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Gap Apologizes For Kids Ad Controversy, Swaps Image

A photo used as part of the brand’s collaboration with Ellen Degeneres was criticized for being racially insensitive.

Over the weekend, Gap launched its latest collaboration with Ellen Degeneres’ lifestyle brand ED, featuring ads starring a dance group of young girls called Le Petit Cirque. The members of the group, aged eight to 12, were three Caucasian girls and one African-American girl. In one of the photos, the eldest girl is seen resting her arm on top of the younger African-American girl’s head, and many on social media took exception to the image.

The Root’s Kirsten West Savali wrote, “While all of the girls are adorable and, indeed, all of them should grow up to be and do anything, it becomes problematic when the black child is positioned to be a white child’s prop.”

On Monday afternoon, Gap spokesperson Debbie Felix issued a statement to Co.Create. “As a brand with a proud 46-year history of championing diversity and inclusivity, we appreciate the conversation that has taken place and are sorry to anyone we’ve offended. This GapKids campaign highlights true stories of talented girls who are celebrating creative self-expression and sharing their messages of empowerment. We are replacing the image with a different shot from the campaign, which encourages girls (and boys) everywhere to be themselves and feel pride in what makes them unique.”

It’s the right move in an unfortunate and complicated situation. As filmmaker Matthew A. Cherry pointed out, it’s not the first time a child has been used as a armrest in a Gap ad.

Further, it turns out the two girls in the controversial pose are adopted sisters. Their mother is actor Brooke Smith (Ray Donovan, Grey’s Anatomy), who also went public on social media to provide some context.

The campaign follows last year’s popular spotlight on the Pink Helmet Posse, a group of young girl skateboarders.

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor and writer with Co.Create. He's a former staffer at Advertising Age, Creativity and Canadian Business magazine.

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