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Monday, February 26, 2024

Is It Ever OK for Non-Hispanic Brands to Give Their Products Spanish Names?

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Kylie Jenner is sitting in her car with her iPhone camera flipped toward her. It’s an up-close and personal shot as she swipes a layer of sheer watermelon pink gloss on her pre-lined lips. It seems like an innocent video of the beauty mogul sharing her favorite shade, Besitos (little kisses), from her best-selling line of ultra-shiny Underestimated Gloss Drips… until you look at the comments.

“Y’all wanna be us so bad,” one commenter wrote. “Tag your favorite Latina beauty brand! I’ll go first,” another writes. And so on. Although the video received 19.4 million views and over 1.6 million likes, many of the some-odd 12,700 comments flamed Kylie for “Latina cosplay,” even going so far as to tell Kylie what she should name her next shade of gloss: piojitos (lice), huevitos (literally little eggs, but slangily little testicles), chorrillo (diarrhea). A few TikTok users even stitched Kylie’s video with videos of themselves lip-syncing Bad Bunny’s song “El Apagón.” The homepage on the video read “Ahora todos quieren ser Latinos, pero les falta sazón.” Translation: Now everyone wants to be Latino, but they lack seasoning.

Would people have been mad if Kylie had used French or Italian to name her product? Unlikely. But the Kardashian-Jenner clan’s long, well-documented history of profiting off Latinx culture (remember Kendall Jenner’s tequila brand, Kim Kardashian’s chola phase, or Kourtney Kardashian’s Virgencita wedding veil) probably had something to do with this particular product drawing so much ire. (A spokesperson for Kylie Cosmetics declined to comment for this story.)

While the internet might be divided on whether Kylie is being a “culture vulture” or merely honoring her Latinx fans, this instance opens up a much larger conversation about Latinx-washing and who can and can’t use Spanish to name their beauty products, especially as Spanish is spoken by an estimated 559 million people across the globe, and not all of them are Latinx.

The truth is there’s a stark contrast between a white woman like Kylie revealing the Spanish name of her product on a social media app and the racism non-white Latinx people face every day when speaking Spanish. Some Latin immigrants are so afraid their kids will face discrimination in the U.S. that they don’t teach them Spanish at all.

“For decades Latinos have experienced discrimination on account of skin color, culture, and language. We were expected to assimilate to American culture, abandon our native language, and keep a low profile,” Regina Merson, the founder of Latinx-owned makeup brand Reina Rebelde tells Allure. “Now that Latinos are mainstream and an economic engine unto themselves, [is it] okay for non-Latinos to seize the opportunity and profit from our cultures and language? That doesn’t work. One of the reasons I started Reina Rebelde was to address this frustrating issue where there was no authenticity in the beauty space for Latinas. Latinos that own businesses know that part of our collective effort is the constant and exhausting push to educate people about why authenticity matters.”

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