The KarJenner clan of Keeping Up with the Kardashians fame might be among the most enterprising of celebrity families and always seem to be adding new gigs to their already extensive list of side hustles. Kendall Jenner is no exception to this, with her impressive modeling career and multiple forays into the fashion world. While Kendall’s past career ventures have been met with acceptance and even praised as industrious, it seems that the reality TV and social media superstar has finally found something she can’t do. The announcement of her newly-launched tequila brand, 818, has been met with widespread backlash and criticism.
While Kendall has very much referred to 818 as the result of labor of love, touting the four years she spent on developing the tequila and ensuring its taste would be top-notch, her announcement of the project has not been without controversy. Fans have taken to social media to criticize the tequila brand as an insensitive example of cultural appropriation, claiming that Kendall Jenner is yet another privileged white person using another country’s culture to make money without giving anything back to the people she is profiting from. Given Kendall’s less-than-stellar track record of addressing past race-related controversies, owing mainly to her now infamous Pepsi ad, no one is holding their breath for Kendall to make a satisfying response to these claims.
For as many people as there are upset by Kendall’s alleged cultural appropriation, there is an equal amount of people who don’t understand what the big deal is. Many have called into question the seemingly selective outrage people wield against the KarJenners, pointing out that other celebrities with similarly branded tequila lines—such as Nick Jonas and George Clooney—have never received the same kind of criticism for doing the same thing. Others have argued that white Americans in general investing in tequila shouldn’t be a big deal since the drink has become such a mainstay in mainstream American drinking culture.
Some have taken a more neutral approach on the matter, maintaining that only time will tell if Kendall’s brand is the latest example of white American celebrities appropriating the cultures of others. If Kendall ultimately uses the brand and her platform to pay homage to and help advertise authentic Mexican tequila brands, then the cultural appropriation complaints should be a moot argument, they argue. On the other hand, if Kendall is merely using this as a PR ploy to boost her profile and add another couple of zeros to her bank account, then the criticisms will be legitimized. It’s the difference between doing something purely for attention and in self-interest, versus doing it out of real passion and love.
Whether or not there is credence to the cultural appropriation claims is besides the point when the explosive controversy around the brand has eclipsed everything else about it. With such a strong public outcry, it would seem almost insensitive for Kendall to not address the popular criticisms of 818 in some capacity. Given how frequently the women on Keeping Up with the Kardashians have been called out for appropriative behaviors in the past, this could spark a larger conversation about the KarJenners and the way they tend to ignore and brush off criticisms of this nature.