Celebs’ alcohol brands seem to be the new frontier of cultural appropriation right now.
Michael B. Jordan might have learned a lesson from all the heat Kendall Jenner got for her 818 Tequila brand. Instead, he found himself embroiled in a pretty similar controversy. Over the weekend, the actor celebrated the launch of his new rum brand, J’Ouvert. Girlfriend Lori Harvey posted some snaps from the launch party on her Instagram Story, congratulating him for the accomplishment.
On packaging for the drink (which can be seen in screenshots from Lori’s posts, below), the brand explained the name:
“Derived from the Antillean Creole French term meaning ‘daybreak,’ J’OUVERT originated in the pre-dawn streets of Trinidad, as celebrations of emancipation combined with Carnival season to serve as the festival’s informal commencement. Crafted on those same islands, J’OUVERT Rum is a tribute to the ‘party start.’”
Fans took issue with the brand appropriating a specifically Trinidadian (and Caribbean) tradition, particularly when the Black Panther star seemingly does not have ties to the island himself. (It’s unclear whether his partners in the endeavor may be Trinidadian.) On top of that, some found the trademark for the rum — which claimed the term “has no meaning in a foreign language” (an interesting assertion when the brand’s own packaging says otherwise) — offensive.
Joining those speaking out against the brand was Nicki Minaj, who reposted a history of the celebration on her IG with the caption:
“I’m sure MBJ didn’t intentionally do anything he thought Caribbean ppl would find offensive — but now that you are aware, change the name & continue to flourish & prosper.”
A post shared by Barbie (@nickiminaj)
Following the outcry, the brand’s social media was set to private, and Lori seemingly took down her posts from the event. On Tuesday, the actor finally addressed the controversy, writing on his own IG story:
“I just wanna say on behalf of myself & my partners, our intention was never to offend or hurt a culture(we love & respect) & hoped to celebrate & shine a positive light on. Last few days has been a lot of listening. A lot of learning & engaging in countless community conversations…”
“We hear you. I hear you & want to be clear that we are in the process of renaming. We sincerely apologize & look forward to introducing a brand we can all be proud of.”
Well, it seems like this is the best possible outcome for the situation. Hopefully when going back to the drawing board, MBJ and his partners can create branding that welcomes rather than alienates the people that may be their customers.
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