Amid the continuing controversy surrounding H&M and it’s “Coolest Monkey In the Jungle” hoodie, the family of the model at the center of the storm has spoken out. Terry Mango, the Sweden-based Kenyan mother of 5-year-old model Liam Mango, has responded to the criticism she’s received in wake of accusations of racism against H&M.
“It’s horrible,” she told Gulf News Thursday, Jan. 11 of the responses she’s received for initially expressing no issue with the slogan. “You wake up one morning and everything has changed.”
In now-viral comments, Mango told detractors to “stop crying wolf all the time” adding that it was an “unnecessary issue.”
The comments made critics turn away from H&M, which pulled the hoodie and issued several apologies for it, and toward Mango.
“How can you fight racism if you make racist remarks,” she told the Dubai-based paper of opposition referring to her as a monkey. “You cannot try to defend my son and use the same words to describe me.”
A self-described personal acquaintance of Mango, makeup artist Lovette Jallow, assured Facebook commenters that the family is taking action against H&M. Liam’s uncle, Kenyan music promoter Clay Onyango, told Gulf News the family hopes for an apology from H&M, which supports Jallow’s previous statements.
“We have left a lot to the lawyers,” Onyango added. “We’ve not really decided what we want — we want to hear from [H&M] first, then we can go out with a press release. We are still talking to them.”
He also noted he did not believe the Swedish company was intentionally racist and said the brand told the family as much.
“I think they overlooked it,” he said. “Maybe it’s just one of those mistakes that one makes. But there are many questions you can ask — how did they miss that?
Atlanta Black Star has reached out to Mango and Onyango for comment. We’ve yet to receive a response.
Still, amid the family’s responses to the controversy, a fellow H&M model’s parent is speaking out. Talking on the condition of anonymity, the father told Atlanta Black Star about his experience with the retailer.
“My experience with H&M has been good,” he said. “However, I’m shocked how they could have missed out on this considering the number of people involved in the process. You have the modeling agency that books the kids for a shoot and then the stylists on site and photographers.
“One thing missing I have noticed when I have been on the shoots is the lack of diversity,” he said. “It is mainly white Swedes in all positions at these shoots and that’s a big issue. Another sensitive issue, which I believe nobody dares to discuss is the focus on mixed kids. They prefer in their ads [to push] mixed kids and [Liam] is basically one of the very few dark-skinned models in their campaigns and to me, that’s a big issue.”
We’ve reached out to Liam Mango’s agency, Miini, for comment. No response has been provided as yet.