It’s been just over a day since the Pepsi ad starring Kendall Jenner was released and since then, it received so much negative attention online that it was pulled and Pepsi issued an apology. A lot of mistakes were made here, but what I can’t get past is the fact that Pepsi felt the need to extend a specific apology to Jenner, a grown woman who clearly saw no problems with the ad and probably felt this was just another pay check and notch on her designer belt. Now, there are so many issues with this ad, from suggesting that recent protests and movements are trendy, to the blatant appropriation of Iesha Evans’ powerful and peaceful stance against the police, but the one I’m going to focus on is Jenner’s privelage and complacency with such a flawed ad.
First of all, let’s not beat around the bush: in a cut-through industry, Jenner was gifted her model career through a family name and a life spent growing up in front of a camera crew, thus rendering her incapable of understanding the struggles portrayed in the ad. So, Pepsi, why would you center an ad about resistance around a white, 21-year-old millionaire with no public history of activism? Clearly, this was a major disconnect from those who have been protesting and marching across the globe, and I have to ask how any part of this idea was able to get through so many people on Pepsi’s end? Why take the Black Lives Matter movement and insult it with so much insensitivity?
So many marks were missed here and the initial response from Pepsi didn’t make the situation any better as it further demonstrated the company’s inability to understand where those affected by and participating in these social movements were coming from. Jenner’s radio silence is also troubling considering she has as much responsibility in this situation as an adult with such an influential platform at her fingertips.
Pepsi offered up an apology to Jenner for getting her involved in this whole mess and a) nope, not the right move, b) what about everyone else? And c) I don’t understand why? Jenner has an entire team around her working to ensure every Instagram post is flawless and that she makes it to all her events in perfect condition, so where are they now that Jenner and this ad have reduced such strong and peaceful acts of obtaining justice and equality into jokes and a quick chance at hopping on what Pepsi believe to be the latest trend? Jenner can’t be a social media star and influencer without using her platforms to address the problems she played a major part in creating, and equally troubling is that many of the brands she works with and her followers probably won’t care.
Feminism, LGBQT+ rights, the Black Lives Matter movement, religious and ethnic tolerance, all of these issues that have always existed and are currently having to be defended more harshly against the current administration were reduced to an insignificant movement without real purpose the moment Jenner was cast and told to rip off her blonde wig. Privelage is having Pepsi ask you to star in their ad and not turning them away once you get the script. Privelage is doing an entire ad focused on activism when you haven’t joined in any marches or used your platform to promote any movements yourself. Privelage is having a major corporation apologise to you while you remain silent. I can’t even begin to understand how Jenner thought this would be okay, but maybe this proves why we should try keeping up with current issues over keeping up with the Kardashians.