Is Kendall Jenner Appropriating Culture (Again) With Her New Brand, 818 Tequila?

The Instagram ad opens for 818 Tequila. Kendall Jenner appears on a horse, her hair in two braids with a straw hat on her back. Interspersed are clips of an agave farm, where Jenner is seen caressing the horse. She pours a drink of 818 tequila, surrounded by Mexican workers who manage the brand’s agave. The camera pans along rows of the farm. 

Filmed in Jalisco, Mexico, where 818 Tequila is produced, Jenner seems at home with her 818 brand’s ad campaign. So, what’s the problem?

A lot. Here’s why Jenner is being accused of cultural appropriation (again).


What is Cultural Appropriation vs. Cultural Appreciation?

Cultural appropriation is controversial, mainly among those who understand that wearing significant cultural attire as a costume is inappropriate, and those who believe it’s simply appreciation of other cultures. We recently wrote an article on viewpoints from POC.

Greenheart, an organization which promotes “international education, environmental awareness, and citizen diplomacy” with a dedication to expanding worldviews, defines cultural appropriation as “simply taking one aspect of a culture that is not your own and using it for your own personal interest.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Equity & Inclusivity Committee (@milliken_eic)

An example of this: “purchasing a piece of jewelry or clothing that may have important cultural significance to that one culture, but simply using it as a fashion statement.

Cultural appreciation, on the other hand, is “when someone seeks to understand and learn about another culture in an effort to broaden their perspective and connect with others cross-culturally.” 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Jojo Diggs (@jojodiggs)

Jenner and the Infamous Pepsi Commercial 

Jenner has had her fair share of controversy. In the 2017 Pepsi commercial, Jenner hands a police officer a Pepsi can. As a result, the crowd cheers, and the officer smiles. Jenner was accused of borrowing imagery from (and therefore appropriating) the Black Lives Matter movement and undermining the struggles people — especially Black people — face when protesting.

The worst part: Jenner made no mention of it. It was as if it had never happened once the ad was pulled the next day. Instead of issuing an apology, looking to begin a conversation and understand where the rage was coming from – and therefore growing as a white person – she remained silent. Instead, Pepsi apologized to Jenner for putting her in this position. 

Only in an October episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians did Jenner acknowledge this, crying over the backlash. “Obviously, if I knew that this was going to be the outcome, I would have never done something like this,” she explains. “After I saw the reaction and I read what people had to say about it, I most definitely saw what went wrong.… The fact that I would offend or hurt other people was definitely not the intent.” She also said she felt “so fucking stupid.”

But she didn’t apologize. Instead, she wallowed in self-pity, not because of what she had done, but because of the response. It was a moment of self-obsession, worry about what this would do to her image – not what it would do to harm the Black Lives Matter movement. The ignorance was baffling.

Why Jenner is in Hot Water Now

Perhaps Jenner would have been given some slack for this misguided Instagram ad. Unfortunately, it only emphasizes that she has not learned from her past mistakes. While Pepsi pulled the ad and apologized, therefore taking the blame that Jenner did not, it’s hard to believe that she was unaware of what the 818 ad campaign would look like.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by 818 (@drink818)

And, again: instead of listening, the ad is still up on 818 Tequila’s Instagram a week later. On top of this, Jenner posted an Instagram of herself and Mexican farm workers on “set,” saying “what an incredible experience I have had thus far, learning about this beautiful place, it’s [sic] beautiful culture, and the beautiful people!”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Kendall (@kendalljenner)

It’s difficult to be surprised by the Kardashian-Jenner clan at this point, but as a celebrity with 166 million followers appropriating culture again, you would think Jenner would be more culturally aware, more dedicated to doing the complete opposite of what she’s done before. Though outlets have reached out to Jenner’s team, there has been no response. And Jenner has continued to post to Instagram; her most recent was from the launch party.

How Can You Appreciate Rather Than Appropriate?

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Culturally Speaking (@culturallyspeakingpodcast)

I’d like to think that Jenner is simply confused by the difference between appropriation and appreciation. But with all of her controversy, I cannot bring myself to defend her. So, if you’re wanting to be better than Jenner and learn how to appreciate, it’s not difficult to do a Google search. But consider these questions before diving into another culture: 

What is the purpose behind this?

Is this white-owned brand doing something that does not belong to their culture, such as henna at a music festival? If so, avoid this. A white-owned company is not celebrating culture by adding henna to a white person’s arm at a festival – it’s making it into a fashion statement.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Gabriel Gotaway (@heygotaway)

Is this attire culturally significant?

Is this article of clothing/jewelry significant to a culture? One of the most common appropriations is Native American headdresses. Headdresses are extremely significant to different tribes, with some earned or used to indicate victory. Headdresses at a costume party make light of this significance, turning it into a costume rather than an honor.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by SCHS Against Racism (@schsagainstracism)

Is this attire respectful?

Is your garment showing respect? A great example of this is Angelina Jolie in Pakistan. Rather than wear her usual attire, she wore a hijab as a sign of respect toward their culture. Wearing other garments may be seen as disrespectful. 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by All that Base (@allthatbase_)

Jenner could certainly benefit from learning the above in order to appreciate her tequila, rather than appropriate it. Unfortunately, it appears that she is set in her ways – and her platform will only continue to allow her to engage in appropriation.


What do you think about Kendall Jenner’s tequila brand? Is she appropriating? Let us know below.

Read Up On More Social Issues:

Are You Cultural Appropriating Or Appreciating? POC Share Their Insight On This Issue

Is This A Microaggression? Here’s How To Build Awareness

Join the Conversation