L'Oréal rehires transgender model 3 years after firing for 'speaking out about racism'

Munroe Bergdorf made history in 2017 when she was hired as the face of a L'Oréal U.K. campaign, making her the brand's first transgender model.
Darren Gerrish / WireImage
/ Source: NBC News

L'Oréal Paris has rehired Munroe Bergdorf after the model called the company's recent Black Lives Matter Instagram post hypocritical and a form of "gaslighting."

"You dropped me from a campaign in 2017 and threw me to the wolves for speaking out about racism and white supremacy," Bergdorf wrote in her own post last Tuesday. "I said just yesterday that it would only be a matter of time before RACIST AF brands saw a window of PR opportunity to jump on the bandwagon ... I'm disgusted and writing this in floods of tears and shaking."

Bergdorf made history in 2017 when she was hired as the face of a L'Oréal U.K. campaign, making her the brand's first transgender model. However, she was fired shortly afterward when the Daily Mail published a Facebook post she wrote denouncing racism after a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, left one person dead and 19 others injured. In her post, Bergdorf said that white people must "admit their race is the most violent and oppressive force of nature on Earth."

"Honestly I don't have energy to talk about the racial violence of white people any more. Yes ALL white people," Bergdorf wrote in the post. "Because most of ya'll don't even realise or refuse to acknowledge that your existence, privilege and success as a race is built on the backs, blood and death of people of colour. Your entire existence is drenched in racism. From micro-aggressions to terrorism, you guys built the blueprint for this s---."

L'Oréal Paris said at the time that it believed Bergdorf's comments were "at odds" with its mission to support "diversity and tolerance towards all people irrespective of their race, background, gender and religion," which is why it was terminating its partnership with her.

Following her termination, Bergdorf called for customers to boycott the brand, stating that the company's decision reaffirmed the widespread discrimination women of color in the modeling industry face.

Many brands have posted messages of support for the Black Lives Matter movement in recent weeks, including L'Oréal Paris, which wrote on June 1 that it "stands in solidarity with the Black community, and against injustice of any kind." This is the post Bergdorf responded to, stating that she had never received an apology from the company.

After Bergdorf's callout, the company announced last Wednesday that it is forming a U.K. Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board, which Bergdorf will be a part of.

Delphine Viguier, president of L’Oreal Paris, said in a statement that three years ago, "Munroe felt silenced by a brand, L’Oréal Paris, that had the power to amplify her voice."

"While we both agree today that negative labels should not be used to define all individuals in any group, I understand much better the pain and trauma that were behind Munroe’s words back then and the urgency she felt to speak in defense of the Black community against systemic racism," Viguier said.

Viguier added that she regretted the "lack of dialogue and support the company showed" Bergdorf and that it "should have also done more to create a conversation for change." It plans to donate to organizations that "support social justice and causes that are deeply personal to Munroe's experiences," including Mermaids, a U.K.-based organization that supports gender-diverse children, and U.K. Black Pride, which produces an annual celebration for the region's black LGBTQ community.

"While what happened 3 years ago was extremely traumatic for me personally and professionally, sitting on a board to provide a voice and a champion for black, trans and queer voices in the beauty industry is important to me," Bergdorf said in a statement Wednesday. "Over the past three years I realized my responsibility as an activist is to help us unite as people, regardless of our identity."

Bergdorf said that she hopes the "reconciliation" can prove that there is a way to move past differences in advocating for equality and that she looks forward to "new beginnings" with the company.