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Inspiration Report

L'Oréal_logo.svgL’Oreal Paris UK has made history by featuring a woman wearing a hijab in a hair care advertisement. The ad promotes L’Oreal’s new Elvive campaign and features the beauty blogger Amena Khan, a British Muslim who wears her hijab in public and in the advertisement. Khan was excited to be a part of the advertisement, and she sees her inclusion as a major step toward correcting a common misconception about Muslim women.

“You have to wonder,” Khan said, “Why is it presumed that women who don’t show their hair don’t look after it? The opposite of that would be that everyone that does show their hair only looks after it for the sake of showing it to others. And that mindset strips us of our autonomy and our sense of independence. Hair is a big part of self-care.”

In an interview with Vogue UK, Khan also pointed out that even though she wears her hijab in public, she leaves her hair uncovered at home and around her loved ones. “For me, my hair is an extension of my femininity. I love styling my hair, I love putting products in it, and I love it to smell nice. It’s an expression of who I am,” Khan said. “Even if that expression is for my home life and my loved ones…it’s who I am. If I know my hair is greasy but I have a scarf on it, I still feel rubbish all day—even if it’s covered.”

L’Oreal’s decision to cast Khan in their advertisement has received mixed responses. Many people are delighted at seeing the diverse group of individuals in the advertisement and have spoken out on social media in favor of the decision. Muslim women in particular have cheered Khan’s inclusion.

Some people, however, felt that including Khan was purely a political statement. More than one person commented on social media stating that it made no sense to use a hijab-wearing woman in a hair-care commercial because viewers cannot see the woman’s hair.  Several people also criticized Khan’s inclusion due to her previous anti-Israel tweets. The tweets have since been deleted, but the tweets have caused some people to question why L’Oreal chose to feature Khan instead of another Muslim woman.

Despite the controversy, Khan believes that her appearance in the ad is a step forward for diversity in advertising. “Even prior to [wearing the hijab in public] I didn’t see anyone I could relate to in the media,” Khan said. “I always wanted to be somehow in television or in media but it felt like a pipe dream…I think seeing a campaign like this would have given me more of a sense of belonging. I trusted L’Oreal that they would communicate the message well. If the message is authentic and the voice behind it is authentic, you can’t deny what’s being said.”

It is unclear how much revenue the advertising campaign will bring to L’Oreal, but it has certainly caught the attention of women all over the world. How the controversy will be resolved is still in question, but the ad is helping break down lingering stereotypes which is never a bad thing.

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