Munroe Bergdorf is a well-known figure on the London scene. She’s DJd at some of the city’s best-known venues and club nights, and can often be seen swishing down Frith Street with a drink in her hand and a glint in her eye.
She’s contributed many a time to QX, and we’ve enjoyed more than one gossipy gin & tonic with her in clandestine banquettes.
She also has a lucrative modelling career, featuring in campaigns for H&M, Uni Qlo and, most recently, L’Oreal. Just two days ago, it was announced that she would be the company’s first transgender model.
This morning though, all that changed, when the Daily Mail published a piece about Munroe, and L’Oreal abruptly dropped her.
The piece was entitled “‘Your entire existence is drenched in racism’: L’Oreal’s first transgender model is claimis ‘ALL white people’ are racist in extraordinary Facebook rant that could see her lose lucrative campaign.”
After she’d been dropped by L’Oreal, in true smug Daily Mail style, they updated the headline to read “L’Oreal’s first transgender model is SACKED by the cosmetics giant.”
It cited a now deleted post Munroe put on Facebook, referring to the recent right wing extremist violence in Charlottesville, USA.
Here’s what Munroe’s post said:
‘Honestly I don’t have energy to talk about the racial violence of white people any more. Yes ALL white people.
‘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 shit.’
‘Come see me when you realise that racism isn’t learned, it’s inherited and consciously or unconsciously passed down through privilege.
‘Once white people begin to admit that their race is the most violent and oppressive force of nature on Earth… then we can talk.’
‘Until then stay acting shocked about how the world continues to stay fucked at the hands of your ancestors and your heads that remain buried in the sand with hands over your ears.’
It’s clear, when read through properly, that Munroe is making an important point here. She is not aggressively attacking white people, but is using hyperbole to make a valid and lucid assertion.
The Mail reported a fraction of this and, of course, took it out of context. They also included unnecessary details about her racial heritage, as well as details of her life before her transition.
Shortly after the article came out, L’Oreal promptly dropped her;
L’Oréal champions diversity. Comments by Munroe Bergdorf are at odds with our values and so we have decided to end our partnership with her.
— L’Oréal Paris UK (@LOrealParisUK) September 1, 2017
The decision has drawn criticism from journalists, activists, and celebrities. The hashtag “#IStandWithMunroe” is now trending on Twitter.
— MNEK (@MNEK) September 1, 2017
L’Oréal champions profit and is a company that’s chosen to silence a PoC who’s dared to speak out about racism and her own lived experience https://t.co/pEe8bBNkZZ
— olly 🌙 (@alexander_olly) September 1, 2017
We can learn something from this. Media platforms like the Daily Mail are still extremely dangerous and extremely powerful. We must not think think any sort of battle is won, and we must accept people’s views even if they make us uncomfortable.
People of colour aren’t there to simply tick a box in our quota of diverse magazine covers. They must be allowed to be real people. It sounds like stating the obvious but astoundingly, some people still don’t understand this. They must be allowed speak openly, freely and have their voices heard.
When other people, or other media platforms, try to prevent that from happening, we must draw attention to it, criticise it, pick it apart, and stop it from happening again.
Here at QX, our team is predominantly white – and we’d like to say on record that you have our full support in this, Munroe.