Recently, Kendall Jenner announced her new venture, a tequila brand she called 818. But although some people were excited about it, others weren’t impressed. People quickly responded with accusations of cultural appropriation. This isn’t the first time a Kar-Jenner has angered people with their insensitive use of something that’s important to another culture. Kim Kardashian West has had similar issues. In fact, she faced a huge problem when she first announced her new shapewear line. What will it take for this famous family to learn this particular lesson?
Kendall Jenner’s 818 tequila
Insider reports that Jenner was excited to share news of her new business with the world. In February, she took to Instagram to announce the launch of 818, a tequila that she says she’s been working on for over three years to perfect. It seems that tequila lovers agree because 818 has won multiple awards, including “best reposado” at the World Tequila Awards. However, not everyone is as impressed with Jenner’s new venture. The comments on her post were filled with people saying that the whole thing just didn’t sit right with them. They said that she was taking something from a culture that she’s not a part of and exploiting it for financial gain.
The importance of tequila in Mexican culture
Thrillist explains that to understand how deep the history of tequila runs in Mexican culture, you have to go back as far as 1000 B.C. The Aztecs used the sap of the agave plant to make a milky alcoholic drink called pulaque. This drink was so valued that the Aztecs even worshipped two gods that were connected to the drink. When the Spanish invaded Mexico in the early 1500s, they made their own version of the drink, using the agave to distill liquor. Within a hundred years, that liquor had evolved into tequila.
Through the centuries, Mexican distillers have perfected the art of making tequila. Today, the drink can only legally be called tequila if it’s made and aged in a certain way and in specific areas of Mexico. 818 does meet the requirements to be called tequila, but it’s believed that the name refers to Jenner’s hometown of Calabasas, California. Critics say that by claiming she developed it and naming it after an American city, she’s erasing its deep Mexican roots.
Kendall Jenner didn’t learn from the Kimono fiasco
If Jenner seems surprised by the backlash to her new venture, perhaps she shouldn’t be. Her older sister faced a similar outcry not long ago. In 2019, Kardashian announced that she was launching a shapewear brand named Kimono. According to CNN, the name sparked immediate outrage. The mayor of Kyoto, Japan, Daisaku Kadokawa, expressed how problematic the name choice was in an open letter to Kardashian.
He asked her to reconsider the name, explaining that “Kimono is a traditional ethnic dress fostered in our rich nature and history with our predecessors’ tireless endeavors and studies, and it is a culture that has been cherished and passed down with care in our living. Also, it is a fruit of craftsmanship and truly symbolizes sense of beauty, spirits and values of Japanese.” He stated that the name should not be monopolized.
Popbuzz reports that on Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kardashian expressed disbelief that people thought she was trying to be disrespectful. She also complained that no one mentioned that the name was problematic earlier. “We brought the name to retailers,” she said. “There were a lot of people who could have chimed in and said that they felt like this was not an appropriate brand name and nobody did. Foolishly and ignorantly, we never thought that it would be a problem.” In the end, Kardashian agreed that the name was a mistake, and she decided to call the line Skims instead.
Since the Kar-Jenners don’t seem to be very sensitive to cultural issues, perhaps they should consider hiring consultants who can let them know when they’ve crossed a line. If Jenner didn’t learn from Kardashian’s experience, maybe this latest backlash will help her and the rest of her famous family understand how important these issues are.
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