A Thai cosmetics firm has withdrawn its video advertising a skin-whitening product after it was attacked on social media for being racist. The advert for ‘Snowz’ features famous Thai actress Cris Horwang attributing her success to fairer skin. The company behind the product, Seoul Secret, issued a “heartfelt apology”, saying it had not meant to offend.
The incident has reignited the debate about attitudes to skin colour in Thailand. Comments about the shade of a person’s skin have been commonplace in a country with an abundance of skin-whitening products, although many younger Thais now refuse to accept the stereotypes associated with skin colour. “In my world there is tough competition. If I don’t take care of myself, everything I have built, the whiteness I have invested in, could be gone,” Cris Horwang warns in the video advert.
At that point her skin turns almost black, and a young, and very white, rival appears by her side. She looks down in dismay at her dark complexion and muses “if I was white, I would win”. The advert stirred up a storm of debate online, with many Twitter users critical of the advert itself as well as the decision to withdraw it. One person wrote on a Thai-language forum Pantip.com: “I’m perfectly fine being dark-skinned and now you’re saying I’ve lost? Hello? What?” “Suggesting people with dark skin are losers is definitely racist,” wrote another.
Seoul Secret quickly withdrew the advert, although it could still be seen on YouTube on Friday, and offered a swift apology. “What we intended to convey was that self-improvement in terms of personality, appearance, skills, and professionalism is crucial,” the firm said.