You’re probably well aware of the controversy surrounding the Pepsi ad starring Kendall Jenner that was released on Tuesday (March 4). In it, Kendall plays a model, presumably herself, who joins a protest happening in the street near her photo shoot, then gives a police officer a can of Pepsi and apparently creates peace and unity between the police and the crowd.
The ad, called “Jump In,” drew criticism for being tone-deaf and tasteless, especially given the current political climate. Even Martin Luther King, Jr.’s daughter made a statement, reminding us how the ad co-opted activism and made light of the real injustices people of color have faced throughout history. Pepsi quickly pulled it, and released a statement saying, “Clearly, we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue."
They also apologized to Kendall, but we can’t be so quick as to think Kendall wasn’t aware of the ad’s plotline and its possible ramifications. How do we know? She had talked to WWD about the ad prior to its release. At the time, she noted that she “had never been to Bangkok,” where the clip was filmed, “so it was interesting to be in that city. There were a lot of really cool people on set that I got to meet. It was fun, it was entertaining. The whole concept is really something that I’m about, so it was just fun to be a part of.” (Mashable also made the very valid point that protestors in Bangkok have been killed by riot police in the past.)
Kendall’s quote was pretty ambiguous and typical of what a celebrity promoting a product they’re not 100% obsessed with would say, right? It’s also interesting for Kendall to say that the concept is something she’s “about.” While she did urge her peers to vote during the 2016 presidential election, she’s been pretty quiet about social issues since then, choosing to Instagram an image that her sisters also posted on the day of the Women’s March and not much else. (Of course, if someone chooses to practice their activism in a private way, that’s well within their right.) Kendall went on to relate the ad’s concept to living in the age of social media, tying it to the idea of “living in the now.”
“I think a lot of people are caught up in whatever’s happening in someone else’s life and they’re not really paying attention to what’s happening right in front of them most of the time. It’s not hard to put your phone down and consciously try and get yourself to live in the moment. That’s what I try and do,” she told WWD.
Obviously, it's Kendall's prerogative to use her platform for issues she cares about. But if it is indeed a concept that she's "about," then we wish she would have used the interview and the ad to make a meaningful statement about representation and the importance of activism. However, that didn't happen.
Since the controversy erupted, Kendall has deleted her Instagram posts and Tweets plugging the ad and hasn’t made a public statement.
This story originally appeared on Teen Vogue.
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