John Boyega has resigned as the Brand Ambassador for Jo Malone, a perfume brand, after he was replaced in an ad for the Chinese market.
The actor, best known for the films Attack the Block and the Star Wars sequel trilogy, was furious at the change, especially since the concept was developed by Boyega and was personal to his experience.
You can see the original ad below.
We are thrilled to announce that our Jo Malone London Gent film featuring @JohnBoyega is the proud winner of The Fr… https://t.co/Vcd4GaIqp0— Jo Malone London (@Jo Malone London)1598551234.0
Boyega made the announcement about his departure in a series of tweets.
I have decided to step down as Jo Malone's global ambassador. When I joined the brand as their first male global am… https://t.co/DA1YWgRMA8— John Boyega (@John Boyega)1600123489.0
Their decision to replace my campaign in China by using my concepts and substituting a local brand ambassador for m… https://t.co/JrgpGjvMgH— John Boyega (@John Boyega)1600123489.0
While many brands understandably use a variety of global and local ambassadors , dismissively trading out one’s cul… https://t.co/yen5YHGUVK— John Boyega (@John Boyega)1600123490.0
It’s back to back but I assure you this will be dealt with swiftly. I don’t have time for nonsense. We press on and… https://t.co/IjBVyRe7UY— John Boyega (@John Boyega)1600123490.0
The ad in question was conceived and directed by Boyega.
In it, he remembers and celebrates his hometown of Peckham and even features his real life family and friends. However, when the ad was modified for China, it was recreated using Boyega's original concept with Chinese actor Liu Haoran.
The format remained the same but removed any reference to Boyega, or any Black people in general. All this was done without first consulting Boyega.
And it's not like they can declare it a misunderstanding—it's incredibly blatant.
Boyega's actions had an immediate effect, as parent company Estée Lauder pulled the campaign from China very quickly.
Crazy racism from Jo Malone. Not only did they replace @JohnBoyega, they ripped off his creative ideas and reshot h… https://t.co/n0epZ28h6t— Phantom Power (@Phantom Power)1600080629.0
@_AdrianWright @ajplus That's a good point, which suggests they anticipated @JohnBoyega's response and counted on i… https://t.co/E3apxkqped— Sparklecreek (@Sparklecreek)1600203249.0
Wow shame on Jo Malone for appealing to anti-Blackness https://t.co/FALLVfXr7l— ZeBigDragon Says #SaveSheikhJarrah ✝️🧋🏳️🌈🏴🐉 (@ZeBigDragon Says #SaveSheikhJarrah ✝️🧋🏳️🌈🏴🐉)1600224191.0
A spokesperson for Jo Malone assured the public they are taking this very seriously.
They told The Hollywood Reporter:
"We deeply apologize for what, on our end, was a mistake in the local execution of the John Boyega campaign. John is a tremendous artist with great personal vision and direction."
"The concept for the film was based on John's personal experiences and should not have been replicated."
They also apologized to Haoran, who was unaware of the genesis of his ad.
This isn't the first time Boyega has been the subject of racism in advertisement. In 2015, Chinese posters for Star Wars: The Force Awakens were edited to reduce the prominence of the actor, as well as entirely remove other non-white actors.
You'd think with that history, ad companies would be more careful.
John Boyega deserve so much more than he's getting. Just look at this. Is China the new capital of racism? https://t.co/doMnrJfsgS— 𝔻𝕒𝕪𝕠 📸 (@𝔻𝕒𝕪𝕠 📸)1600150277.0
THEY STOLE HIS CREATIVE IDEA, HIS STORY AAND PASSED IT OFF TO A "LOCAL BRAND AMBASSADOR". DISGUSTING! https://t.co/01FpB1tyw2— Grandmaster Moh (@Grandmaster Moh)1600152242.0
Bad move @JoMaloneLondon. As someone who has an extensive collection of fragrances and likes niche and boutique f… https://t.co/Wv1Cg5Zogw— 👌Juggy McGhee *Boop/Bop/Beep* ❄️ (@👌Juggy McGhee *Boop/Bop/Beep* ❄️)1600203173.0
While people online continue to call out Jo Malone for their actions, we can hope this serves as a reminder they won't soon forget.
We'll watch with interest what Boyega chooses to do next.