by Yanan Wang
Originally published: April 6, 2016
The ad for Gap’s latest collaboration with Ellen DeGeneres is awash with pleasing blue hues, from the kid models’ navy outfits to the talk show host’s denim jacket.
But the shades that really caught people’s attention were on the children’s skin. The commercial’s stars were three white girls and a black girl.
That, in itself, wasn’t a problem. In the days following the campaign’s launch last week, what drew ire from commentators online was the seeming passivity of the African American girl. While the other girls eagerly fielded DeGeneres’s questions about their troupe “Le Petite Cirque,” she sat silent. While the white girls were highlighted performing solo acrobatic tricks, she seemed to appear only in reference to the others — balancing on someone’s knees or with her arm wrapped around someone’s waist.
At least, this was the interpretation of those who were angered by the ad. And they were angered, most of all, by a photograph that showed the white girls standing in all manner of complex poses while the black girl’s arms dangled idly at her sides, her head a cushion upon which another white girl rested an elbow.