Thai cosmetics firm ditches ‘racist’ skin-whitener advert

Thai actress Cris Horwang, right, in Seoul Secret's controversial advertisement. Picture: AP
Thai actress Cris Horwang, right, in Seoul Secret's controversial advertisement. Picture: AP
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A Thai cosmetics company quickly pulled a video in which an promotes a skin-whitener with the slogan: “You just need to be white to win.”

The retraction did little, however, to stem a debate the advert ignited about racist advertisements in the south-east Asian country.

The online advertisement for make-up firm Seoul Secret’s new product called Snowz featured porcelain-skinned Thai movie star Cris Horwang talking about being an ageing actress in a competitive industry. “If I stopped looking after myself, everything that I have worked for -–all the investment I have made to keep myself white – would disappear,” says the 35-year-old actress. “New stars would replace me, I would fade away.”

As she speaks, a younger woman enters the picture and Cris’ image darkens to black. A male voice says, “You just need to be white to win.”

A tirade of criticism erupted after the video was launched online on Thursday.

Commentators labeled the advert as racist and ignorant, while some heaped criticism on the actress for accepting the job. Others called it a strategic way to attract wide attention and boost sales.

“Ewwwwwww,” was the reaction of 28-year-old Jutamas Tritaruyanon, one of many to post their disapproval on Facebook.

“This ad is so obviously racist and another attempt to brainwash Thai women,” Jutamas, a Bangkok-based office worker, said. “They’re saying that being dark is ugly. It’s a narrow-minded and disgusting attitude.”

The Thai cosmetics company Seoul Secret issued a “heartfelt apology” in a statement yesterday saying it had pulled the video clip and related advertisements.

“Our company did not have any intention to convey discriminatory or racist messages,” the statement posted on its Facebook page said. “What we intended to convey was that self-improvement in terms of personality, appearance, skills and professionalism is crucial.”

The advert is not the first to use racial stereotypes in Thailand.