Spike Lee Talks Controversial Kendall Jenner Pepsi Ad, Oscars Diversity

Director Spike Lee shares his thoughts on the controversial Pepsi ad with Kendall Jenner, pointing to the lack of diversity at the company as one of the reasons the tone-deaf ad made it online.

“When you deal with diversity and you don’t have anybody in the room who looks like what you’re trying to do, then you have a fiasco like the Pepsi spot,” Lee tells Variety during the Cannes Lion advertising conference.

“It was horrible,” he says of the ad that saw Pepsi attempt to capitalize on the Black Lives Matter and protest movements. The ad culminated with Jenner handing a police officer at a protest a Pepsi, seemingly putting an end to strife with the soft drink and a smile. “The pregnant woman in Seattle got shot the other day. Philando [Castile], the whole world saw him get killed on Facebook, and the cop walked, and Pepsi did something like [that]. Don’t get me started. That was a complete appropriation of Black Lives Matter, and Black Lives Matter is not a joke. Black people getting shot down left and right, and cops are walking and they are going to make a commercial out of that?”

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For Lee, companies should strive to have a more diverse workforce not only to avoid disaster like Jenner’s Pepsi ad, but to grow profits.

“There’s been several studies that show the more diverse your business is, the more profitable it is,” he explains. “You’d think that would be the number one incentive.”

Lee also discusses #OscarsSoWhite, another hot-button issue, during his sit-down with Variety.

“Every 10 years, black people win a lot of Oscars. And then we read articles in Variety magazine and others, the black audience has been discovered,” he explains. “It’s a renaissance then there’s another nine years of drought. It should be constant.”

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The “Do The Right Thing” director says the more diverse group of nominees and winners, Viola Davis and Mahershala Ali, at this year’s Oscars were a result of the outcry over the #OscarsSoWhite controversy the year prior, insinuating the inclusive trend wouldn’t continue.

“I will put my money on this. The reason why what happened at the Oscars this year was because the year before was #OscarsSoWhite. That was a bad look for the Academy,” says Lee. “And they had to switch up, get more inclusion, get more people, try to get more diversity among the voting members. But what happened this past Oscars, you think that’s going to happen [next] year?”

 

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