Why Kendall Jenner’s New Tequila Has The Internet Seeing Red

Despite the massive success that the Jenner/Kardashian family have accrued due to their myriad business and entrepreneurial ventures, they just cannot seem to avoid controversy. The youngest sisters of the group, Kendall and Kylie Jenner, have become undeniable business moguls, with Kylie even being deemed the youngest self-made billionaire (via Forbes). However, they have both come under fire for racially insensitive decisions, plagiarism, and cultural appropriation — but this time, the attention is all on Kendall Jenner.

The 25-year-old model is still buzzing over the excitement and success of the release of her brand new tequila company, 818 Tequila, which anonymously won over alcohol connoisseurs in 2020. After allegedly “four years” of work on the drink to make it the “best tasting tequila” on the market, it won award after award in a variety of tasting competitions, with Kendall having submitted it for consideration anonymously.

Despite her friends and supporters loving the drink and allegedly it being “all [they’ve] been drinking for the last year,” however, not everyone is thrilled by the company’s success, especially those within the LatinX and Mexican community (via The Daily Mail).

Here's why Kendall Jenner's new tequila is textbook cultural appropriation

Despite tequila being the drink of choice for countless college students and Jimmy Buffet diehards, tequila is actually the intellectual property of Mexican and LatinX communities (via Liquor.com). The Atlantic wrote a comprehensive explanation about how tequila is one of the most commonly appropriated liquors, reductively making its way from “Mexican farms to American frats.” 

Author Chantal Martineau writes, “Tequila, in other words, is a spirit protected for its cultural significance, but its very culture is not what it was just a few decades ago.” She explains that the liquor has been glamorized by Hollywood and the image of charros (Mexican cowboys) sipping on shots of the clear liquid, but was simultaneously viewed as a relatively unsophisticated spirit consumed by outlaws. Flash forward to now, and you can spot tequila being ordered “in chic restaurants and lauded by celebrities and politicians.”

To put it frankly? White people liked tequila’s culture, adopted it as their own, and yet experienced none of the societal backlash Mexicans and LatinX people endured, which is cultural appropriation at its core.

Kendall Jenner is a symptom of a society that capitalizes on cultural appropriation

It’s fair to assume that Kendall Jenner had no malicious intent behind her new tequila business, as cultural appropriation often occurs from a lack of knowledge or information about a certain culture. Indeed, she represents a symptom of societal trends that punish Black and brown people for certain actions, yet celebrate white people for those same factors. Thus, while Kendall may be in hot water this time, that does not excuse the many other celebrities who have flourished in the exact same industry that Kendall is being punished for being in, such as George Clooney, The Chainsmokers, and of course, Mr. Margaritaville himself, Jimmy Buffet (via ABCFWS).

It appears that Kendall was pinpointed, in particular, because of a few problematic photos she shared of her work on 818. In a celebratory post, Kendall shared a series of behind-the-scenes photos, one of which showed field images of Kendall with local farmers in Mexico. One person criticized her in the comments of the photo for not publicly recognizing those who worked on making the drink. “Damn at least thank the Mexican farmers, distillers whose craft and heritage you’re appropriating,” they wrote (via Insider).

One Twitter user explained the misstep well with her tweet that reads, “Something about Kendall Jenner making tequila rubs me the wrong way. Like the idea of white celebrities taking from local Mexican artisans and profiting off our traditions and agricultural business yet only visit Cabos and Puerto Vallarta for vacation spots…” Spot on assessment.

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