Autism Speaks Board Member: Cheryl Vitali
Worldwide General Manager, Kiehl’s Since 1851
Appointed in 2010, Cheryl Vitali oversees Kiehl’s worldwide strategy, new market development, product innovation and retail marketing plans from the global home office in New York City. Under Ms. Vitali’s leadership worldwide, Kiehl’s doubled in size in a two-year time frame.
Ms. Vitali joined L’Oreal USA in 2003 as senior vice president of marketing for Maybelline New York-Garnier. In her role with the $1 billion cosmetic and hair care division, she achieved 19 percent growth in a zero-growth marketplace and helped to launch the Garnier brand in the United States.
Within L’Oreal, Ms. Vitali went on to head marketing for Lancôme, stabilizing the third-ranked luxury brand in 2009 and ultimately returning the brand to market share growth in the U.S. via new category product launches in skincare and makeup. Prior to joining the L’Oreal family, Ms. Vitali held various positions of increasing responsibility at Revlon and Procter & Gamble. She began her career in advertising, but soon realized that she wanted to be the client. “I have always been drawn to marketing strategy, managing the complexity of brand ‘personalities’ in business, and making great products for consumers,” Ms. Vitali says.
She is keenly focused not only on business but also helping women build their careers while managing work / life balance. In 2008, she was awarded the prestigious Cosmetic Executive Women Achievers Award, honoring women in the beauty industry who have broken through barriers to success and inspire young executives to do the same.
Ms. Vitali lives in Weston, Connecticut, with her husband James Shapiro and their two sons, the younger of whom has autism.
In addition to Autism Speaks, her philanthropic efforts include the Giants Steps School, American Institute for Neuro-Integrative Development.
Autistic Activist RoundUp
You recently launched the #KiehlsxAutismSpeaks campaign, pledging to donate one dollar to the group Autism Speaks every time that your promotional video is shared on social media. In addition, you have released a limited-edition facial cream in collaboration with actor Matthew McConaughey, from which proceeds of sales will also be donated to Autism Speaks.
We know that a commitment to supporting charitable causes is important to your company, and we agree with the statement in your video that Autistic children need support – though we would add that Autistic adults do as well, and are often forgotten about by the public. But regardless of your good intentions with this campaign, your involvement with Autism Speaks is harmful and alienating to your Autistic customers. . .
#KiehlsxAutismSpeaks: Buying Face Cream won’t Help Autistic People & Neither will Autism Speaks | crippledscholar.com
KiehlsxAutismSpeaks MEDIA Relase
[For immediate release]
Kiehl’s faces backlash from Autistic community for campaign supporting ‘hate group’
Following the recent launch of the #KiehlsxAutismSpeaks campaign, Autistic people have taken to social media to express their outrage over the popular beauty brand’s support for an organisation many of them consider to be a hate group. A petition asking the Kiehl’s to discontinue the campaign has received over 500 signatures since being launched on Friday.
Autism Speaks is known for its history of promoting dangerous fringe theories of autism and supporting abusive treatment of autistic children. For many years, the organisation prioritised research into a proposed link between childhood vaccines and autism. This theory gained popular traction with the 1998 publication of a now-infamous study in The Lancet. But despite the fact that 10 of the study’s 12 authors formally retracted it in 2004, followed by a formal retraction from the journal in 2010, it wasn’t until 2015 that Autism Speaks acknowledged that, “vaccines do not cause autism.” Autism Speaks also featured the Judge Rotenberg Center as an exhibitor at their 2013 DC fundraising walk. The Center’s “treatment” methods include electric shocks, deep-muscle pinches, forced inhalation of ammonia, sleep deprivation, and prolonged restraint; at least six disabled students have died at the facility in connection with their “treatment” there.
In the wake of these scandals, Autism Speaks has attempted to revise its public image, emphasising their “support” for autistic children. However, scrutiny of both their policies and branding reveals an ongoing disregard for the humanity of Autistic people. One of their primary mandates remains the funding of research into the treatment and prevention of autism, which is regarded by the disability rights community as a form of eugenics. Another concern raised by the Autistic community involves Autism Speaks’ promotion of a technique called Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA. ABA was developed by Ole Ivar Lovaas, who later worked with Family Research Council co-founder George Rekers, applying ABA methods to gender non-conforming children. Lovaas and Rekers published their experiments, some of the first attempts at ‘gay conversion therapy’, in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. Even today, conversion therapy and ABA share many of the same methods, and Autistic activists point out that children who are subjected to ABA experience the same harmful effects as victims of gay conversion therapy.
Following Kiehl’s launch of their limited edition #KiehlsxAutismSpeaks lotion on September 1, Autistic users inundated the brand’s Twitter account with posts expressing their disappointment and anger at the collaboration; a thread by user @sicklefrijoles has been retweeted nearly a thousand times. A number of Autistic people have said that they are no longer comfortable using Kiehl’s products as a result of the campaign.
Savannah L Breakstone, an Autistic blogger and advocate, says, “As a femme Autistic I tend to be someone my Autistic friends ask advice of when they either want or need to femme up or take better care of their skin. Before I could recommend Kiehl’s as a solid brand to pick up – effective and quality. Now I don’t feel like I can recommend them anymore to anyone because of their association with Autism Speaks.”
Kim Sauder, a PhD student in Disability Studies, emphasises that campaigns like this one do real harm to the communities they claim to support. “Campaigns like the Kiehl’s Autism Speaks campaign are harmful for a number of reasons. They promote an uncritical engagement with a particular charity. By pairing with Autism Speaks, Kiehl’s actively promotes it as a beneficial organization. It presents the false idea that Autism Speaks (or any other charity being campaigned for in a similar manner for that matter) is inherently good. It tells people that they can benefit a marginalized group simply by buying something. Not through any actual engagement with that group. Which reinforces ideas of separateness and the continued proliferation of false ideas around autism and autistic people.”
Autistic activist Alex Haagaard has launched a petition on Change.org, calling on Kiehl’s to discontinue the campaign. The response to the petition has been swift; since being launched on Friday, it has received — signatures. Alex says, “Too often, criticism from Autistic people on social media is dismissed as anomalous, or even ‘bullying’. I was encouraged by the recent success of a petition asking Tesco, the British supermarket chain, to stop hosting the highly stigmatising “Locked In for Autism” campaign in their stores – a petition provides an opportunity for Autistic people to combine our voices and communicate that this is an issue that concerns a great many of us, as a community.”
Alex Haagaard, Toronto, Canada
+1 905 985 8268
Eve Hinson, Fresno, California
+1 559 640 7225