Viola Davis, Diane Keaton, Andie MacDowell, Beyoncé, Elle Fanning and Jane Fonda have all said it, and it’s likely you have too. L’Oréal Paris’ signature slogan “Because you’re worth it” has become synonymous with the brand and its female-first approach to beauty and cosmetics; as far as iconic catchphrases go, it is nearly unrivalled. Remarkably, 2021 marks half a century since its inception and the message of empowerment and sentiment that the quip conveys has never been more applicable than it is now.
Ilon Specht was a 23-year-old junior copywriter working for L’Oréal Paris’s New York agency in 1971 when she first put forward the phrase, having become disheartened when having to write commercials solely delivered through the male gaze. Converting her frustration into action, Specht — as she told The New Yorker in 1999 — wrote the whole commercial in just five minutes. “My feeling was that I’m not writing another ad about looking good for men,” she said. “I sat down and did it… It was very personal. I can recite to you the whole commercial, because I was so angry when I wrote it.”
Specht’s words and concept changed the conversation of beauty advertising, which had, until then, relied solely on male voices. Specht later told Bustle in 2017 that “‘Because I’m worth it’ made it about me, my choice and myself, whereas ‘Does she or doesn’t she?’ made it about someone judging you.” Its first usage was employed to advertise L’Oréal’s Preference hair dye that at the time was the “most expensive hair colour in the world” and thus a purchase women should make for themselves… because, yes, they were worth it.
American model Joanne Dusseau was the first to bring the phrase to life and still, 50 years later, admits that the message has stuck with her. “I took the tag line seriously,” she says. “I felt it all those thousands of times I said it. I never took it for granted. Over time, it changed me for the better.” Dusseau understands that the meaning has shifted, but that the slogan has remained as relevant as it was groundbreaking when she first uttered the words in the midst of the feminist movements in the ’70s. “You see the tag line, ‘I’m worth it’ or derivations of it, in all different contexts. In the grocery store, at gyms, on the sides of buses. It’s a part of society as a thing in itself. It’s an inspirational concept and the world has latched on.”
The phrase has evolved with the company and continues to provide a concise memo for what L’Oréal Paris stands for. “Because you’re worth it” became an important directive as it set about launching in new territories and categories. Today, it has been translated for use over 40 times, and remains a valuable reminder that is felt no stronger than by those who make up the internal management structure of L’Oréal Paris.
Delphine Viguier-Hovasse is the company’s first female head and says that in 2021 — 111 years after the brand was founded — she is not “just managing a beauty brand, I’m managing a brand that supports women to be confident in their self-worth.” This nuance is important to the decisions made in terms of product lines, but also for the millions of women that rely on L’Oréal Paris to make themselves feel good, in whatever form that might take. “We are a transformative brand for women who create change,” she continued. “We want women to have a seat at the negotiating table in every field: economic, artistic, educational, scientific, political… Because, we are all worth it.”
Looking forward, the message of self-empowerment that L’Oréal Paris’s “Because you’re worth it” declares is set to only increase. “These powerful words are about inclusion and opportunities — and that’s a timeless notion,” Viguier-Hovasse, global brand president, said. “We are committed to removing the barriers between women and their ambitions and our mission will only be accomplished when we no longer need to remind women of their worth.”
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