My Black is Beautiful Rebrands the Whole Notion of 'Unbecoming'

What's the true key to beauty?

An all-Black, all-female team at creative agency Cartwright developed "Unbecoming," a campaign for Procter & Gamble haircare brand My Black is Beautiful. Directed by dayday, this honey-rich work follows Black women and girls as they slowly, tenderly undo their hair.

"When we got this brief, we realized we had never seen undone Black hair and unfiltered Black womanhood celebrated on screen together," say Cartwright creative partners Chelsea Ceasor and Taylor Whitelow. "By creating a film that starts at the end of the day, we could spotlight the vulnerable moment of Black women 'unbecoming' the expectations put on them throughout the day—and champion that as beautiful."

The ad features soft narration: "When we unravel ourselves, we are free to define beauty as who we are." The tagline: "Unbecoming is Beautiful."

The wordplay toys with the idea that, at first glance, "unbecoming" is synonymous with unattractive. But the work reinterprets the term as an untangling of societal expectations. As the narrator says, "They tell women like us that beautiful is something we become. When really, beautiful is something we have always been."

In this sense, "unbecoming" becomes key to locating one's inherent beauty. 

Honoring that is more important than being seen as aesthetically "unbecoming" by a supremacist culture, but the visuals also make a careful distinction: This doesn't mean you stop caring for yourself. Rather, one should focus on intent-driven care, negotiating that delicate balance between self-love and external acceptance.

A study published by the International Journal of Women's Dermatology, "#BlackGirlMagic: Impact of the Social Media Movement on Black Women's Self-Esteem," notes that "In a society that highly values physical appearance and conventional attractiveness [it is imperative] to be aware of the psychosocial impact of mainstream beauty standards that are imposed."

Building on this, "Unbecoming" is about how Black women increasingly reject those standards. Notably, My Black is Beautiful backs the accelerating shift toward styles and methods that support 4C natural hair. Its products are formulated by Black scientists, Ph.Ds. and dermatologists, with Afrofuturistic packaging inspired by diverse tribal patterns drawn from the African diaspora.

Ceasor and Whitelow drew from their personal experiences to fuel the ad, which aired during the NAACP Image Awards on Feb. 25.

"While Black women love the versatility, pride, and strength derived from their hair, there is inherent tension there," observes Lela Coffey, P&G Beauty's VP for North America hair care. "Through 'Unbecoming' and our My Black is Beautiful products, we are re-affirming our prioritization of hair health for Black women, with formulas that embrace the inherent beauty of their hair texture."

"Unbecoming" shares themes with P&G's acclaimed films "The Talk," "The Look" and "The Choice." Here's a behind-the-scenes:

For more on the larger arc of this campaign, take a listen to our Tagline podcast season finale from 2021. 

"I am incredibly proud of what we have created with 'Unbecoming,' in taking the art of transformative storytelling from one of vulnerability, into one of strength and confidence," says Marc Pritchard, P&G’s chief brand officer. "We take our role as responsible corporate citizens seriously by investing in culturally rich platforms that spark dialogue and create connections between people to make the world more inclusive and that celebrates individuals."

Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is the European markets editor at Muse by Clio. She also writes about gaming and fashion, and whatever else she's interested in, really. She's based in Paris and North Italy, so if you're local, say hi. She might eat all your food.

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