Kendall Jenner’s Tequila Brand Proves the Kardashian-Jenners Don’t Care About Cultural Appropriation

The Kar-Jenner family has built an enormous business empire. But along the way, they’ve also made some significant missteps. Recently, Kendall Jenner launched a new brand of tequila, and critics say that it’s another example of the family’s insensitivity. Jenner is able to afford all the consultants she needs to point out problematic choices, but that doesn’t seem to be a priority. Her older sister Kim Kardashian West has already experienced problems because of this, but the lesson doesn’t seem to have been passed on. People are starting to wonder if the Kar-Jenner family will ever understand the issue of cultural appropriation. 

Kendall Jenner smiling in front of a blue background
Kendall Jenner | Don Arnold/Getty Images

Kendall Jenner’s tequila brand

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According to Insider, Jenner was excited to make a big announcement on Instagram in February. She was following in the footsteps of her business savvy family and launching a new brand. This time she had made a tequila that she called 818, and it sounded as though she’d been working pretty hard on it. “After dozens of blind taste tests, trips to our distillery, entering into world tasting competitions anonymously, and WINNING … 3.5 years later I think we’ve done it!” Jenner posted.

“This is all we’ve been drinking for the last year and I can’t wait for everyone else to get their hands on this to enjoy it as much as we do!” The tequila has won a number of prestigious awards, including the honor of being named the best reposado at the World Tequila Awards. It’s been met with enthusiasm in the liquor industry and Jenner is clearly delighted to present it to the world. But there are lots of people who are not impressed. 

Tequila is tied to Mexican culture

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Tequila is more than just a margarita ingredient. According to Garza Blanca Real Estate, the history of tequila runs deep in Mexico, going back as far as 1000 BC, when the Aztecs made a milky alcoholic drink from the sap of the agave plant. Over the centuries, this drink evolved, becoming the liquor we know as tequila in the 1700s. It’s been officially declared to be the intellectual property of Mexico, so it can’t be labeled “tequila” unless it’s made and aged in specific areas of Mexico. 

Tequila is an important part of Mexican culture, and many people felt that Jenner was exploiting something she has no known connection to. Although the 818 tequila is made and aged in Mexico, people weren’t convinced that she had anything to do with the process. Critics felt that she was taking credit for something that Mexican artisans have made for millennia. The name of her brand, 818, is thought to be a reference to her hometown of Calabasas, making it seem as though she’s taking a product with deep Mexican roots and pasting her image on it. 

Kim Kardashian’s “Kimono” controversy

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This isn’t the first time a Kar-Jenner has been accused of cultural appropriation. According to CNN, in 2019, Kardashian announced that she was creating an underwear line that she named “Kimono.” Although she thought it was a cute nod to her own name, the Japanese trade minister Hiroshige Seko didn’t see it the same way. And he made sure that she knew about it. “The kimono is regarded around the world as a distinct part of our culture,” he explained. “Even in America, kimono is well known to be Japanese.”

Seko even sent officials to meet with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to make it clear that it was unacceptable for them to grant trademarks for something that has a long history as an important part of Japanese culture. After much outcry over Kardashian’s insensitive choice, she changed the name to Skims. According to Popbuzz, she nearly lost $10 million rebranding the line.

On Keeping Up with the Kardashians, she complained about how the mistake happened, saying that the people around her had let her down. “Who would ever think that I would want to do something that would be disrespectful? They’re saying that I’m culturally appropriating. My intention was never to offend anybody,” she said.

“We brought the name to retailers. There were a lot of people who could have chimed in and said that they felt like this was not an appropriate brand name and nobody did. Foolishly and ignorantly, we never thought that it would be a problem.” It doesn’t seem that her little sister has learned from her troubles and didn’t hire a team that would take cultural appropriation into consideration. Considering how many products the family creates, they may want to learn some cultural sensitivity before they get in any more hot water.