Fast forward, it's 2013: Watson wraps up her role with the brand by starring in the 'Blanc Expert' campaign.
So why are we telling you this as we all sit here in 2016? Well, the ad is currently facing backlash, three years after the fact (proving anything is possible on the Internet).
In an article entitled "Perfect Whiteness: The Code Switching Of European Cosmetic Companies" for Gal-Dem, writer Naomi Mabita shared a picture of Emma from the campaign. The story, focused on taking a stand against skin lightening, writes how many ad campaigns relate "whiteness" to "facial perfection."
"Emma Watson, forever paraded in the media as a white feminist icon, is the face of Lancôme’s 'Blanc Expert' (Expert White) which contains disruptive ingredients intended to whiten the skin," she writes. "Non-white women already have complexes about dark skin rooted in colonialism, racism and/or classism. They are exacerbated by these multimillion $ £ € campaigns designed to make us feel like our skin is a problem that we can pay for them to solve."
So now everyone is asking: did Emma Watson really front a skin whitening campaign?
It appears the focus of the Blanc Expert Melanolyser Spot Eraser product is to dissolves dark spots. According to Lancôme's Hong Kong website, the "intense whitening spot eraser" is, "empowered with the unique M.E.L. mechanism, the advanced formula targets, captures and dissolves dark spots, continuously prevents, control and dissolves even stubborn spot."
— Charlie Cuff (@CharlieBCuff) March 28, 2016
As pointed out by The Independent, Lancôme describe the range as, "The next generation dark spot correctors from the No.1 whitening brand in Asia."
In face of criticism, Luke Windsor, a spokesperson for Watson, told HuffPost Canada Style, "Many artists often have limited control of how their image is used once an endorsement contract is signed. I cannot comment on my client's previous contractual arrangements with Lancôme. However my client no longer participates in advertising beauty products, which do not always reflect the diverse beauty of all women."
Lancôme gave the following statement to Refinery29 as their response: "Blanc Expert was created by Lancôme 20 years ago. It helps brighten, even skin tone, and provides a healthy-looking complexion. This kind of product, proposed by every brand, is an essential part of Asian women’s beauty routines."
The skin whitening is growing, as pointed out by Refinery29. The Global Industry Analysts predicts the whitening industry will be worth some $20 billion by 2018 and many people are still jumping on board to develop products to suit lightening needs.
So we ask the question: was this the reason why Watson broke ties with Lancôme? A realization that the product she was endorsing didn't reflect her ideals? We'll have to sit back and ponder that one.