Shea Moisture, You “F-ed Up,” But You Really Didn’t Have To

It’s not uncommon for a large brand to take steps towards expanding its target audience.  But when it comes to natural hair care lines that cater to black women, that could prove to be a big no no.  Shea Moisture proved that this week after releasing a few commercials with the message “Break free of hair hate,” featuring two white women sporting straight hair.

The company has become more than a stand out in the natural hair care world.  It’s a fan favorite with a cult following that many companies strive to cultivate.  Let’s just say they aren’t having the best week.

To add insult to injury, the company retweeted and thanked Tariq Nasheed for this tweet before issuing an apology:

Sigh…of all people to retweet.

When the company finally realized just how deep of a shit hole it had stepped into, this apology was issued:

Wow, okay – so guys, listen, we really f-ed this one up. Please know that our intention was not – and would never be – to disrespect our community, and as such, we are pulling this piece immediately because it does not represent what we intended to communicate. You guys know that we have always stood for inclusion in beauty and have always fought for our community and given them credit for not just building our business but for shifting the beauty landscape. So, the feedback we are seeing here brings to light a very important point. While this campaign included several different videos showing different ethnicities and hair types to demonstrate the breadth and depth of each individual’s hair journey, we must absolutely ensure moving forward that our community is well-represented in each one so that the women who have led this movement never feel that their hair journey is minimized in any way. We are keenly aware of the journey that WOC face – and our work will continue to serve as the inspiration for work like the Perception Institute’s Good Hair Study/Implicit Association Test that suggests that a majority of people, regardless of race and gender, hold some bias towards women of color based on their textured or natural hair. So, you’re right. We are different – and we should know better. Thank you all, as always, for the honest and candid feedback. We hear you. We’re listening. We appreciate you. We count on you. And we’re always here for you. Thank you, #SheaFam, for being there for us, even when we make mistakes. Here’s to growing and building together…

A post shared by SheaMoisture (@sheamoisture) on

Despite their attempts to right this colossal wrong, I’m still puzzled.  I get that companies have a right to expand and grow, but when you’re creating products for something as sacred as black hair, why take such a risk.  BLACK WOMEN MAKE FOR BIG BEAUTY BUSINESS.  The proof is in the tweet above.  Beyond the revenue, considering your core audience should be paramount during the course of any expansion.  Shea Moisture knows full well that black hair has been politicized to the point where black women have had to embrace their natural tresses with an ever present middle finger to the establishment.  So for  a beloved brand to feature white women who display the very aesthetic black women have felt pressured to adopt in order to fit into society, all while casting a black woman as a second voice, is beyond comprehension.

So to companies like Shea Moisture, if you feel you must try your hand at crossing over, at least try to be a bit more subtle about it.  Drop it on your consumers in doses until they are able to stomach your new-found branding strategy.  If not, be prepared for damage control.

Abi Ishola
Abi Ishola


Abi Ishola is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Beyond Classically Beautiful, the acclaimed photo series turned multimedia platform. On any given day, you can find her tucked away in a perfectly lit Brooklyn coffee shop working for several hours. Then she dashes off to pick up her daughter from daycare. Abi is also a TV Producer, a proud FIT Alum, Nigerian-American, and a soul searcher.

  1. The issue is the inclusion of us with all the other brands and that’s why we had Shea Moisture. I understand expansion and growth, but this is clearly not the way to do it. Why not still market to the same people and offer something new? Build from there.

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