Three employees of color at an Old Navy in Center City, Philadelphia, claims the clothing retailer bussed in white workers for a taping of Queer Eye.
The allegations began last Wednesday (August 21) when Monae Alvarado, an employee of the clothing retailer, posted on Facebook about what she experienced at the store that day.
Alvarado, who is Cambodian, says two other store employees of color were present that day and 10 white Old Navy employees from other locations were bussed in to participate in the taping of the Queer Eye segment.
“I was told to go to the back of the store by [Old Navy managers] involved with the production,” Alvarado told Philadelphia magazine. “About six of my fellow co-workers were there, and we were shooed away from the camera as they filmed with these outside employees, who came from West Chester, Mount Pocono, and New Jersey. It immediately seemed odd to me that they were being used to tape at our store location when we already have a diverse group of workers who had been preparing for Queer Eye to come for nearly a week.”
One of the other Old Navy employees of color, who wants to remain anonymous, told the magazine that they had worked overtime to make the store look perfect for the shoot.
“Most of us worked additional overnights to make the store look top-notch. Corporate brought in new clothes, signs, and repainted parts of the store. We had to hide all tags under clothes and fold everything a certain way to make the place look spotless,” they said. “We were under the impression from our managers that we would be filmed and to remain professional. I was super-excited up until the day of and a random group of white folks came in to replace us at our own store.”
“I felt the racism the moment I was being told by managers to go to sections of the store that I usually don’t work around,” the third employee of color said. “It became clear that we weren’t going to be filmed because we hadn’t been asked to sign consent forms, and they made it a point to keep us as far away from the cameras as possible. Most of the staff and managers at our store location are Black.”
Since the allegations have hit social media, a spokesperson for Old Navy’s corporate office denied white people were bussed in for the shoot.
“At Old Navy, we celebrate the diversity of our teams and our customers and foster an environment of inclusion and belonging. We were proud to work with The Queer Eye show to film at our store in Philadelphia and to feature our local store manager on camera,” the statement reads, according to Philadelphia magazine. “We also worked with additional employees in the area to help ensure the store ran seamlessly for customers, as the location was open for business during filming, and we expect they may appear in background shots. These individuals are reflective of our diverse employee population. We would never select employees to participate – or not – based on race. That is completely inaccurate and against the values we stand for as a company.”
Philadelphia Magazine reports that neither Netflix nor the show’s producers gave any direction to Old Navy about who should be included in the segment. Cast member Tan France responded to the allegations with a comment on Facebook.
“I don’t know what happened behind the scenes, or overnight, but what I can tell you is that there [is] no way I would ever have allowed production to move POC to the back,” he wrote. “I should also mention that I had one person join me on camera, from Old Navy. She was African American. This is the last I will say on this matter.”
Regardless, social media was outraged. See what some people had to say below.
Good Morning. Old Navy filmed an episode of "Queer Eye" in a store predominantly populated by Black and Brown people. They bussed in white folks and sent the store's employees to the back of the store away from the cameras.— Hassan Sayyed (@HausUrban) August 28, 2019
Karamo will say it's fake. Ya'll know what it is. https://t.co/c66v8zqKJ9
this is a BIG OL' YIKES https://t.co/ywV1lVbxiv— Kevin O'Keeffe (@kevinpokeeffe) August 28, 2019
Wow. So many sad things about Old Navy and Queer Eye. But also, not entirely surprised. https://t.co/MWulAEzkpC— Jessica Smith (@snazzyjess) August 28, 2019
When Old Navy does something racist pic.twitter.com/pXZ8Uywxsa— Eric 🏁 (@eric_leap) August 28, 2019
*Black & brown @OldNavy workers prep the store for a @QueerEye taping*@OldNavy & @QueerEye to Black & brown workers day of taping: YOU THOUGHT! SCURRY TO THE BACK. WE ONLY RECORD THE YTs HERE & OUR KARAMO TOKEN.https://t.co/n21kyOLWqL— social m̶e̶d̶i̶a̶ justice manager (@MiQL) August 27, 2019
Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images