Commentary: Target’s Big Problem With Annie

Annie, Quvenzhane Wallis

Commentary: Target’s Big Problem With Annie

The retail giant needs to do better in 2015.

Published December 31, 2014

Remember back in 1982 when the original version of Annie came out, starring curly-haired 11-year-old white actress Aileen Quinn? And then remember when a major retailer decided to run posters about the movie and cast a little Black girl as the model?

Think hard…

Nope, don’t remember that? Well, that’s because it sounds a little too stupid for real life. Yet and still, it is exactly what Target did, not way back in the '80s, but just this month. The mega-store — where loads of Black people spent loads of dollars over the holiday season — decided that their ads for a new clothing collection about the film starring Black Quvenzhané Wallis should feature a little white girl wearing a dress from the movie.

If you head to Target.com and look at the Annie collection, there are images and a video of various little girls running around having fun. They are Black, white, Latina and Asian, so carefully cast that it’s clear the idea was diversity. Yet things get weird — bad — inside of Target stores, where the red dress made famous in the movie is being modeled in an ad starring a White model. Customers in certain stores may see the version with a black model, but it’s also pretty common to see a white one.

Perhaps Target feared that some of America would not want to buy clothes so their daughters could dress up like a little Black girl, even if she is a movie star. Or maybe Target thought no one would notice. Unfortunately (for them), someone did. Delaware motivational speaker L’Sean Rinique Shelton started a Change.org petition, which currently has over 11,000 signatures. Excerpts read:

In the current stench of racism and division amongst Americans, why would Target singlehandedly disrespect Quvenzhané Wallis and add more pain to injury as it relates to race relations?

Your recent Annie ads and in-store displays depicts a misleading depiction of the movie as it shows a [Caucasian] young lady opposed to the star of the film — Quvenzhané Wallis. Though the model is quite professional, she does not speak to the relevance of the movie or main character. When the original Annie came out, everything was about Aileen Quinn or a character/person that emulated her…why not now Target? If you can show it online, show it in ALL of your stores with multiple signage with different girls not one!

With Quvenzhané Wallis attending your Target launch, don't you think that ALL Target stores should have the same signs to embrace all? In addition, that special "Red Dress" is synonymous to Annie — not a random model that does not look like her!

Perhaps Target doesn’t think they were being exclusionary or racially weird by casting a lot of different girls. It’s hard to know, they have not released an official statement. Yet in a culture where we are so very used to Blackness being whitewashed, someone on the corporate team should have realized what a gross misstep this is. And that with the choice to spend our dollars wherever we want, there may be quite a few Black people who want to take ours to places that never want to literally recast our accomplishments.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.



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(Photos from left: Target, Steffman-Turgeon/Splash News)

Written by Ayana Byrd

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