Under fire, Watsons says blackface Raya ad ‘highlights inner beauty, true love’

A screengrab from YouTube of the pulled Watson’s ‘LagendaCun Raya’ ad.
A screengrab from YouTube of the pulled Watson’s ‘LagendaCun Raya’ ad.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 7 — Pharmacy chain Watsons Malaysia has removed a star-studded video of its Legenda Cun campaign for the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration today, following public uproar over its use of blackface and allegedly sexist theme.

According to the chain, the video was referring to the folktale of Dayang Senandung who was born cursed with black skin, and was shot to highlight the legend and its moral values of inner beauty and that true love exists.

“We stand firm on the belief that unity and fairness plays an important role, and we respect people from all nationalities.

“The video was shot to highlight the legend and its moral values of inner beauty and that true love exists,” it said in a brief statement on its Facebook page.

The chain also said it was sorry that some of its fans were offended by the video.

The 15-minute short film included a stellar list of cast and cameos from celebrities such as Amber Chia, Uqasha Senrose, Sasha Saidin, Raja Ilya and Thanuja.

In it, actor Kamal Adli played an aristocrat who was looking for a potential consort and fell in love with a lady with a beautiful singing voice, played by popular actress Ruhainies.

A screengrab from YouTube of the pulled Watson’s ‘LagendaCun Raya’ ad.
A screengrab from YouTube of the pulled Watson’s ‘LagendaCun Raya’ ad.

However, he was shocked when he found out that the woman had dark skin.

He was visibly relieved after the woman “washed off” her face, and he praised her beauty after she is no longer “ugly” with her dark skin.

The video ended with the quote, “Only at Watson’s you’ll be beautiful.”

“The Legend of Dayang Senandung is a Malay folklore about a lady who was born cursed with black skin but blessed with a beautiful voice,” Watsons said today in defending the creative choice.

“The legend depicts that the king fell in love with Dayang Senandung because of her voice and inner beauty. The curse was lifted after Dayang Senandung gave birth to the king’s child.”

The video was removed minutes before the breaking of fast among Muslims here.

Watsons did not respond to Malay Mail Online’s request for the advertising agency responsible for the campaign, nor whether all the celebrities involved had agreed to the inclusion of blackface.

This was not the first time that the Malaysian entertainment industry has used blackface, much to the chagrin of the public.

In August last year, Astro entertainment show MeleTOP apologised for screening a parody of local singer Yuna’s performance with Usher featuring an actor in blackface playing the African-American R&B artist.

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