GAP Kids pulls and apologized for ad people thought racist. Nobody blinked at last years ad.

GAP Kids and Ellen DeGeneres have been making their "girl power" fun filled ads for a two years now, each ad showing kids of all sizes and, yes, ethnicities who aren't just pretty faces on a billboard but also are skater queens, drummers, dancers, DJ's, astronomers and little humanitarians. Check out the anthem video from 2015. This year the group modelling the ads are from Le Petit Cirque, a 8-12 year old circus group who know acrobatics and gymnastics and all sorts of neat tricks. They say "Kindness should be a law" and when they become president it will be. Aaaaw. Last years ad is seen above. Nobody complained about that one.

No, the ad that was accused of racism is this one, below.

It's a nice shot of the circus girls, who show off that they can hand-stand and lotus-legs at the same time (damn!) or simply bend their leg above their head as if they were made of rubber (whoah!), it gets all the girls into the same picture, and will be eye-catching on a billboard. I can see why the image was selected. Like the top image above the sizes of the girls in "space" taken up goes from small to taller, in order to fit well with whatever headline will appear on the left. To send the "we're totally chill best buds and that's our attitude" vibe one girl has her arm leaning on another girls head. Just like last year. The tall girl is also the base of the group, the strong one who lifts and carries the other girls, who have a unique physical trust with her, which is also apparent in this pose.

Except not quite like last year. This year the colours are reversed. The taller girl is white, and the shorter girl is black, and now the ad has touched a nerve. Last year it was the other way around, you see, and nobody cared then. Last year they weren't even circus group of girls who would naturally be so physically intertwined, instead they were just a bunch of girls crowded together for a shoot.

The usual suspects of activists turned journalists kicked up a fuss on Twitter, and soon there were long articles everywhere from HuffPo to BBC. As the author of the Huffpo piece explains that even if she herself found the ad pretty harmless: "The reality is that there are so few positive, powerful representations of black women and especially black girls out there that, frankly, it’s unsurprising that the photo would touch a nerve. That nerve, really, is where we should focus. That sensitivity, no matter how “over the top” it may seem to those who don’t get it, is still valid."

Soon enough The Gap apologized for the ad, but as an author at SheKnows says She's not buying it, and she will still boycott Gap.

As a white mother raising a white child to be the best anti-racist ally she can be, it’s important to me to only support companies that value-positive messaging in their advertising. And while on the surface this GapKids ad seems to fit the bill, look a little closer, and it fails. Because I don’t want to support a company that only portrays positive images of white children. If there aren’t also positive portrayals of children of color, I want nothing to do with it.

Debbie Felix, a Gap Kids representative, apologized with this statement: "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. 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."

It was wise of her to add "and boys", lest the ad be accused for sexism next.

The tweet that started it all (because the billboards aren't up yet) is still on the Gap's Twitter account.

My reaction? I'm really disappointed that a girl circus group's national spotlight moment was ruined by a bunch of twats on Twitter. Welcome to the adult world, kids. It's true we literally never have any fun, ever. But hey, thanks Twitter-twats for reinforcing that everything a girl does is criticized from all angles. You might as well get used to it, little ladies.


The two girls so physically intertwined are actually sisters. The black girl, Lucy Dinknesh Lubensky, who is so very clearly a quiet shy girl as you can see in the pre-release video at The Mail, is Brooke Smith's daughter, and the taller girls is Fanny Grace Lubensky, also Brooke Smith's daughter. Looking at Brooke's twitter, it's apparent that she is quite annoyed with this whole thing.

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Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
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Dabitch's picture

I'll just leave this here, the woman who seems to be the one that initially brought this up with Gap on twitter, also said this to Ms Brooke Smith

David Felton's picture

I'm so glad Fatima La'Juan Muse ‎brought this disgraceful bit of inherent racism to light.

