The fallout continues for H&M over an ad featuring a black child modeling a hoodie emblazoned with the words “Coolest monkey in the jungle.”
The Weeknd cut ties with H&M over the ad; Nicki Minaj fans are pressuring her to do the same. LeBron James posted a critical tweet that in part said: “ … we ain’t having it.” The child in the ad is reportedly being offered a chance to model Diddy’s Sean John fashions.
A little closer to home, I sought the perspective of Shawn Brundidge, father of Andrew, now 11, who started making money as a model at nine months of age. Brundidge is director of operations at a St. Paul health center with a mission to serve the poor and uninsured. He’s a married father of four with a few rules by which he lives, some connected to Andrew’s modeling career.
Q: What modeling imagery is nonnegotiable where your son Andrew is concerned?
A: No monkeys at all. We’ve been portrayed too long as monkeys, apes and baboons, and I was not going to have my son subjected to that kind of modeling. If any of that stuff came up, we were walking.
Q: So he couldn’t wear the word or an image of a monkey?
A: Nope, not even the cutest little monkey.
Q: You don’t hold H&M responsible for this PR debacle?
A: Mom or Dad or whoever was there should have pulled him out of that ad. That is something you wouldn’t see little white boys model, so don’t put little black boys in it.
Q: Do you risk being called “difficult” if you walk off a set for this reason?
A: I think they have other options to model something. You could model a shirt that doesn’t have writing on it. Any clothing photo shoot we have ever gone to with Andrew, there was always more than one outfit they could choose from.
Q: Is stereotyping the reason the child in the H&M ad looked so oiled up and shiny?
A: Could be, but I think there’s a problem with lighting dark skin. It could be you need more light and tone down the Vaseline, too [laughter].
Q: Did they ever put Vaseline on Andrew?
Q: Did Andrew ever have a meltdown at a modeling shoot?
A: Yeah, there were incidents where he wasn’t cooperative. You have to pack up and go home, especially at the age he started; at nine months they can be unpredictable. There is typically a lull in the modeling activity. When they hit about 2½, they know enough to be disobedient and not want to follow the rules.
Q: From where do your tendencies as a do-gooder come?
A: Being the fourth of five kids, knowing you have to wait your turn and look out for everybody else in the family unit. We weren’t raised to be selfish.
Q: People who live in warm climates are perplexed by you leaving the warmth of Texas for a job in Minnesota, then moving back to Texas only to return to Minnesota for another job. What is so appealing about Minnesota?
A: It is a better place, in my opinion, to raise a family, even an African-American family, because the school systems are better. In Houston, we had to pay for Andrew to go to a private school to ensure he got a good education. We didn’t have much faith in the educational systems of the public schools. In Minnesota we don’t have the same concerns. Now we left Minnesota with one child, had three children in Texas and realized Minnesota is a better place to raise a family. I am a product of the public school system and I’ve done fairly well.
Q: What’s the down side of being married to Sheletta, once crowned the Funniest Woman in the Twin Cities?
A: I get no recognition for all the material she steals from me.
Q: You do most of the cooking at your home because ...
A: I enjoy it and I have pretty good system with my wife. If I’m cooking she is more than happy to clean.
C.J. can be reached at email@example.com and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.”