Creators slam brands for tokenism plus ‘insulting’ lack of diversity and inclusivity at events and on press trips

Posted by Caroline Edwards in Comment

9 months ago

Creators have been calling out brands for the lack of diversity and inclusion across campaigns, press trips and events for years. It’s not a new phenomenon, but despite brands vowing to be better during the peak of the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, still little has changed.

Not only has there not been significant and sustained improvement to note, some influencers are saying brands have actually taken a backwards step.

Beauty creator Gary Thompson asked on Threads last week: “Is it me or have we got back to 2019 I’m seeing events and PR trips with no inclusivity! No boys, No POC, just straight up copy and paste.” Thompson’s question received a wave of replies from creators all noticing the same issue. Fellow beauty creator Danny Defreitas added: “With even more amazing new creators why is there no diversity whatsoever. We’re taking steps back.”

This year, brands such as Mango and Tarte’s press trips have come under fire. Mango’s trip to promote its Simon Miller collaboration in May was called out for its guest list. Author Otegha Uwagba criticised the brand and learned on a phone call: “There were around 60 guests invited by Mango to be part of this trip. Of that number one was a mixed race journalist, one was an Asian influencer, and the other 58 were white.”

In a LinkedIn post, SevenSix Agency founder Charlotte Stavrou explained: “[Uwagba] was told that ‘one single event shouldn’t be taken as representative of Mango’s overall ethos and values’. This is something that I just don’t agree with. By not seeing this as an issue it highlights that there isn’t a strong enough inclusive marketing strategy implemented which means there is probably a lack of understanding why this event is a problem.”

In the case of Tarte, the beauty brand’s numerous press trips have made headlines this year for the wrong reasons. According to TIME, only 7% of creators on its January trip to Dubai were Black. More recently, TikToker Cynthia Victor shared she was given a smaller room and had a shorter amount of time on the Turks and Caicos #TarteIsland press trip than some other creators.

In a video posted in May sharing her thoughts on the trip, she did applaud Tarte founder Maureen Kelly for taking onboard the criticism the brand received on its previous brand trip by creating more inclusive products and inviting more people on the trip to make it more diverse but noted there is still much to be done.

That’s not all – Tarte’s May Formula One Miami Grand Prix trip was also slammed. In a now-deleted video, creator Bria Jones shared she would not attend the event after she learned her itinerary was shorter than the other creators who were going on the trip. In the case of Jones, this was reported to be due to miscommunication with the brand, and the issue was resolved.

Off the back of the discourse of the Tarte trip, beauty influencers May Tahmina Akhtar and Wendy Asumadu criticised brands which invite creators of colour as an afterthought. As their caption stated: “We wanted to speak on how non-white creators, especially those who are black and dark skinned, are constantly erased from these spaces or added on last minute.”

‘It’s tokenism and hugely insulting’

Meanwhile, in early July lifestyle creator and author Stephanie Yeboah took to Threads to explain: “I can’t begin to tell you the conversations we’ve all had regarding the sheer lack of follow through from brands. Brands have started organising their ‘All White’ press trips, with a couple of people of colour sprinkled in for seasoning.”

Lifestyle blogger Kirsty Merrett shared similar thoughts in her June tweet. “Is it just me who is seeing press trips and events with less and less diversity?!” In a follow-up tweet she said: “I’m seeing slim, white, blonde, able bodied women in their mid twenties and that is IT!”

Brands need to up their game and be inclusive across their influencer work. Pay creators equally, don’t ask influencers to work for free and ensure your campaigns, events and PR trips are wholly inclusive.

Some food for thought? As Yeboah put it: “When [brands] only work with and invite white influencers, it sends a message to your audience that you only cater to white people. It sends a message to your Black audience/content creators and POC that we aren’t wanted, [or] worthy of being associated with your brand. Inviting one or two non-white people to things is not inclusive. It isn’t diverse and it isn’t groundbreaking. It’s tokenism and hugely insulting. Hire more non-white people in your teams.”

By Caroline Edwards, CORQ news and features writer.