Revlon’s CEO, the Italian Lorenzo Delpani, is being sued for discrimination and racist comments which have shocked and disgusted many. The suit comes from former top-scientist Alan Meyers, who was part of the Revlon leadership team and has a Jewish heritage. According to Meyers, Delpani spoke offensively about Jewish and black people, as well as Americans, and subjected the scientist to humiliating treatment in person. The Revlon CEO is not the first high powered executive to be exposed as a racist bigot in recent times, but the content of his comments is so outrageous that many people are still in shock.
Delpani is alleged to have made disparaging comments about Jews in front of Meyers, including the idea that “Jews stick together,” a viewpoint hearkening back to stereotypes regarding Jews in business. Delpani apparently said that he was surprised there were not more Jews in the company, a comment he made directly to Meyers himself. He followed it up with the observation that Revlon’s biggest stockholder Ron Perelman, a noted Jewish American, “isn’t like that anymore.” Apparently, his opinion was that not being so Jewish was an improvement for Perelman.
Meyers claims that this attitude is at least partially responsible for his loss of job at Revlon and that the CEO deliberately tried to ruin him after he voiced safety concerns about their testing processes, a fact which features in the lawsuit to sue Delpani. Should the allegations be proven, this story will be yet another of an executive acting in a racially discriminatory fashion. But Meyer’s Jewish heritage is not the only ethnicity to received Delpani’s approbation. Meyer also recalls that the CEO called Americans “dirty” and compared the country to the Muslim extremists of ISIS in a long tirade. In one of the most disgusting examples of his bigotry, Delpani is supposed to have said he “could smell a black person” in a room, a comment he made after a meeting in South Africa.
All of these claims paint a picture of an odious man with disgustingly hateful views, which he felt no compunction about voicing in public and to Meyers himself. The Revlon CEO apparently went beyond words when he subjected Meyers to humiliating treatment in a leadership meeting, using the scientist as an easel. Meyers recounts that he was made to stand in the meeting holding a whiteboard which covered his face. When he complained about the safety issues and his treatment in the company, Meyers was fired.
Due to the severity of the claims made by Meyers, it is expected that Revlon would make a statement to address them. A spokeswoman for the company characterized him as a disgruntled employee who was fired for his own lack of performance rather than any vendetta against him. Spokeswoman Kiki Rees told the media that Meyers had “demonstrated critical lapses in judgment” which she did not specify the nature of. Until evidence is given in the case, however, all of this remains a case of he said, she said.
As Revlon’s CEO, Delpani’s alleged racist views are enough to get him sued personally, but his position as the top man of a prominent company may put many people in an awkward position. For instance, Halle Berry is a prominent ambassador for the brand, as well as the only African American woman to ever win an Oscar for a leading role. Images of her in Revlon ads have headed many articles reporting on Delpani’s story, but Berry has made no statement on how she sees the case or what she thinks of Delpani and his special olfactory talents. For Berry and the many others associated with the brand, this could be an awkward time and some may choose to distance themselves from Revlon because of it.
By Lydia Bradbury