Following the death of George Floyd by a police officer last week, millions of users have taken to Twitter and Instagram to share photographs of anti-racist protests across the world, online resources to help educate and inform people of white privilege and racism and information on where to donate money to the Black Lives Matter movement and call on governments for change.
However, we have also noticed that some people have started to share images of protesters attempting to hand police officers bottles and cans of Pepsi, inspired by Kendall Jenner’s controversial advert for the brand in 2017.
A quick search for 'Kendall Jenner' on Twitter today and your feed will be inundated with footage of the model’s advert, with users mocking the 24-year-old for being their ‘favourite celebrity activist’ and ironically joking that she is the ‘answer’ to put an end to systematic racism.
Here is everything you need to know about Jenner’s advert and why it’s resurfaced on social media amid the protests:
What happened in Kendall Jenner’s 2017 Pepsi advert?
In April 2017, Jenner teamed up with Pepsi to star in a new advert which played to the song ‘Lions’ by Skip Marley (the grandson of Bob Marley).
In the clip, Jenner – who wears a blonde wig and lipstick – steps forward from a group of protesters holding signs that read ‘peace’ and ‘join the conversation’. Wiping off her lipstick, the reality star approaches a police officer lined up in the street with his colleagues and offers him a can of Pepsi seemingly as a peace offering.
It’s time to end racism again y’all pic.twitter.com/oTqkMK7iTw— I’LL SLAP YO AZZ JUS CUZ OF SLAVERY (@WhattUpJT) May 27, 2020
In the weeks that followed, Jenner and the soft drink brand were highly criticised on social media for co-opting protests as a ‘trendy’ demonstration, rather than an essential form of activism to tackle important issues. It was also accused of trivialising social movements to sell a product and ignoring the experiences of Black people following centuries of violent subjugation.
The advert also drew references to the Black Lives Matter protester Ieshia Evans who stood stalwartly in front of police before she was arrested in Baton Rouge, Louisiana a year after the death of Alton Sterling by police in 2016.
Reuters photo of the year winner pic.twitter.com/1WYkoDUTZa— bethel habte (@bethel_habte) March 2, 2017
However, the advert failed to acknowledge the political implications of protest, systematic racism in the police, white privilege and police brutality.
Martin Luther King Jr’s daughter, Bernice King, was one among countless activists and celebrities who came out to criticise the advert.
King wrote an article for Huffington Post, explaining that the advert 'contributed to the notion that there is a fairy-tale, light way to ease conflicts that have existed in this nation for hundreds of years'.
As a result of the backlash for its tone-deaf advert, Pepsi pulled it from the air and from YouTube.
In a statement addressing the clip on Twitter, the company stated: ‘Pepsi was trying to project a global a message of unity, peace, and understanding.
‘Clearly, we missed the mark, and we apologise. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologise for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.’
How did Kendall Jenner react to the backlash?
Following the criticism she received online, the model didn't make an official statement about her participation in the footage.
However, the star and her sister Kim Kardashian West did allude to the aftermath in their family’s reality show Keeping Up With The Kardashians.
‘We're not perfect, but you see these things in the media, like Kendall and [her Pepsi advert], where I see her at home crying,’ Kardashian West said on the show.
‘But in the media she looks another way because she's not addressing it. I'm just like, “This is wrong. You need to speak up.” She was like, “I don't ever want to show that footage of me crying.” She was trying to not make excuses or be dramatic, but that was what she was going through at the time.’
Months later, Jenner discussed the backlash with her older sister for the first time.
‘It feels like my life is over,’ she told the beauty mogul in a clip aired in the 14th season of their show. ‘You made a mistake,’ replied Kim.
'I would never purposefully hurt someone, ever,' she said. 'I just felt so f*cking stupid. The fact that I would offend other people or hurt other people was definitely not the intent.'
Why is everyone sharing the advert on social media?
After anti-racist protests began in the US over the weekend following the death of Floyd, the footage of Jenner’s Pepsi advert have resurfaced.
People have been tagging and referring to the clip after photographs and footage of protesters facing police officers have increasingly come to light this week, with some showing abhorred forms of police violence and the use of riot control equipment including rubber pellets and tear gas.
The majority have mocked Jenner’s role in the adverts while others have attempted to recreate the offering of Pepsi to officers, questioning why their actions haven’t received the same reaction from the authorities as Jenner’s did in the fictional scenario.
Kendall Jenner and her can of Pepsi are real quiet rn— sai (@Saisailu97) May 30, 2020
somebody get Kendall Jenner a Pepsi so this can all be over— Digital Don (@yehme2) May 31, 2020
Jenner’s ex boyfriend Harry Styles even alluded to Jenner’s advert in his caption to a photo from the Los Angeles protests earlier this week.
‘And for those wondering if any of us are Kendall—no lol. She was not at the protest. She was looking for a Pepsi [sic],’ he wrote.
What has Kendall Jenner said about the protests?
On June 1, the model voiced her support for the Black Lives Matter movement on Instagram and urged her followers to vote in the US presidential primary elections.
‘Keep researching, reading, and educating yourself on how we can become better allies,’ Jenner began her caption. ‘I've been doing a lot of thinking these past few days and my heart has been so heavy. I'm angry and hurt just like so many.
‘I will never personally understand the fear and pain that the black community go through on a daily basis, but I know that nobody should have to live in constant fear. I acknowledge my white privilege and promise I will continue to educate myself on how I can help.’
The star removed the ability for her followers to comment on her post but it has been ‘liked’ more than 1.4 million times.
This week, the Californian A-lister also shared a picture of a black square on Instagram in support of the #BlackoutTuesday social media initiative and encouraged her fans to vote and educate themselves in a separate post.
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