License article

'You need to be white to win': skin-whitening campaign causes uproar

Bangkok: Even in a country where many Thai women are obsessed with whitening their skin a YouTube video has provoked uproar.

The video posted by cosmetic maker Seoul Secret Thailand features two images, one of actress Sirin "Cris" Horwang and the other of a model whose skin has been darkened.

Up Next

Thousands protest across Brazil after councilwoman killed

Video duration

More World News Videos

Thai skin-whitening ad sparks outrage

An advertisement for a skin-whitening product from Seoul Secret Thailand draws criticism from social media.

Ms Horwang, 35, starts by talking about her struggles in the entertainment industry and how she must work to keep her skin white to stay on top.

"You just need to be white to win," she says in a pitch for viewers to take the company's whitening cream called Snowz.

Ms Horwang tells viewers that if she stopped taking the cream all her investment in skin tone would disappear and she would become a "dusky star", just as the screen shows the black model looking downcast and dismayed.


Tens of thousands of internet users took to Twitter, Facebook and message boards to condemn the video as racist or to warn of the dangers of skin-whitening products, but many others just wanted to know where to buy the product.

"Thai celebs are among the worst propagators of such harmful ideals," tweeted a prominent women's rights advocate who uses the name Kaewmala.

"This was not due to ignorance but a calculated strategy. Shameless," she tweeted.

White skin products are a booming $2 billion industry across Asia, especially in Thailand where they are stacked on the shelves of pharmacies and supermarkets.

Ms Horwang's advertisement is not the first to cause uproar in the country where for many women white equates to being more beautiful than dark-skinned or tanned.

A product called Lactracyd White Intimate that claims to make a women's intimate areas "bright and translucent" reignited debate about whitening products in 2014.

So too did an advertisement for a skin-whitening drink that featured a brown bear, a black doctor and a Thai woman with her face painted black.

One advertisement for a skin cream appeared to offer university scholarships to students with fairer skin before it was withdrawn after complaints.

And in 2011 a company advertising a drink to brighten a person's complexion put banners reading "reserved for white people" above passenger seats on Bangkok's elevated train system.

Anthropologists point out that skin tone has a long history in Thailand as seen in Thai literature and mural paintings.

Darker skin tone was associated with peasants and field workers, while people with lighter skin were thought to have higher economic or political status, such as people who didn't work outdoors.

Apparently in response to the protests Seoul Secret disabled the comments section on the video after 48 hours.

In a press release the company said the video presented the idea as told through a real-life insight "that every woman has experienced: people who have white skin tend to be so attractive that they 'steal the scene' from other people".

On Saturday morning, Seoul Secret pulled the video and issued an apology.

"Our company did not have any intention to convey discriminatory and racist messages," it said. "What we intended to convey was that self-improvement, in terms of personality, appearance, skills and professionalism, is crucial."

ดังระดับโลกเลยค่ะ #การเหยียดสีผิวเมืองนอกมันร้ายแรงมากนะ #ถึงเวลาแล้วรึยังที่เราจะให้ความสำคัญกับมัน คำพูดไม่กี่คำ มันอาจจะทำร้ายคนและสร้างปมในใจเขาโดยที่คุณไม่รู้ตัว อย่าให้เด็กรุ่นหลังต้องเจอแบบเราเลย

Posted by Maeya Mae Nonthawan on Friday, January 8, 2016

Follow FairfaxForeign on Twitter

Follow FairfaxForeign on Facebook


Comment are now closed