Unilever's Lux Backs Caster Semenya's Bid to Compete at the Tokyo Olympics
"I am a woman and I am fast," proclaims South African middle-distance runner Caster Semenya. Indeed, she's got two Olympic gold medals and countless other elite trophies to prove it.
Yet, Semenya's barred from the 2021 Summer Games, owing to her naturally high testosterone levels, as we learn in a powerful animated film from Unilever's beauty brand Lux, which backs her bid to join the field in Tokyo.
"Athletes are the superheroes of our time," the ad begins. "They're different from mere mortals. They're born with special gifts, extraordinary biology. Yet, none of them were ever banned from competing. So why ban Caster Semenya?"
The narrator explains that Semenya "was born with hyper-androgenism ... she was simply born this way."
She could go for the gold if she takes drugs to cut her testosterone output. In that case, however, she'd be suppressing her true self, which the brand decries in no uncertain terms:
"Lux believes that women should not be judged for how they look, that no woman should ever be stripped of being a woman ... Lux stands for all women."
The spot concludes by urging viewers to sign an online petition supporting Semenya's Olympic bid.
Developed by Wunderman Thompson under the broader "Born This Way" banner, the work makes a particularly strong, timely statement for inclusion. It's a universal message that feels on-point for a beauty brand not normally associated with sports marketing. All women—all humans—are unique individuals. No one should be called out, shunned or penalized for being exactly who and what they are.
"I am passionate about brands' ability to make a positive impact in people's lives by leveraging their scale to drive positive change in the world," Unilever global VP Severine Vauleon says in a statement. "It pains me that in this day and age, women still constantly get judged for how they look and choose to express their femininity. So I am proud to say that Lux stands with Caster. She is an example and an inspiration for women everywhere to rise above the judgements of others."
Nike hit similar themes three years ago in this "Just Do It" spot voiced by Semenya, who defiantly asked, "Would it be simpler if I stopped winning? Would you be more comfortable if I was less proud? Would you prefer I hadn't worked so hard? Or just didn't run?"
Sadly, those questions remain as salient today as they did in 2018. It's tragic that Semenya must continue to run the same grueling race against ignorance and prejudice.