Kendall Jenner’s ‘Tribal Spirit’ Mango Campaign Causes Controversy

Kendall Jenner is one of the most popular and most in-demand models working today. But does that mean she can model everything, even when it crosses the line of cultural appropriation?

Spanish fashion house Mango used the famous Jenner sister for their 2016 “Tribal Spirit” campaign, which has been angering people. They probably thought that using the reality star as the face of their campaign would be a good idea. But in fact, it was the exact opposite.

Mango’s spring 2016 collection is based on the “tribal spirit” of the African Savannah. This fact is making people mad that the brand used Kendall Jenner rather than an actual person of color as the face of their campaign. Now both the model and Mango have been accused of cultural appropriation.

Kendall Jenner

The fashion brand made the announcement on Instagram on Thursday, Jan. 14. They featured a black-and-white video of Kendall’s akward dancing along with the caption: “Are you ready to take on the next big trend? Including Tribal Spirit, our new campaign starring the one and only @KendallJenner. The Full collection launches in-stores on 1st February. #TribalSpirit #MANGOGirls”

Immediately people took to social media to react to the name of the ad campaign, along with the decision to cast Jenner, who is obviously white, as the face of the ads.

Mango’s Vice President Daniel Lopez spoke to Women’s Wear Daily about their decision to use Kendall Jenner as the face of their campaign.

“We thought that she was the best model to embody this trend. And obviously the upside with that is that, as a model, she’s very professional, she works fantastically. As a celebrity she has huge repercussions in the market and among her followers.”

Also according to the Women’s Wear Daily report, the “Tribal Spirit” collection features a “tribal print” dress and black leather fringe mini dress. Little is said about the inspiration behind the outfits. There’s an issue when it comes to describing clothes as “tribal,” which is a vague term that reduces the many tribes of people around the globe to one stereotypical look.

As for Jenner, she revealed that it’s the first time that she worked for the Spanish brand. She called her experience posing for them “unbeatable. I felt very comfortable with the garments and with the entire Mango team.”

But it’s not like there’s not black models that the label could use for the ad campaign. For example, there’s Joan Smalls and Jourdan Dunn, both of which are extremely popular in their own right. It never sits right with people when a white model like Kendall Jenner is becoming the face of an African-inspired collection, especially since there are already so few black models in the fashion industry.

But this isn’t stopping Mango from launching their new ad campaign. The brand’s video featuring Jenner was already shared on the label’s official social media accounts. The words “tribal spirit” proudly flashed on the screen every few seconds.

The ad campaign is not going to be pulled, despite this latest controversy. Instead, Mango’s new “Tribal Spirit” ad campaign will be featured in the pages of glossy magazines, although the brand would not specify which ones. It will also be featured on the brand’s advertising platforms starting Feb. 1.

This isn’t Kendall Jenner’s first time being slammed for cultural appropriation. In April 2014, Marie Claire found itself in the middle of controversy when the magazine tweeted a photo of Kendall Jenner wearing parted cornrows and calling her hairstyle “bold” and “epic.”

However, there’s nothing new or exciting about the way that Kendall was wearing her braids. Cornrows have been around for a long time and have been attributed to the black community, which explains the backlash towards Marie Claire’s tweet. The magazine took to Twitter to apologize, writing: “We didn’t mean to offend or imply that cornrows were new. Our tweet was poorly worded,” and then adding: “We thought her hair looked great and recognize women have been styling their hair like this for ages.”

What are your thoughts on Mango’s “Tribal Spirit” collection? Do you think they should have used someone other than Kendall Jenner as the face of the ad campaign? Sound off below in the comments section.

[Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images]