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BEIJING — Sharon Stone may have apologized for her controversial remarks on China’s massive earthquake, but it’s not stopping the actress from getting her own dose of bad karma.
This story first appeared in the May 30, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Reacting to the rising furor over Stone’s comments at the Cannes Film Festival, Dior China said Thursday that it is removing and recalling all advertisements featuring Stone. Meanwhile, local press reported that citizens were ripping down billboards in several locations.
“In light of Sharon Stone’s inappropriate comments and their negative impact, Dior China has decided to withdraw [her ads] immediately and stop using Sharon Stone’s image in any advertising, marketing and commercial activities,” the company said. A spokeswoman said Stone had only been used for limited advertising on select cosmetic product lines and plans were in place to use a different model before this controversy.
In an interview widely disseminated on YouTube, Stone said at Cannes last week that “the Chinese” had been unkind to Tibetans. The actress, speaking about the March 14 uprising in Lhasa, Tibet, that led to a violent government crackdown, said the devastating Sichuan earthquake may have been karmic retribution for China.
“I’ve been concerned with how we should deal with the Olympics, because they are not being nice to the Dalai Lama, who is a good friend of mine,” said Stone. “And then all this earthquake and all this stuff happened and I thought, is that karma — when you’re not nice that the bad things happen to you?” Stone said.
Following several days of outrage on Chinese Web sites, Dior China’s press office in Shanghai released Thursday an apology from Stone.
“In the course of the interview I made inappropriate remarks and for any harm created toward the Chinese people I am extremely sad and apologize,” Stone said.
Toni Belloni, LVMH’s group managing director, delicately fielded a question on the Stone controversy at a Financial Times Business of Luxury Summit in Tokyo on Thursday morning, stating the company may be forced to disassociate itself from the actress. “I think that it was an unfortunate comment from her,” he said, adding that he thinks highly of Stone. “She has a tradition, and I know her well, for being an incredibly available person.”
Belloni said the company needs to have a frank discussion with Stone on China. “If she doesn’t agree, I think we have to, you know, acknowledge that she doesn’t agree and detach us from her. But there’s a possibility of putting things in the right perspective.” Dior, like LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, is run by billionaire Bernard Arnault.
On Monday, before announcing that it was pulling Stone’s ads, Dior China issued an apology. “Dior is one of the international brands that entered China early and has won consumers’ respect and loyalty,” the company said. “We absolutely won’t support any comments that hurt Chinese people’s feelings.” Dior also expressed sympathy for earthquake victims and pledged to help with rebuilding efforts. The company did not say whether its affiliation with Stone had hurt its business in China.
“We’d like to reaffirm our long-term guarantee to the Chinese market, and we’ll give support to the rebuilding of the affected areas,” the company said. An LVMH spokesman in Paris said the company emphasized its sympathy for all of the earthquake victims and that it disagrees with Stone’s comments completely.
The devastating 7.9-force earthquake that struck a wide swath of Sichuan province on May 12 killed at least 68,000 people, including an estimated 10,000 children, in a mostly poor, agricultural section of the western interior of China, nearly 1,000 miles from the country’s power base in Beijing. China’s central government, widely criticized for its handling of Tibet and other political hot spots, has been lauded for its response to the quake. Even the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, said he believed the Chinese government had reacted well to the disaster.
The Beijing Times newspaper reported earlier in the week that Mainland cinemas would boycott Stone’s upcoming films.
The latest incident involving Dior is the second in recent months where Arnault and LVMH found themselves the subjects of controversy. Rumors swirled on the Internet in China last month that Arnault and Carrefour, in which he is a shareholder, are financial backers of the Dalai Lama. The LVMH chief denied the rumors, as did Carrefour. However, there were numerous demonstrations against Carrefour throughout China, with scattered ones against Vuitton at the same time. Vuitton later canceled its plans for a vintage car rally across China.