On Monday, John Boyega announced that he would be stepping down as Jo Malone's global ambassador via social media. His decision came following the news that the "Star Wars" actor had been cut out of an advertisement he had conceived, directed and starred in when it launched in the Chinese market, a choice many see as blatantly racist. For the Chinese version of the ad, Boyega was replaced by Liu Haoran, but many elements of Boyega's original concept for the film remained unchanged. What's more, Boyega had apparently not been made aware of this choice until the Chinese version of the film had gone public.
The original version of the Jo Malone London Gent ad — which won an award from The Fragrance Foundation for Best Media Campaign — featured Boyega walking around London, riding a horse, dancing with friends and spending time with family. While Boyega's ad highlighted diversity, the one re-cast for the Chinese market featured no Black cast members.
It wasn't just that the fragrance brand had chosen to replace Boyega, but also the way in which they went about it that clearly struck the actor — who has been an outspoken activist and advocate for civil rights and the Black Lives Matter movement — as particularly egregious. "Their decision to replace my campaign in China by using my concepts and substituting a local brand ambassador for me, without either my consent or prior notice, was wrong. The film celebrated my personal story — showcasing my hometown, including my friends and featuring my family," Boyega wrote in a Twitter thread. "While many brands understandably use a variety of global and local ambassadors, dismissively trading out one's culture this way is not something I can condone."
On Saturday, Jo Malone issued an apology to Boyega, calling the choice to replace him a "misstep." "We deeply apologize for what, on our end, was a mistake in the local execution of the John Boyega campaign," the brand said in statement sent to The Hollywood Reporter. "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." Additionally, Jo Malone commented that, "while we immediately took action and removed the local version of the campaign, we recognize that this was painful and that offense was caused. 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."
But Boyega didn't flounder in his decision to break ties with the fragrance brand. "I don't have time for this nonsense. We press on and strong," he Tweeted. His swift decision and clear statements about why Jo Malone's actions were unacceptable have received praise from fans and fellow celebrities alike. "Well done," Tweeted fellow actor Uzo Aduba in response to Boyega's statements. Meanwhile, Yara Shahidi posted her own Twitter thread in response to Boyega's announcement that he'd be stepping down from his ambassadorship: "I'm grateful for @JohnBoyega's voice and willingness to have this conversation publicly," she wrote. "All too often, brands engage talent because they know the cachet attached to who they are, their voice, and the power of what they stand for....There's no legal language that holds brands to the same morality/ethics clause that talent is held to."
Jo Malone did not immediately respond to Fashionista's request for comment on the matter.
UPDATE, Sept. 15, 3:52 p.m.: A spokesperson from Jo Malone provided the following statement in response to Fashionista's request for comment:
We deeply apologize for what, on our end, was a mistake in the local execution of a recent Jo Malone London marketing campaign. The concept for the film was based on John’s personal experience and should not have been replicated. While we immediately took action and removed the local version of the campaign, we recognize that this was deeply painful and that much offense was caused. John Boyega is an incredible talent, artist and person and we were proud to have him as part of our Jo Malone London family. We respect John’s decision and we wish him all the best. We are taking this misstep and the recent events very seriously and we are working together as a brand to do better moving forward.