- Kendall Jenner is one of many non-Mexican celebrities to launch a tequila brand.
- When 818 launched, critics said she was culturally appropriating tequila, a Mexican product.
- Melly Barajas said the celebrity tequila boom isn’t ideal but it’s not as harmful as some may think.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
In February, Kendall Jenner announced she was launching her tequila brand, 818. Almost immediately after, both praise and backlash started rolling in — with criticism from some who thought this new business venture was an example of cultural appropriation.
Many said Jenner had no right to make tequila since she isn’t Mexican. But Jenner is just one of many celebrities who own a tequila brand.
“Unfortunately, globalization has created this kind of phenomenon,” she said. “I wish all tequilas were made by Mexicans, but I don’t see what’s happening right now as that bad.”
Jenner converted a Kylie Lip Kit truck to deliver 818 tequila.
Barajas thinks globalization will help boost tequila sales
She believes a portion of Jenner’s 172 million Instagram followers may not have been tequila drinkers, but that maybe now they’ll try it.
According to Barajas, anyone who owns a tequila brand is required to purchase the product from a factory in Mexico. Each of these companies has a price per liter for its tequila, which the brand pays, Barajas said.
“I don’t see it as serious because tequila has a protected designation of origin, and that means that it can only be made exclusively in Mexico,” Barajas said.
“Of course, it’d be great to see exclusively Mexican brands,” she added. “But, well, if this girl is selling some anyway, a percentage stays in Mexico.”
She said it’s also not up to Jenner to pay the jimadores
Critics of non-Mexican-owned tequila companies say celebrities profit from their sales while jimadores are not paid in congruence with the total amount sold.
While Barajas says it’s true that jimadores are often paid a set salary regardless of how much agave they harvest, it’s not the brand owner’s responsibility to pay them; that falls on the people who run the factory that employs them.
“For some time now, the price of agave has gone up a lot and that made the jimadores demand more money to cut the agave, so they are not underpaid,” Barajas said. “Tequila gives work to millions of Mexicans, millions of families.”
However, The Guardian reported in 2015 that the number of Mexicans willing to work as jimadores was dwindling in part because of static wages. The Guardian pointed to the agave shortage of the early 2000s, when the price per kilo increased by almost 1,000%, but wages for those doing the agricultural work remained the same.
George Clooney and Rande Gerber founded Casamigos Tequila.
George Rose/Contributor/Getty Images
Barajas says Jenner’s gender is likely a cause for the backlash
“There are many artists who have their tequila and have never been attacked as fiercely as she was attacked,” she told Insider.
Marie Sarita Gaytán, the associate professor of sociology and gender studies and author of “¡Tequila!: Distilling the Spirit of Mexico,” previously told Insider that gender may have something to with the criticism.
She recalled that “there was hardly any mention of cultural appropriation” surrounding George Clooney and Rande Gerber’s massive Casamigos sale, and said “when women step ‘out of bounds,’ whether it’s in politics, business, or in this case, culture and entrepreneurship, it touches a nerve.”
Jenner’s audience is also vastly different from Clooney’s, and the model’s followers may care more about calling out cultural appropriation.
“Women here, in the US, and everywhere else in the world have to work twice as hard to be seen,” Barajas told Insider.
“It happened to me in tequila,” Barajas said. “I had to work and do things 100 times better than any man to get respect from the tequileros.”
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