Kendall Jenner launched her “818” tequila in California this week. To accompany the launch, the 25-year-old model posted an advertisement on her Instagram. While there has been particular criticism that Jenner, a white woman, is profiting over traditional Mexican products, there has more recently been backlash over the photo content of the promotion.
Jenner shared a series of photos with the caption:
“what an incredible experience i have had thus far, learning about this beautiful place, it’s beautiful culture, and the beautiful people! @drink818 has launched in California… we will be rolling out to the rest of the US all summer long, keep a look out!!!”
The post included photos of Jenner riding on horseback through agave farms, Mexican agave farmers, and sipping tequila on the open tailgate of a truck, dozens of farmed agave plants at her feet.
Twitter has taken to calling her attire for the promotion “Migrant worker chic,” wearing jeans, a white tank top, a cowboy hat, an oversized, dark button-down, with her hair in pigtail braids. The ad seemingly focused on how immersed Kendall had become in the culture of Jalisco, making her brand seem “authentic.”
Her choice of style was questionable, as was her use of the sepia-style filter, often used in film to depict Mexico as a place laden with poverty, crime … and so incredibly far disposed from the brightness, exuberance, and splendor of the United States.
It is also notable that Jenner turned off the capability for comments on this Instagram post, presumably to avoid the mass publication of criticism by her followers.
Non-Mexican celebrities capitalizing off of products that are native to Mexico, its traditions, and its agricultural businesses is cultural appropriation. Her 165 million followers on Instagram will likely be more apt to buy her “authentic” 818 tequila from Jalisco, rather than from Mexican-owned distilleries. Jenner is therefore taking away from the fruits of Mexican culture, only to rebrand and repurpose it to profit the rich and the white.
Kendall Jenner should know better. After all, this isn’t her first time facing backlash for taking part in disagreeable campaigns. We need only recall the tearful apology that came after the 2017 Pepsi campaign, where she fixed racism and police brutality with a soda can.
Clearly, the criticism of this latest campaign has caught Jenner’s attention, and for the time being, she has chosen to ignore it. Here’s to hoping that some responsibility and accountability are soon taken.