Another day, another whitewashing scandal. Dior and Jennifer Lawrence recently collaborate on Dior’s wildly problematic Cruise 2019 campaign. The campaign’s creative director drew her inspiration from the escaramuzas, which is a Mexican sport in which women mounted on horseback ride and move to Mexican music. The sport is directly inspired by the Adelitas, a name given to women soldiers who fought in the Mexican Revolution. Escaramuzas is a big part of Mexican culture and tradition and the equal balance of both athleticism and beauty displayed in it has been admired by many, including photographer Devin Doyle, who went to Mexico to capture riders in the arena for Vogue. Doyle managed to accurately represent Mexican culture while celebrating its incredible beauty.
Dior failed where Doyle triumphed because they chose to exploit the heritage and culture of a minority group — who have been criminalized, judged, misunderstood, and punished by the American government — to sell fashion to an upper class, elite, and yes, mostly white demographic. Dior blatantly uses Jennifer Lawrence as a stand-in for a Mejicana, instead of using a Mejicana. They also shot the spot in California instead of Mexico. The shameless cultural appropriation and purposeful lack of representation are appalling, especially given the current political climate and history of U.S./Mexican relations in which people have been victimized for simply being Mexican and being born on the “wrong side” of the border.
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Not only are big corporations like Dior using Mexican culture to line their pockets, but they are trying to redefine what it means to be truly Mexican. On top of all that, they are robbing Mexican models, actresses, and entertainers of the chance to represent their culture. When a white woman dressed in equestrian fashion is paid to create an homage to escaramuza culture, whether consciously or not (although in this political and social climate you should know better), she is representing a Mexican woman.
Why do corporations keep disregarding people of color, even in roles that clearly call for people for color? Why do white people get chosen to represent a culture they know nothing about? It is not only insulting, but it is harmful to young people looking for self-representation in a world that already makes it hard to be yourself.
This campaign is telling young women of color that though escaramuzas are beautiful and the tradition both rich and fascinating, there was no Mexican woman beautiful enough to represent the Dior brand in their tribute to the culture. No, that honor could only be bestowed upon a white blonde woman. They are only propping up colonial European beauty standards for young Mexican women. Mejicanas, like many Latinas, all look different but when you tell a young woman this is what beautiful Mexican women look like (insert Jennifer Lawerence here), you are reinforcing doubt and low self-esteem for so many young women who yearn to see themselves represented. You are telling a young woman that her black, thick hair, her brown eyes, full hips, thick lips, native tongue, and dark skin are not, and will never be, enough. You are skewing the vision of what a young brown woman can think beauty is by using a white woman to represent her culture.
The cultural thievery goes beyond insensitivity and ignorance. It is concerning that in the political and social turmoil people of color are currently facing, a brand like Dior and public figures like Jennifer Lawrence would fail to take into consideration people of color. Have we not had various conversations about cultural appropriation and accurate representation? Have we not called you out about this kind of disrespect before?
People of color, including the Latinx community, are currently fighting to simply stay alive. This is why this issue is serious. Brands like Dior and people like Jennifer can’t decide to love us only when it benefits them. If you love the culture of a people enough to use it as inspiration, then you love the people too. And if you love the people, then you do what you can to accurately celebrate us. Use your platforms to educate, embrace, and celebrate the people and their culture — especially in a time where racism, xenophobia, and ignorance prevail.
You don’t get to exploit anyone’s culture for revenue.
And we don’t want your apologies. We don’t want your retractions. We don’t want your public statements. We want you to stand in solidarity before you get paid for exploiting us.