IT’S OFFICIALLY that time of the year. Classic Christmas songs are playing on loop in every shop and restaurant we enter. Xmas deals on our favourite online shopping sites are aplenty, and we’re beginning to see the roll out of highly anticipated Christmas adverts – arguably the biggest sign that our favourite holiday of the year is approaching.
Traditionally, the Christmas advert has always created a sense of belonging. Whether playing on the importance of family, friendship or childhood, we are often drawn into brands capitalist web, as adverts tug at our hearts and purse strings.
One of the most recent Christmas adverts to make its debut was from streetwear retail company JD Sports. While their Christmas adverts never exactly evoke a sentimental feeling, they do have the ability to engage with social audiences, often gathering a who’s who of British urban culture to front their festive campaigns – and they kept that theme going for 2019.
From Stefflon Don to Maya Jama, Anne-Marie and Mabel, the JD team gathered their famous friends to feature in their latest Christmas offering, but there was a severe lack of representation of dark-skinned black women – something which often remains the same when the festive season is in full swing.
The 40 second advert featured dark-skinned black men including Michael Dapaah, Bugzy Malone and Wilifred Zaha, but black women weren’t afforded such representation – well, beyond the one dark-skinned backing dancer behind Mabel.
In today’s society, black people are far more vocal about the lack of diversity exhibited in public spaces then ever before. We’re far less likely to mindlessly watch these images on our screens and accept them for what they are, and instead, we’re noticing these abnormalities and calling it for what it is.
While we are beginning to see more representation of black women in the media, examples like this prove that we are barely acknowledged in the boardrooms of some of the biggest retailers, who also cater to the very people their advertising campaigns ignore.
In the rollout of Christmas adverts so far, from Lidl and TKMaxx to Boots, whiteness has still been placed at the centre of it all. The least that can be expected is that a streetwear company which plays largely off of black culture, could incorporate black women into their creative concepts – especially with the amount of options out there.
From Leomie Anderson and Dina Asher-Smith to Nadia Rose and Ms Banks, there are a plethora of dark-skinned black women in positions of prominence and influence who would have made a great fit for this advert and provided representation for little black girls which is sorely needed.
As a streetwear brand, the exclusion of dark-skinned black women shares an even more worrying message, at a time where everything from our style to our hair is replicated, repackaged and sold to “mainstream” audiences, without our inclusion.
Streetwear brands will often have white and racially ambiguous women rocking baby hairs and bamboo earrings, plastered across their stores nationally, but won’t include the very women who created this aesthetic.
The invisibility of black women is important to acknowledge because we are key to the urban British culture that brands feed into and capitalise on.
The influence of advertising can alter what consumers think and feel. For most black women, they aren’t thought of at all, and if those like myself aren’t in positions to speak about it on a large platform, then who is?
As people up and down the country watch Christmas adverts whilst seeing themselves reflected in any and every festive scenario conjured up, I want dark-skinned black women to know our attributes and aesthetic is not just for consumption when posed on a lighter hue.
We must continue to call out these atrocities and not feel a need to pacify them. We deserve to be represented and to see ourselves not just in the mix, but standing front and centre alongside our dark-skinned male counterparts.