“While we immediately took action and removed the local version of the campaign, we recognize that this was painful and that offense was caused.”
Last updated on September 14, 2020, at 8:04 p.m. ET
Posted on September 14, 2020, at 1:50 p.m. ET
Luxury fragrance and candle brand Jo Malone London has issued an apology to Star Wars actor John Boyega following the revelation that the company had cut the actor out of an ad shown in China.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Boyega was replaced in a repackaged version of the ad for the British brand with popular Chinese actor Liu Haoran.
The company expressed regret over the decision, calling the move a “misstep” in a lengthy statement to the Hollywood Reporter.
“We deeply apologize for what, on our end, was a mistake in the local execution of the John Boyega campaign,” said representatives for the brand. “John is a tremendous artist with great personal vision and direction. The concept for the film was based on John’s personal experiences and should not have been replicated.”
Despite the apology, Boyega announced Monday he was stepping down as the brand’s global ambassador, calling their decision to replace him in his own campaign without his consent or even notifying him as “wrong.”
“While many brands understandably use a variety of global ambassadors, dismissively trading one’s culture this way is not something I can condone,” he wrote on Twitter. “I don’t have time for nonsense. We press on and strong.”
The original ad was conceived by Boyega himself and drew on his personal story for inspiration. It included shots of a diverse cast, including his family members, and cutaways showing his hometown of Peckham in south London. The “London Gent” campaign was selected as the “Best Media Campaign” at the Fragrance Foundation Awards this year.
He said: “There’s a mixture of things you see me do in that film. You see me in a professional environment on a film set, then with family, and it’s about breaking free of the concept of ‘going back or returning to your roots,’ but more about the roots existing with this new side of my life.”
In the repackaged version, Chinese actor Liu can be seen hanging out with friends and riding a horse identical to the one Boyega rides in his version of the commercial.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Boyega was unaware that his concept had been lifted and repackaged for a Chinese audience and only found it through social media. The company spokesperson told the Hollywood Reporter that it “immediately” moved to remove the edited ad, but acknowledged harm was still done.
“We respect John, and support our partners and fans globally. We are taking this misstep very seriously and we are working together as a brand to do better moving forward,” the statement said.
This isn’t the first instance Boyega has been erased or minimized in the Chinese market. In 2015, promotional material for Star Wars: The Force Awakens featured images of the actor that were dramatically reduced in size despite being part of the main cast.
Online, people have criticized Jo Malone London and accused the brand of pandering to anti-Black sentiments despite expressing public support for the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd.
One user highlighted the similarities by placing the two ads side by side and accused the brand of ripping off Boyega’s creativity.
Some people questioned the decision-making.
Boyega has been very vocal in using his platform to highlight systemic racism and has previously suggested that his outspoken position could be to the detriment of his career.
After delivering a rousing speech at a Black Lives Matter protest in London back in June, he told BuzzFeed News: “I’m just dedicating my life and creative time and everything into making sure that we are a part of something that’s going to exist past protests — exists past us having moments of being excited and on fire to make change.”