For months now, the controversial Pepsi ad featuring Kendall Jenner has been causing debate on both sides of the spectrum. The commercial, which has been labeled as offensive, trivial and opportunistic, depicted a protest being quelled thanks to a can of soda. And, unsurprisingly, Pepsi has since pulled the ad and apologized.
However, one person has remained very tight-lipped about the whole furor: its star, Kendall Jenner. At long last, though, the 21-year-old reality TV star has responded to the controversy. And her take on the matter may raise a few eyebrows…
That ad and the ensuing fallout doesn’t mark the first time that a Kardashian or Jenner family member has been in hot water, though. Thanks in part to their relationship scandals and outré photoshoots, few modern-day pop culture figures can hold a candle to Kim, Khloé, Kourtney and their sisters when it comes to generating furor.
And let’s face it, part of their success stems from their wild antics. Even before E! first aired Keeping Up with the Kardashians in 2007, Kim Kardashian already had her own sex tape with ex-boyfriend Ray J surface. Indeed, that seemed to be the beginning of all the hubbub that now surrounds the socialite.
And in the ten years following its debut, Keeping Up with the Kardashians has shone a bright light onto virtually every aspect of the family’s personal and professional lives. Whatever they have left to reveal, moreover, is often displayed on their social media channels. But Twitter, too, can be a lightning rod for Kardashian scandal. On there, for instance, Kim received a backlash for defending the beauty vlogger Jeffree Star, who has been accused of making racist comments in the past.
But lately, it’s the younger Jenner girls who’ve been outdoing their older siblings when it comes to controversy. Indeed, ever since Kendall and Kylie became more prominent figures in the family tree, they’ve been ruffling feathers in the fashion world and beyond.
Some of the more notable controversies surrounding them include Kendall Jenner’s see-through garb at a 2014 Marc Jacobs fashion show. Kendall and Kylie also drew criticism for texting during the Michael Brown tribute at the MTV VMAs that same year. And Kendall’s 2016 ballerina shoot for Vogue Spain similarly elicited ire – this time, from the dance community.
However, the outcry in response to any of those events arguably pales in comparison to that evoked by Kendall’s 2017 Pepsi ad. In it, the social media phenomenon can be seen handing a can of Pepsi to a police officer in the midst of a protest.
And after the commercial’s debut, it was quickly slammed by those who felt that it devalued and capitalized on the social tensions of recent times. In particular, it was argued that the protest’s seeming resemblance to those carried out by members of the Black Lives Matter movement saw it trivialize the issue of police brutality.
Some opposed to the ad thought, for instance, that Jenner’s actions in the ad were a clumsy attempt at emulating Ieshia Evans, who was arrested for standing her ground at the Baton Rouge Black Lives Matter protest in 2016. And a photo of that moment went on to go viral, so it’s unlikely that the Pepsi ad execs were unfamiliar with it.
But the commercial was not just panned by protestors and their pals. In fact, others were opposed to the ad for completely different reasons. For example, some conservatives suggested that it showed clear bias towards left-wing politics. It was even said that Pepsi was clearly in the camp of those rising up against the establishment, despite it being a huge corporation.
So, in a rare turn of events, the advertisement had both liberals and conservatives agreeing on its inappropriateness – something that arguably isn’t easy to achieve in the current political climate. However, amidst all of the turmoil, its main star remained silent… until now.
Finally, Kendall Jenner has broken her silence on the controversial advert. Indeed, after months of ignoring the backlash, she eventually opened up about it on the season 14 premiere of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. And she certainly seems to be hurt by all of the commotion.
Aired at the start of October 2017, the episode features a clearly broken-up Kendall contemplating her role in the ad. And when opening up about it, she begins, “When I first get this offer… I mean, it is a huge company.” She then adds, “The people I was following were so iconic and amazing. Michael Jackson has done it, Britney Spears has done it, Beyoncé, Pink – the list goes on.”
She goes on, “To get something like that, it was so exciting. I trusted everyone. I trusted the teams.” But it turned out that her faith had been somewhat misplaced. “After I saw the reaction, and read what people had to say about it, I most definitely saw what went wrong,” she explains. “I was so stuck and I really didn’t know what to do, so I completely shut down.”
Eventually, Kendall continues to speak while beginning to sob, fearing the impact that the scandal could have on her future endeavors. Tearfully, she then says, “I feel really bad that anyone was ever offended. I feel really bad that this was taken such a wrong way, and I feel like s**t.”
And Jenner continues, “I have no idea how I am going to bounce back from it. I don’t know what to do… I would never purposely hurt someone, ever, and if I knew that this was going to be the outcome then I would have never done something like this, but you don’t know when you are in the moment.”
Finally, an evidently distraught Jenner finishes her explanation by saying, “I just felt so f**king stupid. The fact that I would hurt or offend other people was not the intent, and that is what got me the most.” It’s worth noting, though, that Jenner has a support system that has been through this kind of controversy before.
Half-sister Kim knows all too well the feeling of being under scrutiny in the public eye, for instance. And, perhaps as a result, she had some harsh but fair things to say to her younger sibling. “This is your first real experience with something like this. This is going to be the biggest lesson learned,” Kim explains on the show. “It really sucks, but the only thing you can do is be real and honest.”
She adds, “You can’t ignore it. You can’t. It should affect you in a way that you learn from it and you grow from it. I just wish that you could see that there is light at the end of the tunnel.” Wise words from the reality television phenomenon.
Following the public outcry surrounding Kendall’s ad, though, Pepsi pulled it. And likely taken aback by the negative response the commercial received, the company, for its part, said sorry for the offending promo in a statement. That message began, “Pepsi was trying to project a global a message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark, and we apologize.”
It continued, “We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.” Let’s just hope, then, that the company’s next commercial is a little more tasteful…