Forever 21 Face Backlash After Using White Model To Show ‘Black Panther’ Sweater

On Tuesday the internet went crazy when fashion retailer Forever 21 tried to advertise their Black Panther Christmas sweater — which reads “Wakanda Forever” complete with the Black Panther’s mask adorning it — with possibly the whitest guy they could find modeling it. People quickly responded to what many consider to be whitewashing, pointing out how the company could easily have chosen a black model for the job.

As reported by Comic Book, both the Marvel film and the comic books it is based on feature a black character in the lead role, with the majority of the main characters also being black, given the story is based in central Africa in an uncolonized territory. The entire story is about black empowerment and higher knowledge.

While the film was a hit among people of all races, genders, and identities, it seems a bizarre choice by Forever 21 to make the conscious decision to use a white model with ice-blonde hair and blue eyes to model the item. Particularly given that there are other items on their website being worn by black models — including a black sweater with a yellow Black Panther helmet on it — showing they certainly have less controversial choices available to be modeling their clothing.

The company tried to promote the sweater in a now-deleted tweet, which started off the controversy.

Forever 21 has since responded to the backlash, removing the tweet from the social media site and the image of the model wearing the sweater from their website, after initially only deleting the tweet. At first, they simply redirected the link on their website to that of the black model wearing the black and yellow sweater instead, before completely removing the images.

The fashion retailer has also issued an official statement about the saga, according to a follow-up report by Comic Book.

“Forever 21 takes feedback on our products and marketing extremely seriously. We celebrate all superheroes with many different models of various ethnicities and apologize if the photo in question was offensive in anyway.”

Even though the images have been removed, the controversy has sparked a conversation about race again, as it’s not the first time that Black Panther merchandise has caused a stir this year. When a Black Panther collector’s pin hit the shelves at Disney theme parks earlier in 2018, T’Challa had noticeably lighter skin than one might accept from an African king.

On that occasion, it seemed as if the explanation was that there was “some sort of color variation potentially due to paint issues, though the issues may also have stemmed from lighting in photos of the item.”

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