*“Annie” may be an African American orphan in movie theaters this holiday season, but the character remains white in an “Annie”-themed ad campaign at Target…and some consumers are finding that offensive.
An online petition launched Monday calling for the chain store to remove the ads and apologize to “Annie” star Quvenzhané Wallis. By Wednesday morning, it had amassed more than 10,000 signatures.
Target, which began promoting its two-month “Annie”-themed collection in early November, is calling the outrage a “misperception” of the message.
“Girls from a variety of backgrounds were featured within the campaign, reflecting that anyone can embody the spirit and character of Annie,” the company said in a statement.
Target originally courted Wallis to model in the campaign, but did not reach an agreement with her, Target said. Instead, both Wallis and co-star Jamie Foxx consulted the Minneapolis-based retailer on the campaign and appeared at both Target’s September sales meeting and at a launch event for the collection in New York City in November.
That wasn’t enough for some who felt the ads for the collection, which is now on clearance racks, focused too heavily on the white model, the only one photographed wearing Annie’s iconic red dress. The campaign materials did feature at least one non-white model: In one promotional photo, a girl of color in a pink skirt was pictured leaning against a bespectacled white girl.
“If you think about the red dress and locket, that’s synonymous with Annie,” LaSean Rinique Shelton, the Delaware-based motivational speaker who started the petition on Change.org, told HuffPost.
She said that, even if Target couldn’t have booked Wallis for the photo shoot, the company should have found a way to make the campaign more diverse.
“It shouldn’t just be one Caucasian model, who was very beautiful, but was not the face of Annie,” she said.
In a video commercial, a diverse trio of little girls wear red dresses as they skip down a city sidewalk. But that ad was not included in the in-store promotions shoppers saw in Target.
Meanwhile, Target seemed to go against its diversity claim in a YouTube video that “celebrates” the Annie collection. It featured lots of little girls wearing pieces from the collection and learning dance routines from the film’s choreographer. There didn’t appear to be any black girls among them.