Since the 19th century, African American women have been the victims of many harsh and untrue stereotypes surrounding their appearance and behavior. Unfortunately this still holds true even for today. In May 2011, Cadbury, a well known and successful United Kingdom (UK) chocolate manufacturer, decided to launch its campaign for its chocolate bar, Dairy Milk Bliss. This campaign proved a wrong move for Cadbury as it displayed overtly racist undertones, inciting anger from Naomi Campbell, the model who was targeted by the ad, and the international African American community. Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Bliss not only directly likened Campbell to chocolate but also perpetuated a negative Diva stereotype about African American women, unnecessarily adding to a long history of African American women being wrongly characterized and portrayed at their own expense for the profits of others. By promoting such hurtful stereotypes Cadbury not only further damaged the image of African American women across the globe, but also contributed to the psychological trauma of African American girls of today.
To understand the Diva stereotype, one must first understand the Jezebel, the stereotype from which Diva evolved. The Jezebel was the “young, exotic, promiscuous and over-sexed woman (Stephens, 2003).” She was primitive, attention seeking, and could not control her own sexual appetite (Stephens, 2003). The Jezebel only thrives on the attention of men, using her sexuality to gain her access to her material goods and needs. Light skin, long straight hair, curvaceous, and loose, the Jezebel was used to justify the rape of enslaved women by their masters due to their “insatiable appetites” and continuous “seduction of white men”; in reality these women were continuously abused by their masters, used to satisfy their sexual desires and economic need for more “slave babies (Stephens, 2003).”
However, around the late 20th century the Diva stereotype broke out. Similar to the Jezebel, the Diva is light skin, long straight hair, and is traditionally pretty in a Eurocentric way (Stephens, 2003). She is considered a high maintenance woman with an attitude. She needs to be at the center of attention, and is incredibly appearance driven, spending tons of dollars and hours to keep up her clean, polished look (Stephens, 2003). Sexually, the Diva diverges from the Jezebel because although she is seductive, sultry, and at times immodest, she is never explicit or overt; she cultivates the image of being attractive yet unattainable through her smoldering looks, tight fitting clothing, and sassy walk (Stephen, 2003). Materialistically driven, the Diva is considered a woman who has made it and can afford to purchase her own goods. On the other hand, the Diva is also looking for a man who can “enhance what she already has” bringing a rise in income and status to her name (Stephens, 2003).
This is why with such a history behind the word Diva, Cadbury’s ad is 100% inappropriate. First, directly likening Naomi Campbell to chocolate is an insult as chocolate has many negative connotations such as dirty, impure, sinful, and exotic (Martin; Rosenthel et Vanderbeke, 2015). Cadbury cannot argue against this fact because out of thousands of models they chose to single out Campbell because of her race and because of her ability to fit the Diva stereotype. Light skin, long straight hair, and slim, Naomi physically fits the Diva mold. Because of her successful career as a model, she is seen as an African American woman who has “made it.” As a model, she is regarded as seductive and sultry, and is always put together. The materialist needs of the Diva (and essentially Naomi) are exaggerated by Cadbury as the Dairy Milk Bliss Bar is sitting in a sea of gems with a purple backdrop, suggesting luxury. The lines “Move over Naomi” and “I’m the world’s most pampered bar” adds insult to the wound as it continues the idea of Divas, specifically African American women, being rude, spoiled, and high maintenance.
The implication of Cadbury’s ad on young African American girls is also frightening. Currently, African American girls are one of the fastest growing groups contracting HIV and other STDs due to unsafe sexual practices (Davis et Tucker-Brown, 2013). In an attempt to understand the cause of this, researchers Dr. Davis and Dr. Tucker-Brown went about questioning African American female adolescents about potential causes for such sexual decisions. One topic was mainstream media’s affect. The adolescents felt that status for African Americans was tied into involvement in pop culture, specifically rap videos, where the women depicted were extremely sexualized and degraded. Because status for these girls is tied to luxury items and attention, many desire such status and are willing to do whatever it takes to get it, even if it requires degrading one’s body and self, promoting unsafe sexual practices, and having inaccurate portraits painted of one’s self. One of the girls, Peace, reported, “You get the bling [diamonds] when you are a video girl” noting “Everybody wants to wear Gucci or Prada and at our age how else are you going to have that kind of money? (Davis et Tucker-Brown, 2013)” Sabrina, another study participant, elaborated further stating “that girls her age just want to be known and have stuff (Davis et Tucker-Brown, 2013).” By perpetuating the Diva stereotype and the need for status and a sexual identity, Cadbury is further harming African American girls who already encounter such negative stereotypes in current mainstream media.
Thus, in an attempt to fix Cadbury’s ad our group created a new ad, removing all race analogies and Diva stereotypes from the article, changing it to reference Mr. Sandman and Dairy Milk Bliss’ superior dream inducing qualities. While we could make those changes, sadly some things could not be changed. For example, by using the color for royalty and fancy, elegant, cursive font, Cadbury is making a divisive statement about its company as a luxury brand, one that can only be afforded and should only be dreamt of by the upper classes. Therefore for future reference and success, our group recommends that Cadbury stop trying to create a divide between the classes and instead employ marketing techniques that attract people from all backgrounds, without it being at the expense of any marginalized community.
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