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The backlash to Bella Hadid’s social media post could have far-reaching consequences for her career and the brands she works with.
We live in an age where our every triumph and tribulation is documented for the world to see. Someone experiencing the latter is model Bella Hadid who, while killing time between flights, seems to have annihilated any chance of her having a career in the Middle East. By now, we’ve all seen the image she posted to her Insta stories with the soles of her boots facing airplanes which featured the UAE and Saudi Arabian flags on their liveries.
Consumers were quick to react to the image which was considered culturally offensive and though she immediately issued an apology, called for a boycott of Hadid and Dior, the brand she represents. Malls in Dubai reacted by removing images of Hadid from stores. In addition, former fans shared images of Dior Beauty products being destroyed on social media and the hashtag #BellaHadidIsRacist has gone viral.
Natasha Hatherall-Shawe, founder and managing director of TishTash Marketing and Public Relations, a specialist beauty, health and wellness PR agency, shared her take on the current situation, saying: “The old adage, any publicity is good publicity is simply not true. When a brand goes into a long-term partnership with an influencer or celebrity, the person is effectively a channel for the brand and everything they do and say reflects on those they choose to partner with. This situation has put a lot of scrutiny and pressure on the brands that work with her and does have the ability to damage all involved.”
Middle East Beauty contributor Gemma Ward also commented on the controversy: “I think brands have to listen to the reactions of their customers in the region and respond accordingly. I’m sure it will blow over however, if you are a celebrity on her level with the influence she has, you need to be culturally aware and sensitive.”
Speaking to Arabian Business, property developer Mohammed Hadid came to his daughter’s defence: “There are many people with their own agendas, mostly out of jealousy for her success, that are trying to bring her down. 95% of the backlash on social media is coming from paid trolls. Do you really think she was walking around the airport and trying to find those two exact airplanes right next to each other to take an intentional picture like that?”
It’s hard to tell what the long term implications will be on revenues and reputations for everyone involved. However, in a climate where everything is scrutinised and apologies aren’t enough, both brands and the ambassadors they hire need to read carefully.