Dove has partnered with a black activist accused of ruining a white student’s life over a ‘misheard’ remark to promote ‘fat liberation’ in a bizarre and controversial new campaign.
Bryant, 22, claimed that she had overheard a white student named Morgan Bettinger threaten Black Lives Matter protesters in Charlottesville in July 2020 after she used the phrase ‘speed bumps’ while describing the protest that she saw.
But Bryant later admitted she may have ‘misheard’, after gleefully watching and joining-in as Bettinger was canceled and her life was destroyed.
Bettinger was subjected to a torrent of abuse and a campaign to remove her from UVA. Staff and students ganged up against her and scuppered her future prospects.
Despite the controversy, Dove has chosen Bryant as one of their ‘paid partners’ – a loose advertising and promotional tie-up, similar to that Bud Light offered to trans activist Dylan Mulvaney.
Bryant last week posted on Instagram a video declaring she was a Dove ambassador, and discussing ‘fat liberation’ – a campaign to end the stigma of being overweight.
Zyahna Bryant, a community organizer and student activist studying at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, is now a Dove ambassador
‘#DovePartner Fat liberation is something we should all be talking about!’ wrote Bryant.
‘That’s why I am partnering with Dove, to support the work of @naafaofficial, @flareforjustice in the Campaign for Size Freedom.
‘Tell us what Fat Liberation means to you using the hashtag #sizefreedom and tagging @dove to share your story.’
In an accompanying clip Bryant, who is proudly plus-size herself, said: ‘My belief is that we should be centering the voices and experiences of the most marginalized people and communities at all times.
So when I think about what fat liberation looks like to me, I think about centering the voices of those who live in and who maneuver through spaces and institutions in a fat body.’
Bryant’s 27,000 followers on Instagram responded with an outpouring of support, praising her for promoting ‘fat liberation’ and declaring that the campaign was long overdue.
But she was roundly condemned on social media after news of her role in Bettinger’s cancellation was first shared by Reason magazine – with Dove now potentially in the frame for blowback over its close association with Bryant.
The soap brand has long associated itself with woke causes pushing body positivity. Parent company Unilever’s other megabrands include Ben & Jerry’s, Domestos, Vaseline and Hellman’s.
Earlier this year, transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney’s tie-up with Bud Light to celebrate a year of living as a woman triggered a furious backlash and seemingly permanent slump in sales for the beer brand.
Bryant has in recent years been making a name for herself as a BLM activist.
Her website says that she began campaigning as a child.
‘At the age of 12, she organized her first demonstration, a rally for Justice for Trayvon Martin and other unarmed black lives lost to police violence,’ the website states.
Bryant, 22, claimed she heard fellow University of Virginia student Morgan Bettinger threaten protesters by saying they would ‘make good speed bumps,’ in July 2020. She later admitted she ‘misheard’
Despite the controversy, Dove has chosen Bryant as one of their ‘paid partners’ – a loose advertising and promotional tie-up, similar to that Bud Light offered to trans activist Dylan Mulvaney
She went on to organize the Black Student Union at her high school, and join the Charlottesville Youth Council.
In the spring of 2016, she began petitioning Charlottesville city to remove statues of confederate leaders from the city, which the city eventually did.
Conservatives were furious, and in August 2017, a Unite The Right rally was held in Charlottesville, with neo-Nazis carrying tiki torches marching through the streets chanting: ‘Jews will not replace us.’
A counter-protester, Heather Heyer, 32, was deliberately run over and killed by white supremacist James Alex Fields Jr: he was sentenced to life in prison for her murder.
Donald Trump infamously declared that there were ‘good people on both sides’ at the rally.
In July 2020, amid the George Floyd protests, Bettinger mistakenly drove into a street where protesters were gathered.
As she tried to get away, her car was encircled.
Bettinger is pictured in her car during the July 2020 protest. She insists she told a trucker blocking the road she was glad he was there to avoid a repeat of the 2017 Unite the Right rally, when a white supremacist struck and killed anti-racism protester Heather Heyer. But Bryant claimed Bettinger had suggested she wished to harm George Floyd protesters
Video evidence does not show the moment Bettinger made the comment, but it does show the aftermath of protesters banging on her car, yelling obscenities at her, and making fun of her for crying as she called her mother and the police
Almost immediately after the incident (pictured), Bryant took to Twitter to discuss the encounter, which gain thousands of retweets in a short period of time
Bettinger was pictured on the phone while in her car in July 2020, as screaming Black Lives Matter protesters heckled her from outside
Bettinger said she told a truck driver, who was in front of her and blocking the way, that: ‘It’s a good thing that you are here, because otherwise these people would have been speed bumps.’
Bryant tweeted that Bettinger had said the protesters would have ‘make good speedbumps’ – a particularly chilling reference following Heyer’s murder.
Bettinger was quickly identified, with the revelation that she was pro-police – and with a late father who had worked as a police officer – further outraging her critics.
Bryant and others called for a severe punishment, or expulsion from UVA.
Bryant then embarked on an email campaign to have Bettinger expelled, tweeting: ‘EMAIL these UVA deans now to demand that Morgan face consequences for her actions and that UVA stop graduating racists.’
Bettinger was subsequently shunned at college, and even stalked around her hometown, making her fear for her safety.
UVA’s Judiciary Committee later found Bettinger guilty of making a legitimate threat, despite being unable to prove Bryant’s claim about her intentions.
Its ‘jurors’ told her that even saying the words in a harmless manner during the anti-racism protests of summer 2020 merited punishment.
Bryant also filed a complaint with the school’s Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights (EOCR), where the student activist claimed Bettinger had made the statement five times and had discriminated against Bryant on the basis of race.
EOCR found that three of the five accusations could not be corroborated, and Bryant herself later admitted she may have misheard the ‘speed bumps’ claim.
Most damningly, the report – which was brought forth because of Bryant’s complaint – found that Bryant most likely did not hear Bettinger make the comment first hand.
No eyewitnesses were able to corroborate Bryant’s version of events.
‘Based on Bryant’s immediate and surprised tone following the second third party’s reply, EOCR finds it more likely than not that it was at that moment Bryant first learned that [Bettinger] made a statement about protestors making speed bumps,’ the report, obtained by Reason, stated.
The Judiciary Committee’s ruling is still noted on her permanent record – ruining the now-graduate’s chances at law school.
Bettinger is considering filing a lawsuit.