Hello, y’all! The blog liveeees. First off, I want to mention that people all over Texas are still recovering from the winter storm crisis last week and we should still be on the lookout for those mutual aid organizations and funds going around and donating if we can (or sharing if we can’t donate). If you’ll allow me the privilege to take a short break from that, I’d like to get into something that’s had me annoyed as hell since last week. Buckle up and let’s go!
Kendall Jenner took to Instagram to announce that she was coming out with a tequila brand named 818 and once you scroll past the verified comments with fire emojis, you’ll see that A LOT of people aren’t happy about it. And, boy, do I have some things to say about it.
But what’s the big deal with Kendall Jenner dropping a tequila brand? Celebrities owning tequila brands is not new at all. And how much of this negative response is rooted in misogyny? Did Adam Levine, Nick Jonas or George Clooney receive the same flack about coming out with tequila brands? They sure didn’t, but these celebrities also deserve the same energy that we’re giving Kendall.
Brittany from @alittlebrittoffun shared Mosheh Oinounou (@mosheh)’s really interesting take on Instagram regarding why Kendall’s receiving such a negative response. The idea is that Adam Levine’s, George Clooney’s and other celebrities’ audiences are completely different from Kendall Jenner’s. To which I was like, duh why didn’t I think of that?! Think about it, Kendall’s following is mostly made up of millennials and Gen Zers that are a whole lot more attuned and involved with issues of cultural appropriation, racial equality, etc. It totally makes sense!
But now, let’s get into what’s been swirling around in my brain since last week. I saw a lot of people in Kendall’s comments recommending for people to buy local or family-owned tequila that is authentic and actually from México. And while I agree, I just had to mention that the issue isn’t whether 818 Tequila is authentically Mexican or not. By Mexican law, tequila can only be made in México. Literally, all of the tequila in the world HAS to come from México and has to be 100% made from blue agave in order for it to be considered and labeled tequila. Like, the blue agave plant legally can’t be grown anywhere else in the world — which is part of what makes tequila so fascinating and special to me. Interestingly enough, most major tequila brands aren’t even family-owned anymore — Don Julio, Sauza and Casa Herradura are examples of major brands that were bought out by corporations and are no longer fully Mexican-owned.
It was Kendall’s complete lack of mention of the jimadores who manually harvest the blue agave plant from the fields and the Mexican people working in the factories coupled with her claim to having created the “best tasting tequila” after 3.5 years that did it for me. Kendall Jenner, already a millionaire, will go on to make even more millions of dollars and profit directly off Mexican communities in Jalisco who will probably make mere cents on her millions. And what is Kendall Jenner going to actively do to directly help these communities that she’s going to be profiting off of?! The Kardashian-Jenner clan has been profiting off the appropriation of black culture for literal years, so this is hardly surprising. But damn, the whole thing is questionable to me. The blue agave plant takes a whole 7 years to fully mature and her process to “create” this tequila lasted not even 4 years? *Side-eye* Additionally, a tequila añejo is included in her brand, and did you know that añejos need to be aged for at least 12 months or up to 3 years before being bottled? I’m inferring that whatever blue agave plants were used weren’t planted specifically for her tequila because the timing just doesn’t make sense when you take into consideration how long it takes to age tequila añejo. Do with that what you will, but it feels shady to me.
Besides the questionable timing in her process, allow me to get PETTY and talk about that little video of her taste-testing two different tequilas on the Instagram post. Perhaps I’m just a traditional asshole who loves tequila too much, but I was taught that the traditional way to drink tequila is neat with no chaser. And don’t even get me wrong, I love a tequila shot on a rowdy night. While there may be no right or wrong way to drink this marvelous distilled liquid, Ms. Jenner had ice cubes in her glass and I haven’t stopped side-eyeing that since I first saw it. You’re a tequila brand owner and you couldn’t bother to show yourself tasting tequila the traditional way? Seems legit.
