Let’s be clear on one thing: I have never kept up with the Kardashians. At least not actively.
Even though I’ve only managed to stomach 20 minutes of the reality TV show that lasted for two decades, I know too much about the family and their drama. Every time I tap open Facebook, there’s another article about one of the Kardashians or Jenners. My brain is full of information about Kylie Jenner’s lip controversy, Kimye’s relationship/divorce and Khloe Kardashian’s infamous leaked untouched photo.
No matter what I do, where I go, what I watch or read, their family news always pops up in my newsfeed. I’m almost certain that I could go off the grid and I’d still hear about the Kardashians. It’s inescapable and my puny brain knows the articles are clickbait but still clicks on the link to read up on the latest drama.
Cue in the most recent scandal: Kendall Jenner’s new ad campaign promoting her tequila, 818 Tequila. The commercial shows Kendall dressed in a oversized shirt, straw hat, jeans and braids. She toasts the workers on the farm in Jalisco, Mexico, where the agave is being produced for her tequila. And moments after the commercial dropped, the internet came after Kendall calling the commercial grossly offensive and for cultural appropriation.
The internet wasn’t wrong — the commercial’s tacky at best. It’s like a cheesy scene in any movie where it takes place in Mexico — we’ve been conditioned by the yellow filter to let us know the location. And the way she was dressed is an ingenuine attempt to connect with the Mexican culture. As one TikToker user, who went viral on her analysis of the commercial, put it, she’s cosplaying Mexican culture. A caricature.
But what sat incredibly ill with me was the use of the working men — nameless men working the farm to create the agave used for her tequila — as props. Almost used as a paper sombrero to decorate a Mexican-themed party.
I’ve seen it time and time again where Mexicans (and other races, too) are used as a token, a prop or to fill in a quota or prove diversity. We’re not props. We’re especially not props in a product that originated in our very own country.
Kendall’s not the first celebrity with a tequila label. However, George Clooney’s not seen in a Mexican costume selling Casamigos nor does Toby Keith’s Wild Shot Mezcal. Celebrity tequila brands don’t bother me — it bothers me when we’re being used for profit.
It’s one thing to celebrate another culture, to appreciate, to embrace and truly learn about it. This commercial was not that — it felt like a mockery.
Diana Rojo-Garcia can be reached at email@example.com.