Social Media has revolutionized the immediacy of how the public reacts to news and entertainment. Forget the days of snail hate mail of yesteryear sent to networks and celebrities in large bags. Every single person has a voice – and social forum to be heard. Less than 24 hours since the new Pepsi ad was launched featuring Kendall Jenner, one of the hottest it-models of the moment – the ad has been pulled from every marketing vehicle imaginable. What happened exactly? I follow the Kardashians on social as I’m a pop culture junkie and after I viewed the fury-inducing ad on Kris Jenner’s Instagram, I wasn’t moved, I brushed it off, yet I had a sinking feeling it wouldn’t be well received by the public. It was awkward in execution, odd images of Kendall Jenner abandoning her “model” duties and joining a protest. After having attended two protests this year: The Women’s March in following the inauguration and Not My President’s Day March in February. This commercial didn’t necessarily poke fun at protests – it trivialized the protesting experience. It lumped protests into the next “cool” thing young people are doing or engaged with. Similar to the “Cash me outside, How bout’ Dat?” teen or the incessant iterations on the Internet of Salt Bae. Yeah, nope. The Twitterverse was not having any of it. Everyone and their, mom, aunt, dad and grandpa had to something to say about it. Martin Luther King Jr.’s youngest daughter, Bernice King, posted: “If only Daddy would have known the power of #Pepsi” with a picture of cops strong-arming Martin Luther King Jr. in the 60s.
Pepsi is such a well-known global brand and being asked to be a Pepsi ambassador is mecca for any celebrity: A sign that you’ve made it. Recognition is absolute. Your star power is blinding! If you look at Kendall Jenner’s Instagram post just days before the controversy unfolded, there’s a picture of her idol, Cindy Crawford in a 1992 Pepsi ad.
Kendall and her clan (momager, Kris included) were so clouded by the prestige Pepsi invokes – that they forgot the messaging behind this partnership. It was an afterthought. No one said, “Hey! maybe this is ad’s message is a little insensitive to people’s causes” As an adoring public, fans, spectators on the sidelines, we want our favorite models, actors, and sport stars to reach the pinnacle of success with all the advertising, movie, fashion deals out there – but one misstep and the crucifixion begins. Kendall Jenner has removed all traces of her ad on her social media accounts and Pepsi has apologized and lamented their insensitivity. But we as a the public must not go on the attack and instead educate companies, and clueless celebrities about history and what protests mean and can achieve for the misrepresented and people without a voice. Not once did I see or hear anyone say: “Hey Kendall, come to my town or join my group so you can see what protesting is really like and what the impetus behind this march means.”
As I made my way to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza on 47th and 2nd – the meeting point for the New York Women’s March, I was filled with anxiety, dread and just plain fear. I had attended a preliminary Women’s March meeting earlier in the week held by a group of professional women’s video and documentary filmmakers. “How to properly record immoral acts of violence?” “How not to get arrested.”What happens when you do.” These phrases kept lingering in my head throughout the week. I’m not a person who typically demonstrates. Yeah, I’ve been to a few Revlon Run/Walk 5Ks and previous March of Dimes walks and felt good about myself. Exercise was the motivator, really, and then yes, supporting the cause too – this was an after thought.
Two nights before the march I abruptly texted my friend Sandra. “Do you want to march on Saturday?” I asked. “I would like that. I’m in.” She said. I was taken aback. I was happy that she wasn’t indecisive. I didn’t think any of my immediate friends would want to march. The day of: I was running behind, The gypsy and NJ Transit buses were nowhere in sight to get me to NYC. I saw a young mom carrying a toddler. She must be off to go to the mall or visiting her parents, I thought. NOPE! Was I wrong. And, I loved that I was. “Look! Baby.” She said to her daughter after glancing at the two signs I was holding. “She’s marching too!” This warm feeling swept over me. I couldn’t believe that this mom and I had the same cause in common.
As I fast-walked through from West-to-East on 42nd Street, I halted. There it was. My first glimpse of all these different people coming together as one to protest our causes: Women’s Reproductive Rights, Human Rights, Equality for All, Embracing Diversity, The Future of America.
We are at a standstill on 42nd and 2nd Avenue. So many people had amassed in that central location that no one could really move. Streets were closed off. “This is a conspiracy!” I thought. “Why aren’t I getting any service?” “Trump’s people are behind this.” We stood there for over 3 hours before the march actually started. “What is going on?” “My feet hurt and I haven’t gone anywhere yet, Uggh!” My thoughts were getting to me. “Stop being a wuss!” “You have to find Sandra.” Sandra’s was coming from Queens and there was lots of construction going with the trains. Sandra and I finally met up and we started marching. I couldn’t express at how elated I felt that I was part of something so much bigger than myself, the marchers around me, New York, Hell! the world.
I had been interacting with teens, men, women in their 60s and 70s of various ethnicities being friendly to one another, courteous, singing and chanting alongside one another. We marched all the way up to 55th and 5th Avenue; 2 blocks shy of Trump Towers. I was disappointed at first that the cops had barricaded the streets, but then remembered what the march was about and how many people from different walks of life and age groups came out to protest for what they believe in. What a beautiful day!