“They’re both strong, but this is a little less strong,” she says as she proceeds to take the tiniest sip out of a glass of ice cubes floating in tequila (so … watered down?) before she chooses the “less strong” one (which happens to be hers). Let’s analyze how we use the word “strong” in the context of alcohol. When we say a drink is too strong, we’re usually referring to how much alcohol is in the drink or how much it’s gonna fuck you up, right? And it’s most often, I’d argue, in reference to a mixed drink, right? Just keep that in mind. Now, maybe my advertising/branding hat is on a little too tight on my head, but I’m going to infer that she’s probably taste-testing two very similar tequilas (i.e., they’re either both reposados or añejos judging by the color and the fact that she’s sipping it), and therefore, they wouldn’t differ too much in alcohol content. If she knew what she was talking about, she wouldn’t compare how “strong” they are. You wouldn’t really use that description to refer to tequila unless you were drinking it in a margarita. And if she’s been doing this research for 3.5 years, couldn’t anyone around her put her on to better, more flavorful, more descriptive adjectives? Like, come on. She could’ve used her words and said one went down smoother than the other, and then gone on to go Photoshop her next mirror selfie.
My next question is, did a rich white girl from Calabasas HAVE to claim that she made the BEST tasting tequila? Like YOU were the one thing that was missing to finally perfect the formula for something that has been around since the freaking 16th century?? Sounds like late-onset colonization to me. Maestros tequileros and jimadores put literal hundreds of years of skill, tradition and knowledge into the making of tequila, but Kendall Jenner made “the best tasting tequila.” GTFO.
And also, did she even hire someone with knowledge of Spanish-language branding? Tell me why her bottles say “reposado tequila,” “blanco tequila” and “añejo tequila” (The way it would be written and read in English; adjective, and then noun), and then “100% agave azul” right below that (The way it would be written and read in Spanish; noun, and then adjective)?? Make it make sense. Consistency, y’all!
ALSOOO, I’m pretty sure this is just manufactured, bottled and then just plastered with her label at La Cofradía distillery in Tequila, Jalisco. How would you possibly know that, Valeria? Well, because I should have been a fucking FBI agent or maybe a PI. It hit me immediately when I saw the last image in her post and those ovens looked awfully familiar to me (see below).
Well, what do you know?! I’ve actually been there. Throwback to 2019 when we actually went outside our homes (see below).
I obviously added some color to my photo. But if you look at the top of it, you can see a tiny bit of red brick sneaking into frame … the same red brick seen behind the ovens in Kendall’s photo. So there ya have it! I solved the mystery.
And while Ms. ill-timed-Pepsi-commercial-that-didn’t-magically-solve-the-police-brutality-issue-in-the-U.S. gets richer while sitting pretty in Calabasas, Mexican people will continue to make an often dangerous journey north to leave their country in search of a better life — a journey which many don’t even survive and those who do survive get detained, separated or worse at the border. The irony of white people getting richer by profiting off marginalized people while this country so harshly judges those same people who see themselves forced to leave their countries in search of more is just *deep sigh*. And we can’t forget the issues with the brand’s name. 818 is a reference to an area that is home to some of LA’s poorest communities. Just why would the 818 claim rich ass Kendall Jenner? So you see why it’s more than problematic for Kendall Jenner and other white celebrities to own a tequila brand. Four years don’t make a master distiller of tequila … nor a socially conscious person I guess.
In conclusion, don’t buy this shit. Instead, buy brands like Clase Azul (it’s fucking delicious, worth the price, and the owner’s wife started a foundation that helps Mexican artisans learn how to make money off their crafts — which they depend on); Casa Dragones [the owner is the first woman to be certified as a Maestra Tequilera (master distiller of tequila)]; Espolón (my personal fave); or one of the many, many more distilleries that you can find on this Twitter thread. Lastly, if you want to learn more about tequila, check out part one and part two of my mini series on my trips to Tequila, Jalisco.
Wow, I really had to get all that off my chest. Thanks for reading this rant and don’t forget, kids — #eattherich.