May 23, 2019
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Calvin Klein issues apology after new ad sparks 'queerbaiting' accusations

May 23, 2019

Calvin Klein issued a public apology after a new ad led to accusations of ‘queerbaiting.’

A still from the Bella Hadid and Lil Miquela CK advertisement - Calvin Klein

The ad, released last week, featured model influencer Bella Hadid and Lil Miquela, a CGI influencer created by the Los Angeles-based startup, Brud.

In the campaign, Lil Miquela and Hadid (who identifies as heterosexual) exchanged a kiss, sparking backlash from some social media users who said the move was disingenuous - both because of Hadid’s sexuality and Lil Miquela’s artificial status.

On May 17, the American label issued a public apology on Twitter.

“The concept for our latest #MYCALVINS campaign is to promote freedom of expression for a wide range of identities, including a spectrum of gender and sexual identities,” the label wrote. “In this particular video, we explored the blurred lines between reality and imagination. We understand and acknowledge how featuring someone who identifies as heterosexual in a same-sex kiss could be perceived as queerbaiting."

Calvin Klein has been known for taking a provocative approach to its campaigns. In the 1980s, the label sparked controversy for featuring a 15-year-old Brooke Shields in a sultry denim campaign, while the 90s ushered in a mixed-sex campaign featuring ‘Marky’ Mark Wahlberg and Kate Moss - both topless.

More recently, in 2015, Calvin Klein debuted a campaign for its CK2 fragrance featuring same-sex couples, eliciting praise from many - excluding the Russian government, which accused the brand of “promoting gay values.”

"As a company with a longstanding tradition of advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, it was certainly not our intention to misrepresent the LGBTQ+ community," the label continued. "We sincerely regret any offense we caused.”

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