Let me start by saying I think it’s great when famous people use their celebrity for good causes. But it’s also very troubling when those efforts end up being more about the celeb than the actual effort and the campaigns are done in a way that belittle the severity of the situation and the real people dealing with the issue they’re discussing. That is clearly the case with Lala Anthony’s Pantene Beautiful Lengths campaign.
This is the advertisement for the effort aimed at raising awareness and money for breast cancer early detection and research. It may be hard to read the print so let me explain what’s going on. The ad reads:
A woman’s hair is her crowning glory, and Lala is covering hers up for a cure. The television personality is taking a stand to help raise awareness by putting herself in the shoes of a cancer patient and covering up her locks.
Lala will only unveil her hair if she receives 10K tweets…etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
Where do I begin?
Given that Pantene is a line of hair products, it makes sense to launch a campaign related to hair, but a well-done campaign dedicated to breast cancer this is not. Wearing a beanie, or a hat, or a scarf or anything along those lines is nowhere near equivalent to “putting oneself in the shoes of a cancer patient.” While the physical side of losing one’s hair while undergoing chemotherapy is certainly a major concern for most women with breast cancer who have to go that treatment route, it is hardly their most primary concern. Not to mention simply covering your hair versus losing it because your body is being pumped with radiation and other chemicals in an attempt to save your life are two very different things. Wearing a hat is a style choice at best, having your hair fall out as a result of being diagnosed with a deadly disease is an emotionally, mentally, and physically trying experience that should not be trivialized in this manner.
Adding more insult to injury is the fact that Lala’s hair isn’t even fully covered in this advertisement. She has a thick bang hanging out one side of the front of her beanie and a perfect hairline on the other. That’s not something a woman undergoing chemo could do. And the irony of pushing a product titled “Beautiful Lengths” is not lost on me. Were this a product that was specifically tied to breast cancer (other than having a pink lid) I could get behind this. But it comes off as beyond insensitive to push “visibly stronger, longer hair” in this campaign, even if the point is that buying this product will help support breast cancer research and real-hair wig donations.
Furthermore, the issue at hand has clearly become more about Lala and #BeautifulLengths than breast cancer, mastectomies, and sick, balding women. Lala will only unveil her hair if she receives 10,000 tweets using the hashtag #BeautifulLengths? One, who is checking for her hair like that? And two, why not tweet something more meaningful (to someone other than Pantene) like early detection or breast cancer awareness or something along those lines? And adding more insult to injury is Lala’s Instagram which shows numerous pictures of her with her hair clearly down and uncovered. Where’s the transparency? Where’s the commitment to the cause? Where is the true concern for breast cancer because it’s a horrible disease affecting hundreds of thousands of women every year not because it’s free publicity?
I don’t doubt that this campaign started off with good intentions, but somewhere along the lines things took a sharp left. It’s disappointing that between LaLa, Pantene, P&G, and all the other marketing and PR people involved, they couldn’t see what a mess of an idea this is. Yes a woman’s hair may be her crowning glory, but let’s not forget that we are also not our hair. Tweeting to help unveil Lala’s beauty i.e. her hair implies that women with cancer, and consequently without their hair, have lost their beauty. That is far from the message of hope these women need to hear. The next time these “great minds” get together to plan a public awareness campaign I need them not to think alike because the result is catastrophic. I would encourage them to instead go to #BeautifulLengths to empower breast cancer patients rather than take a shortcut to shame.
What do you think about this campaign?