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Singapore YouTuber Munah: I had no creative control over Nivea whitening deodorant video

Munah and Hirzi at the YouTube Fan Fest today

Munah and Hirzi at YouTube Fan Fest

The YouTube star and actress who appeared in a controversial video for a whitening deodorant in Singapore says she had no creative control over the three-minute film, which drew criticism for her depiction of a woman who is socially outcast for having dark underarms.

Talking to Mumbrella at the YouTube Fan Fest, Maimunah Bagharib, who is one half of YouTube comedy double-act Munah and Hirzi, said she was hired as talent and not involved in the creative process of the three-minute film, which was slammed by a gender equality group for “promoting shame and insecurity in women” and later deleted with an apology from Nivea.

After the video ad “blew up” on social media, Bagharib said she found the response to film be “interesting” and a learning experience.

Munah in Nivea's video

Munah in Nivea’s video

“I learned a lot from the situation,” she said. “There will always be a group of people who take things differently, and you have to be so careful and aware of how people might respond based on how you feel personally.”

“When it all blew up, I saw how people could see the film in that light, and I can relate to how they feel. But some understood that the intention was to be humorous. It depends how you look at it. The people who criticised it weren’t seeing that side of the film.”

On whether, as talent in the video, Bagharib took issue with Nivea deleting the content, Bagharib said that this was a question for Nivea to answer.

The video was created by Click Network, the blogger brand agency that produces films for celebrity bloggers such as Xiaxue.

The negative response to the ad had “not in any way” hurt their own personal brands, Bagharib’s comedic partner Hirzi Zulkiflie said.

Munah and Hirzi’s YouTube channel has 120,000 subscribers.

The duo has walked the line with its own productions in the past, with some in the Malay community taking offence to a series of musical skits, one which mocked “Minahs”, a derogatory stereotype associated with some young Malay women.

On the subject of the backlash to these films, Hirzi was quoted in TODAY newspaper in 2013 saying: “We learnt that comedy is actually a very hard language. Not everybody understands it. Just because you think it’s funny and your tribe of 70,000 subscribers thinks it’s funny… it resonates differently with different people.”

“How you choose to deal with (the negative response) is up to you. You could choose to lash back and be fiery about it like how a lot of people are doing with social media, or you could just keep quiet about it, accept it, reshape your art, rework your craft and approach things differently,” he said.

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