Pop/R&B superstar The Weeknd is one of many celebrities who took offense to a new H&M ad, which features a young black child model in a green hoodie that reads “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle.”
The “Starboy” hitmaker was so pissed off by the controversial ad that he severed ties with clothing retailer. He tweeted on Monday, “Woke up this morning shocked and embarrassed by this photo. I’m deeply offended and will not be working with H&M anymore.”
— The Weeknd (@theweeknd) January 8, 2018
The Weeknd – real name Abel Tesfaye – began his association with H&M in 2017, modeling in ad campaigns and collaborating on pieces for his XO brand.
Backlash over the photo spread on social media, with various media figures calling out the ad as racially insensitive. “I’m sure the apologies are a coming,” Questlove wrote on Instagram. “And the ads will be pulled. I’m certain there will Be media fixers and whatnot and maybe a grand gesture like a donation to some charity (donations under these circumstances are the corporate version #SomeOfMyBestFriendsAre move if there ever was one) all this tells me about @HM is that the seats in the boardroom lack something…wanna take a guess?”
Nelly also weighed in, posting a side-by-side photo of the black model next to a white model. “Soooooooooo one survival expert and one is a monkey …with out reading the shirt which is which..?? WTF…???!!!!!” he wrote. “DAMM H&M YOU DO KNOW ITS 2018 right…”
H&M quickly addressed the controversy in a statement: “We sincerely apologize for offending people with this image,” the company told USA Today. “The image has been removed from all online channels and the product will not be for sale in the United States. We believe in diversity and inclusion in all that we do and will be reviewing all our internal policies accordingly to avoid any future issues.”
The company reiterated their apology in a statement issued to Pitchfork, writing, “We understand that many people are upset about the image. We, who work at H&M, can only agree. We are deeply sorry that the picture was taken, and we also regret the actual print. Therefore, we have not only removed the image from our channels, but also the garment from our product offering globally. It is obvious that our routines have not been followed properly. This is without any doubt. We will thoroughly investigate why this happened to prevent this type of mistake from happening again.”