I mean, really, how can we look at that picture and see anything other than hegemonic black oppression? That poor black girl might as well have shackles around her wrists, and be picking cotton in a field as her powerful white overlord sister whips her.

We should count ourselves lucky that people like Fatima La'Juan Muse exist to open our eyes to how racist everything in the world is. Without people like her, we might not have seen anything other than a group of girls playfully posing together.

Thank you so much Fatima La'Juan Muse. What a hero.

Zan's picture

You forgot to check your privilege, shit lord.

Frank's picture

You sure are easy to satisfy.

Anonymoose's picture

How is "colored person" racist and not "person of color"?

Fucking racists...

Dabitch's picture

The fact that Brooke is getting this kind of crap is annoying me tremendously. How frustrating it must be for a mom to go from beaming pride for her kids (as I'm sure she had when this campaign was executed and realised) to having to defend that siblings cling to each other in a photograph to strangers on Twitter. And then getting these responses:

Oh, and lets not forget the second guessing, about everything.....

I won't be responding to any of this on Twitter.

william's picture

Nearly any subject can cause Twitter outrage in 2016. That isn't a direct statement regarding gender, race, or politics. Nor, is it simply about hyper sensitivities. Maybe more aligned with the digital theatrics of social media. Twitter is a great place to draw attention, simply scream loud & long.

However, GAP's creative execution could've been tested in different markets before going live (maybe they did). Often what looks harmless, can become a cultural hot button when in the context of brand advertising. That layer of commerce can become representative of historical bias, in advertising media.

What is sad, grown folks placing undue burden on children and parents to assume everyone views skin hue in the same lens of oppression. Privilege is real, and can be misunderstood by those disenfranchised, and those holding privileged opportunities. I watched this happen for many years, been a part of the agency teams. But the good news, we've come a mighty long way. And for that I'm very proud:)

long way to go!


Willywonkie's picture

It doesn't have anything to do with outrage. It's the tool du jour for bullies to feel powerful.

The ad wasn't racist. Gap wasn't racist. Nobody involved in the entire thing was racist. But a bully stood up, pointed their finger, and shouted "Racist!", and their targets wilted, whimpered, and groveled.

It has nothing to do with outrage. This is about psychotics having a mechanism whereby they can exercise psychological power. Whereby they can control your behavior by inducing fear or guilt.

As long as you idiots fret and wring your hands about "Twitter in 2016" and cry about the outrage, you will continue to be deceived about what exactly is occurring and nothing will change. This intimidation technique will work until you begin to call them out for being nothing less than psychological bullies. But yall are idiots. This could conceivably go on for decades.

Dabitch's picture

This reminds of the KFC Cricket Survival Guide ad which was pulled in Australia after complaints from a vocal majority in The United states for being racist. Same with when the United Kingdom for for Snickers and the United Kingdom ad for Heinz were both banned for "homophobia" after complaints from the United states.

At some point brands need to ask themselves : is this the target market complaining? They should also seriously reconsider posting anything on Twitter.

I'll also point out, in case I hadn't made it obvious already, that the pushback on Brooke and this ad comes from women. Unsurprising to me, but some may not have noticed this pattern before.

Jason Fox's picture

The day I win the Powerball is the day I start my own company for the sole purpose of doing ads that aren't offensive to decent people, but will nonetheless press the appropriate outrage buttons of the jackwagon crowd.

Dabitch's picture

That would be an easy agency to PR, you'd literally be in the press constantly for simple things like using a bikini clad model in a billboard. Actually, hell, let me be your head of PR, I'd be trolling the hell out of specific forums online oh good lord please please please hire me I could start these snowball outrage lavines like nobody else.

* seriously, I'm available.

Aquatic Reptile's picture

> that the pushback on Brooke and this ad comes from women

Looks like you just called them shrews that are attacking their sisters....

Lord Lunch's picture

>shrews that are attacking their sisters

>"snowball outrage lavines"

Yes, she knows what's up.