Munroe Bergdorf

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Munroe Bergdorf
Born (1987-09-11) 11 September 1987 (age 31)
NationalityBritish
OccupationModel

Munroe Bergdorf (born on 11 September 1987) is a British model and activist. Bergdorf was the first transgender model in the UK for L'Oréal although after a racial row she was dropped by L'Oréal. In February 2018, she was appointed as an LGBT adviser to the British Labour Party, although she resigned the following month citing tabloid pressure.

Beginnings and early life[edit]

Bergdorf was born on 11 September 1987 into an upper middle-class family in Stanstead Abbotts, Hertfordshire, where she grew up.[1][2] Bergdorf is of mixed-race origin born to an Afro-Jamaican father and a white English mother.[3][2] Bergdorf attended Bishop's Stortford High School, an all-boys school. Bergdorf describes her adolescence as growing up as a "very effeminate boy". Later she studied English at the University of Brighton, describing herself as genderqueer while at university.[2]

After university, Bergdorf worked for three years in fashion PR. At the age of 24 Bergdorf began gender transitioning;[2] and was the subject of an episode of London Live show Drag Queens of London.[1][4]

Modelling[edit]

Around the same time that she was transitioning, she established a club night called Pussy Palace.[4] She got involved in modelling, stating that she was inspired by the lack of representation of trans people and "non-whites" in the industry. Her first modelling job was for a Lebanese couture company.[2] In 2014, the London Evening Standard referred to her as "a cornerstone of London's trans scene."[1] She told the newspaper that she was "so vocal" on trans issues because she sees it as "the new frontier", an issue being brought into public consciousness through the work of trans women like Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera.[1]

She came to public attention in August 2017 when she was employed as the first transgender model to front a L'Oréal campaign in the UK. In August 2017, Bergdorf was announced as one of 27 models taking part in L'Oréal UK's "True Match" campaign. This was the first time that the company's UK branch had employed an openly transgender model to front one of its campaigns.[5][6] On her social media, she stated: "Thank you L’Oréal Paris for giving me this platform. I hope it reaches another little eight-year-old trans girl and makes her feel a little more hopeful and a little less scared about her future, than what was installed in me when I was her age."[6] Elsewhere she stated: "I definitely set out to empower girls like me."[5] Later Bergdorf claimed that 'white people as a group are brought up racist', stating: "most of ya’ll don’t even realise or refuse to acknowledge that your existence, privilege and success as a race is built on the backs, blood and death of people of colour."[7] After these comments, L'Oréal fired her from its campaign.[6]

Racial controversy[edit]

Bergdorf attracted further public attention following an article in The Daily Mail highlighting Facebook comments that she had made, which included the claim that all white people were guilty of "racial violence" and that the white race was "the most violent and oppressive force of nature on Earth." In response to Bergdorf's comments, L'Oréal dropped her from their campaign on September 1, 2017.[8][9] They issued a statement that the company "supports diversity and tolerance towards all people irrespective of their race, background, gender and religion" and that Bergdorf's comments about white people were "at odds with those values".[8] Facebook removed her posts from their website, regarding them as being in contravention to its rules against hate speech. Bergdorf said she also faced online harassment, much of it of a racist and transphobic nature. Other commentators argued that The Daily Mail had quoted her out of context, and that her wider point about white supremacy and white privilege in Western societies was valid and needed wider dissemination. Bergdorf defended her position arguing that she was angry after the scenes in the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville and wanted to explain that racism was systemic, and that being racist was not just about attacking people, but failing to take action against the system. She added: "I don't see how calling out the roots of racism, somehow makes you a racist", calling the controversy the "worst time of my life".[10]

After controversy[edit]

In September 2017, the UK-based Illamasqua hired Bergdorf as the face of its Beauty Spotlight campaign, which concerned gender fluidity.[11][12] In a statement, the company described Bergdorf as embodying "diversity and individuality; she is not scared to be truly herself."[11] It added that it did not "stand or accept any form of racism, but we also believe Munroe’s comments have been edited out of context by a certain media title (who we won't bother naming) without telling a true story".[12]

Also in September 2017, Bergdorf gave a verbal performance of Maya Angelou's poem "Still I Rise" for a short film directed by Bec Evans and Laura Kirwan-Ashman.[13]

In February 2018, she was appointed as an LGBT adviser to the British Labour Party, which she later resigned from in March 2018.[10] Bergdorf later blamed "Conservative media" for using her as a "political pawn to bring down Jeremy Corbyn" and that the Labour LGBT advisory board was being targeted to be shut down stating "when I left they went after somebody else, and then when that person left they went after somebody else" in order to "discredit Jeremy Corbyn" [14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Lucy Tobin (5 June 2014). "Munroe Bergdorf: 'People wouldn't go over to someone's mother and ask about their labia but they're happy to come over to a trans person and ask about their genitals'". The London Evening Standard. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e Nosheen Iqbal (4 September 2017). "Munroe Bergdorf on the L'Oréal racism row: 'It puzzles me that my views are considered extreme'". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  3. ^ Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (8 September 2017). "Munroe Bergdorf is abused while Jacob Rees-Mogg is lauded - only straight white men have free speech". International Business Times. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  4. ^ a b Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff (1 September 2017). "L'Oréal's firing of Munroe Bergdorf shows brands want our brown skin but not our blackness". New Statesman. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  5. ^ a b Joe Morgan (30 August 2017). "Munroe Bergdorf becomes first trans woman to star in L'Oréal UK campaign". Gay Star News. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  6. ^ a b c Husna Rizvi (30 August 2017). "Transgender model becomes face of L'Oréal". Pink News. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  7. ^ Arj Singh (27 February 2018). "Munroe Bergdorf: Model who said 'all white people' are racist appointed to LGBT+ board by Labour MP". The Independent. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  8. ^ a b "L'Oreal sacks first transgender model Munroe Bergdorf". BBC News. 1 September 2017. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  9. ^ Patrick Grafton-Green (1 September 2017). "L'Oreal sacks first transgender model Munroe Bergdorf after 'all white people are racist' Facebook rant". The London Evening Standard. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  10. ^ a b Anushka Asthana (27 February 2018). "Trans model Munroe Bergdorf to advise Labour on LGBT issues". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  11. ^ a b Humairah Adam and Morwenna Ferrier (14 September 2017). "Model fired by L'Oreal for remarks on racism will be face of rival campaign". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  12. ^ a b Sarah Young (14 September 2017). "Munroe Bergdorf hired by Illamasqua after she was sacked by L'Oréal for Racism Remarks". The Independent. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  13. ^ Rose Dommu (17 September 2017). "Munroe Bergdorf Perform's Maya Angelou's 'Still I Rise'". Out. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  14. ^ "Trans activist on 'hairy lesbian' tweets". Sky News. 15 May 2018. Retrieved 15 May 2018.