The Dove brand is facing intense criticism—even from Tesla founder Elon Musk—after it was revealed that the beauty line was partnering with a Black Lives Matter activist who has been accused of ruining a white female student’s life with uncorroborated accusations.
Zyahna Bryant, a Dove brand ambassador, announced on her Instagram last week that she was part of a “fat liberation” campaign and spoke of “fat liberation.” Bryant had previously accused University of Virginia (UVA) student Morgan Bettinger—the daughter of a police officer who had died six years before—of saying that George Floyd protesters would make “good speed bumps.” Bryant later admitted she might not have heard the remarks at all, according to a report.
Upon hearing the news, Musk took to Twitter and wrote “Messed up” in response to a tweet highlighting the incident. His response prompted a flood of critical tweets from other social media users, with some brandishing their Dove products in protest.
“After hearing that Dove Beauty chose Zyahna Bryant—who ruined Morgan Bettinger’s life—for their ‘fat acceptance ambassador,’ THIS lifelong large lady & now former Dove customer tossed out the last three bars of Dove product she will EVER buy. I have written to Unilever too,” one tweet read. Another added: “I’ll have to toss my Dove products and never buy them again!”
Bryant’s accusations started after a rally in Charlottesville in 2020, during which she claims Bettinger said that protesters would make good speed bumps. Bryant, alongside the group Charlottesville Beyond Policing, posted on Medium to recount the incident.
However, an inquiry from the EOCR revealed that three of Bryant’s four allegations could not be corroborated by other witnesses, and the fourth could not be proven—as it was only supported by one witness who contradicted Bryant’s story and herself when interviewed. It was then noted that Bryant had altered her story, stating that she might not have heard the remarks at all.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 14, 2023
Nevertheless, the incident has caused a flurry of outrage on social media as people took to Twitter to express their disappointment. One user tweeted: “Guess I’ve bought my last bar of Dove soap.” Another echoed this sentiment, writing: “Shame on Dove, never bought the product anyway. There goes their reputation!”
The controversy serves as a lesson for Dove, and other companies that promote a brand, to require evidence and corroboration before endorsing any individual or movement. Without vetting the claims that Bryant had made, Dove has suffered reputational damage as a result of this partnership. As such it will be interesting to see how Dove chooses to respond to this backlash and if it will be taking a more cautious approach to future campaigns.