Munroe Bergdorf

Munroe Bergdorf (née Beaumont; born September 1987)[1][2] is an English model and activist. She has walked several catwalks for brands including Gypsy Sport at both London and NYC Fashion Weeks. Bergdorf was the first transgender model in the UK for L'Oréal, but was dropped within weeks after a racial row. In February 2018, she was appointed as an LGBT adviser to the Labour Party, but resigned the following month. Bergdorf appeared in the Channel 4 documentary What Makes A Woman, which aired in May 2018.

Munroe Bergdorf
Born
Munroe Beaumont

September 1987 (age 33)
Occupation
  • Model
  • activist
Years active2014–present
Websitembergdorf.com

Bergdorf won ‘Changemaker of the Year’ at the 2018 Cosmopolitan Awards,[3] and was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2019 by the University of Brighton.[3] She joined UN Women UK as an advocate in 2019, supporting its #DrawALine campaign, aiming to put a stop to female genital mutilation (FGM).[4]

Early lifeEdit

Bergdorf was born and grew up in Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex.[5][2] Bergdorf is mixed-race, born to an Afro-Jamaican father and a white English mother.[6][2] Bergdorf attended Bentfield County Primary School in Stansted Mountfitchet and then The Bishop's Stortford High School, an all-boys' school. Bergdorf describes growing up as a "very effeminate boy". Later, she studied English at the University of Brighton, describing herself there as genderqueer.[2]

Bergdorf then 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.[5][7]

Around the same time that Bergdorf was transitioning, she co-founded nightclub Pussy Palace.[7]

ModelingEdit

Bergdorf became involved in modelling after being motivated by the lack of diversity 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."[5] 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.[5]

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, being announced as one of 27 models taking part in L'Oréal UK's "True Match" campaign.[8][9] 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 [sic] in me when I was her age."[9] Elsewhere she stated: "I definitely set out to empower girls like me."[8]

Racial controversyEdit

In February 2017, Bergdorf stated that 'white people as a group are brought up racist', stating: "most of y’all 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."[10] 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 1 September 2017.[1][11][12][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".[1] 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".[13]

In September 2017, the UK-based Illamasqua hired Bergdorf as the face of its Beauty Spotlight campaign, which concerned gender fluidity.[14][15] In a statement, the company described Bergdorf as embodying "diversity and individuality; she is not scared to be truly herself."[14] 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".[15]

In June 2020, during the international George Floyd protests, Bergdorf called out L'Oréal Paris for posting on Instagram that they stood in solidarity with the Black community. She noted that she had never received an apology from L'Oréal. In response, the company announced that they would create and appoint Bergdorf to a U.K. Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board.[16] Bergdorf shared on Instagram a number of abusive messages she received on that platform following her appointment.[17]

ActivismEdit

The same month she was hired by Illamasqua, 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.[18]

In February 2018, she was appointed as an LGBT adviser to the Labour Party,[13] which she resigned from the following month after homophobic and misogynistic Twitter posts from 2010 received attention.[19][20] Bergdorf apologised for her past comments.[19] 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".[20]

As of April 2019, she has made frequent appearances as a guest commentator on ITV's Good Morning Britain and This Morning.

In June 2019, Bergdorf was stripped of her role as an ambassador for Childline two days after being appointed, when journalist Janice Turner and others questioned her suitability for the post as somebody who had modelled for adult magazine Playboy.[21][22] Several days later, the NSPCC offered Bergdorf a 'full, frank and unreserved apology' for the way in which it had handled her dismissal. The NSPCC's CEO, Peter Wanless, explained that Bergdorf had been dismissed 'because of her public statements, which we felt would mean that she was in breach of our own risk assessments and undermine what we are here to do'.[23]

In July 2019, Bergdorf was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Brighton in recognition of her campaigning for transgender rights.[24]

In February 2021, Bergdorf deleted her activism-based Twitter account, releasing a public statement asking when social media companies will "clamp down" on transphobia. Bergdorf stated: "No one should have to endure even a fraction of the abuse that I am exposed to and have to put up with on a daily basis," and concluded that she was "tired of being a punching bag. Twitter is not a safe app for transgender people."[25]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c "L'Oreal sacks first transgender model Munroe Bergdorf". BBC News. 1 September 2017. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f 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. ^ a b "Munroe Bergdorf". Diving Bell. Retrieved 5 March 2020.
  4. ^ "News | The Media Eye". www.themediaeye.com. Retrieved 5 March 2020.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ a b c Husna Rizvi (30 August 2017). "Transgender model becomes face of L'Oréal". Pink News. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Joel Backaler, Digital Influence (2018, ISBN 3319783963), page 139
  13. ^ a b Anushka Asthana (27 February 2018). "Trans model Munroe Bergdorf to advise Labour on LGBT issues". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Aviles, Gwen (9 June 2020). "Munroe Bergdorf rehired at L'Oréal, 3 years after being fired over white supremacy comments". NBC News. Retrieved 11 June 2020.
  17. ^ Owoseje, Toyin (11 June 2020). "Munroe Bergdorf reveals racist and transphobic abuse she's received since L'Oreal appointment". CNN. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  18. ^ Rose Dommu (17 September 2017). "Munroe Bergdorf Perform's Maya Angelou's 'Still I Rise'". Out. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  19. ^ a b Lu, Fei (6 March 2018). "Munroe Bergdorf Targeted Over Past Homophobic Tweets". Paper. Retrieved 24 June 2020.
  20. ^ a b "Trans activist on 'hairy lesbian' tweets". Sky News. 15 May 2018. Retrieved 24 June 2020.
  21. ^ Moore, Matt (9 June 2019). "Munroe Bergdorft dropped as childline ambassador following transphobic hate campaign". Attitude.
  22. ^ Petter, Olivia (9 June 2019). "Munroe Bergdorf accuses NSPCC of 'bowing to pressure from transphobic hate campaign' as she is dropped from Childline". The Independent.
  23. ^ Perraudin, Frances (12 June 2019). "NSPCC apologises over decision to cut ties with trans activist". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  24. ^ University of Brighton (30 July 2019). "'University of Brighton is where I found myself'. Our new honorary graduate and alumna @MunroeBergdorf explains what the University means to her. #BrightonForever". Twitter. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
  25. ^ Sinclair, Leah. "'Not safe for trans people': Munroe Bergdorf deletes Twitter amid 'daily abuse'". Standard.co.uk. Evening Standard. Retrieved 14 February 2021.