement-worthy, and, 11 million Youtube views later, has begotten an online Photoshop police force with blogging lieutenants like Jezebel, The Cut and Photoshop Disasters regularly busting style stalwarts like Ann Taylor, Nordstrom and Ralph Lauren at the airbrushing game.
And now, the saga has come full circle: Dove's most recent iteration of the "Real Beauty" campaign has put them in hot water with these same websites.
The beauty giant put out casting call on Craigslist on June 25, soliciting a new crop of real women models. Although the ad has since been taken down (see the full screenshot, below), it stated, "Beautiful arms and legs and face will be shown! Must have flawless skin, no tattoos or scars! Well groomed and clean...nice bodies...naturally fit, not too curvy, not too athletic. Beautiful hair and skin is a must!"
While the ad did also state, "Absolutely no actresses/models or reality show participants or anyone carrying a headshot! Real women only!" Jezebel editors were not convinced.
"Its definition of 'real women' (a loathsome term if ever there was one) is fairly narrow and does, in fact, adhere to typical beauty standards. The emphasis on being 'real' but also being totally flawless is somewhat hilarious and tragic, in that the entire point of the Dove campaign is to challenge the definition of the word 'beauty,'" the writer "Hortense" penned on the pop culture website.
But a spokesperson for Dove tells StyleList that the Craigslist posting was an unplanned gaffe, and isn't indicative of their overall campaign message.
"Unfortunately, this casting notice was not approved by the brand or agency team and did not reflect the spirit of the brand team's vision. We appreciate that this has been brought to our attention, and we are taking the necessary steps to prevent this from happening in the future. We believe our images demonstrate that real beauty comes in many shapes, sizes, colors and ages and we remain committed to featuring realistic and attainable images of beauty in all our advertising."
The Dove spokesperson also defends the Campaign for Real Beauty, and its rich history of raising thousands of dollars for self-esteem focused charities for young girls.
"Dove is committed to representing beauty of all ages, ethnicities, shapes and sizes, and actively works toward raising self-esteem in women and young girls globally. We have used a variety of women in our images. We have shown women as young as 20 and as old as 95, women with blond hair, red hair, short hair, long hair and no hair; with freckles, without freckles; with wrinkles, with tattoos and real curves.
In addition to the well-publicized ad campaign and fundraising efforts, Dove also features interactive software on their website that educates girls on myths and facts behind personal care, which is so often linked to self-esteem issues during the pre-teen and teenage growing years.
Yet this isn't the first time controversy has been sparked by detractors.
A couple of years ago,photo-shopping accusations hit the campaign when photo retoucher Pascal Dangin revealed to The New Yorker that he heavily retouched the campaign. Dove denied the claim, saying that the only work done on the photos was for distractions like out-of-place hair strands and color correction. Dangin later clarified his quote, saying that he was actually referring to the Pro-Age campaign.
What do you think: Is this a situation where a brand is simply spinning a hypocritical campaign message, or are naysayers unfairly picking on Dove, who has done much work over the years to challenge social stereotypes and raise the self-esteem of women internationally?
Speaking of raising self esteem, check out our interview with Miss Delaware on her battle with baldness-causing Alopecia.