Forever 21 Slammed for Advertising Black Panther-Inspired ‘Wakanda’ Sweater Using a White Model

Fast fashion behemoth Forever 21 is being called out for advertising a holiday sweater inspired by the film Black Panther by using a white model.

In the image, which was shared and then deleted on Forever 21’s Twitter account and on its website, a white male model with platinum blonde hair sported a purple, yellow and orange sweater with a design that featured the words “Wakanda Forever” and a black panther logo. Wakanda is the fictional African nation in Marvel’s Black Panther.

As might be expected, many were outraged by the use of a white model for a product that was seemingly inspired by a movie that not only celebrated the African experience but explicitly addressed Western colonization.

The Internet sounded off about how they felt about the matter.

In a statement to the Daily Dot, Forever 21 addressed the incident: “Forever 21 takes concerns on our products and marketing extremely seriously. While we celebrate all superheroes with many different models of various ethnicities, we listened to the important feedback from our customers and removed the product photo in question from our website and social media accounts. We sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by the product photo.”

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Write to Cady Lang at [email protected]

There’s no doubt that Marvel’s Black Panther—the second mainstream superhero movie featuring a black hero—was monumental for black America and was a celebration of black excellence. So when Forever 21 decided to use a white model to sell a “Wakanda Forever” sweater, people were understandably upset.

Here’s a photo of the model wearing a sweater with a slogan for the fictional Sub-Saharan African country of Wakanda, the home of the Black Panther.

Forever 21

After the company tweeted a link with a picture of the model, Twitter was quick to tell them it was incredibly tone-deaf.

How tone deaf do you have to be to choose this model for that sweater? Do better white people!

— So tired (@Iammo_25) December 18, 2018

Wakanda bullshit is this, @Forever21? pic.twitter.com/S4ZVryPXWB

— Frederick Joseph (@FredTJoseph) December 18, 2018

Of course, there are some people who think there’s nothing wrong with using a white model to sell the sweater. Plus, some were way more upset because they didn’t like the design. One user wrote, “It’s dope that after years of black kids wearing Superman and a host of white heroes, a black hero is right there in the mix.”

Soooooo…it doesn’t bother me that a white person is wearing that Wakanda Forever sweater. I think it’s dope that after years of black kids wearing superman and a host of white heroes, a black hero is right there in the mix.

— Melanie Dione (@themelaniedione) December 19, 2018

It bothers me that the sweater is ugly AF. And I know it’s an ugly sweater, but what are those colors? A black, purple, and gold combo would have been just fine.

— Melanie Dione (@themelaniedione) December 19, 2018

Forever 21 clearly heard about the controversy because it has since issued an apology. As the clothing company of your high school days removed the photo from its site, it issued a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. The brand said, “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 any way.”

Related Story Shannon Barbour News Writer Shannon is a news writer at Cosmopolitan.com, and when she’s not obsessing about Cardi B, she’s thinking about Justin Bieber and still trying to memorize Beyoncé’s Beychella choreography.

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