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Interracial Old Navy ad spurs negative reaction, Canadian model speaks out

The Internet was upset about an Old Navy ad for their new #ThankYou campaign, which features models posing as an interracial couple.
The Internet was upset about an Old Navy ad for their new #ThankYou campaign, which features models posing as an interracial couple. Josh Arason / Global News

Last week, Old Navy tweeted a photo of an interracial family wearing the company’s clothing in the hopes of directing customers to an appreciation sale.

What happened instead was some unanticipated negative attention on social media, with many people even threatening to boycott the retailer for using an interracial family in their ads. Here’s the photo:

“My family and I will never step into an Old Navy store again,” one person tweeted in response to the ad.

Another said: “Interracial relationships are a fraction of U.S. marriages. Who is the target demo?”

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Here are some cases of people reacting to the #ThankYouEvent campaign in a (very) negative light.

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General Mills received similar attention in 2013 for their Cheerios commercial that featured an interracial family. In the commercial, the biracial daughter asks her Caucasian mother about the cereal’s heart-healthy benefits. Then she runs over to her African-American father and dumps the box of Cheerios onto his chest.

The commercial received such backlash that General Mills had to disable the comments section under the YouTube video.

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After all the attention, Cheerios featured the family in another commercial that aired during the Super Bowl that year.

Similarly, Twitter users were also quick to defend Old Navy.

Many people responded to the tweet with images of their own interracial families.

Grace Mahary, the pretend mother in the Old Navy ad, posted her own response to the controversy on Instagram.

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Mahary is from Edmonton, Alta. and has modelled for Victoria’s Secret, Yves Saint Laurent and Balmain, among many others.

In the caption of the photo, Mahary says,

“In light of the controversy revolving around my pretend family…I am proud to be representing interracial love, multiculturalism, and most importantly, a mentality that supports opportunity for all ethnicities. Thanks @oldnavy 🙆🏾 #lovewins#hatefreezone 💛”

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Clay Pollioni, the model father in the advertisement, also posted to Instagram to speak about all the controversy.

In his caption he writes,

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“I’m extremely proud to have taken part in a campaign that not only celebrates our nation’s diversity, but also unites families with multicultural backgrounds and promotes love of all kinds! #LoveWins Thank you @Oldnavy”

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The racism was addressed in a statement from Debbie Feliex, Old Navy spokesperson, to Fortune magazine.

“We are a brand with a proud history of championing diversity and inclusion. At Old Navy, everyone is welcome.”