Target's Annie Ads Spark Controversy

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Photo by Target

When LaSean Rinique first saw an ad for Target’s new Annie for Target clothing line last weekend, she was sitting at the computer with her 8-year-old daughter, an Annie superfan. The girl in the ad was a young white model, wearing a red dress and a locket – the iconic Annie outfit. But the Annie in the current movie – the one who inspired this new line – is black, and this wasn’t lost on Rinique’s daughter, who is biracial.  “She saw the ad and said to me, ‘That’s not what Annie looks like. How come the new black Annie isn’t good enough? Does that mean I’m not good enough?’” Rinique tells Yahoo Parenting.

Rinique says her jaw dropped. “I explained to her that the original Annie was white, and that both Annies are beautiful, and that sometimes people make mistakes and have to apologize for them,” the Delaware mom, who is a regular Target shopper, says. “Then we started singing ‘It’s a Hard-Knock Life’ while she got back to doing her chores.”

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In hopes of getting that apology, Rinique posted a petition on Change.org. She writes: “Your recent Annie ads and in-store displays depicts a misleading depiction of the movie as it shows a Caucasian young lady opposed to the star of the film- Quvenzhané Wallis. Though the model is quite professional, she does not speak to the relevance of the movie or main character. When the original Annie came out, everything was about Aileen Quinn or a character/person that emulated her…why not now Target? If you can show it online, show it in ALL of your stores with multiple signage with different girls not one!”

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Photo by Target

Rinique continues: “Why do you feel that we are not enough to portray our beautiful images on your advertisements? If it is a multi-cultural issue, surely you could use her co-stars on some ads and Quvenzhané Wallis or another African American girl on others. … These grossly misleading ads are adding to the divide and does not give young African American girls aspiring to become actors anything to be optimistic about. Or show more diversity within your stores and depict a variety of races as you did with your online ads. Everyone does not have access to internet- plus the younger fans may not be allowed to use internet.”

Since she posted the petition on the evening of Sunday, Dec. 28, it’s been gaining steam. As of this article’s writing, it has more than 4,200 signatures, with a goal of 5,000.

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This isn’t the first time Target has come under fire for issues of toys and race. Earlier this month controversy arose when a dad noticed that black Barbies were selling for twice as much as a white Barbie.

“Target is notorious for whitewashing their ads,” Rinique says. “All I want Target to do is make the ads a little more multicultural. I’m not saying take the ads down, I’m saying if you are going to have it, have another one who looks more like the current Annie. I’m pretty sure it’s in Target’s budget to make two signs.”

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Photo by Target

While there is an African-American girl in some of the online ads, Rinique points out that in-store the Annies are white, and that none of the African-American girls online are wearing the classic red dress and locket. “I’m hoping that Target has an executive board meeting and takes a look at who is in their marketing department. I’m hoping they will issue an apology, and set up an Annie display that shows what the cast looks like right now.” The reason Annie is popular now is because of the current cast, so that is who should be featured, she says. Rinique says she also hopes that Target will make more Annie products that look like the cast. “I’d love to see an Annie doll, or an Annie backpack,” she says.

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Rinique says she’s surprised that her petition has caught on the way it has. “I didn’t expect this, but it speaks to the racial divide in our country,” she says. “My daughter is half black and half Puerto Rican. I already have to constantly tell her she is beautiful, and she was excited to see an Annie who had hair just like hers. So for her to be on that natural high from the movie and then for this to happen, it’s disappointing.”

In a comment provided to Yahoo Parenting, spokesperson Joshua Thomas writes:

At Target, we appreciate the opportunity to hear from our guests. We’re proud of our Annie for Target collection, which was inspired by the recently released remake of the family classic and designed by the film’s costume designer. The limited-time only collection launched Nov. 16 and is currently marked down, making way for new merchandise in 2015.

With regard to the marketing of the collection, girls from a variety of backgrounds were featured within the campaign, reflecting that anyone can embody the spirit and character of Annie.

As for the involvement of Quvenzhane Wallis, we had conversations with her team about being in the campaign, but ultimately it did not come to fruition. Fortunately, we had the pleasure of working with Ms. Wallis a number of times, including appearances at Target’s sales meeting in September and a launch event in New York City in November. We had a great experience working with Ms. Wallis and appreciate her efforts in promoting this collection.

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Quvenzhané Walli in the new remake of Annie. (Barry Wetcher/©Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)

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