Gap Inc. removed from Twitter an ad for GapKids X ED, the retailer’s partnership with Ellen DeGeneres, after users complained that the ad was racist. The company replaced the ad with a different image from the same campaign.
The offending ad showed four girls, all members of award-winning circus group Le Petit Cirque, which is comprised entirely of children ages five to 14. The shot of the girls – one was doing a handstand with her legs crossed, another was stretching her leg back in a ballet-like pose, and another was resting her arm on the head of the sole African American child in the group – ignited a social media firestorm.
Twitter users contended that the African American girl stood out as the “token black girl” and that she appeared to serve no purpose other than to prop up another girl’s arm. What the Twitter-sphere was unaware of, sources said, is that the two girls are adopted sisters.
“As a brand with a proud 46-year history of championing diversity and inclusivity, we appreciate the conversation that has taken place and are sorry to anyone we’ve offended,” a spokeswoman for the Gap said. “This GapKids campaign highlights true stories of talented girls who are celebrating creative self-expression and sharing their messages of empowerment. We are replacing the image with a different shot from the campaign, which encourages girls (and boys) everywhere to be themselves and feel pride in what makes them unique.”
Gap heard the message from Twitter users loud and clear. The retailer, like many others, monitors social media closely, listening for any discordant notes. Social media outrage had reportedly died down by Tuesday.
GapKids X ED seeks to impart a message of empowerment to girls. Each collection features different girls sharing their stories and talents to inspire others to go after their dreams. Other girls in the campaign include a skateboarder wearing a tutu to underscore that even though skateboarding is known primarily as a boy’s sport, girls can do it also. There are young wildlife photographer, DJ and dancer featured in others.
DeGeneres said the campaign was created to “motivate young girls – and boys – to celebrate what makes them unique” and encourage them to be “true to themselves. Following my passion allowed me to be exactly who I am today.”
The partnership is donating $250,000 to Girls Inc., an organization that provides girls in the U.S. and Canada with life-changing experiences and teaches them to cope with challenges. Every purchase from the GapKids X ED collection contributes to this goal.