Kendall Jenner to Star in Questionable ‘Tribal Spirit’ Ad Campaign
Wealthy white model Kendall Jenner will star in a fashion campaign inspired by the African savanna, adding to the fashion industry’s already-messy history with race.
Fast fashion retailer Mango apparently couldn’t find any women of color and/or African natives to model for their new “Tribal Spirit” campaign, so they enlisted Jenner instead, according to a report from Women’s Wear Daily.
Speaking about the brand’s decision to hire Jenner, Mango vice president Daniel Lopez said in an interview that she best embodies the campaign’s theme (which, again, is African savanna). Another perk? Jenner is already a well-known celebrity with a built-in fan base: “We thought that she was the best model to embody this trend. And obviously the upside with that is that, as a model, she’s very professional, she works fantastically. As a celebrity she has huge repercussions in the market and among her followers.”
Naturally, there’s been major backlash since the brand announced the pairing. Users voiced their upset over casting decision on Twitter:
Lol at Mango's new collection being called Tribal spirit. Lol at Kendall Jenner being the face of that collection.
— candice swanepoel (@diorhardin) January 15, 2016
Like how you gon have an African inspired collection but not put black girls in it?? Idgi???
— ⭐️ sharpay evans ⭐️ (@chandravidar) January 15, 2016
— Amber Love (@elizabethamber) January 13, 2016
There’s nothing inherently wrong with being inspired by Africa (though, to be fair, it’s an enormous, vast continent rich in various cultures, and boiling the entire expanse down into the word “tribal” is reductive and gross in a host of ways). But the least Mango could do is find women of actual African descent to model their line. Considering how far removed from the real world the fashion industry appears to be (Dolce & Gabbana and Valentino are recent examples, if not even the most glaring), a gaffe this huge is, sadly, not much of a surprise.
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