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Dec 03 2013, Tuesday

A Sikh In Gap Ad- What's the Controversy?

If you hadn't already, chances are you saw this poster in Gap during your black Friday shopping. Sikh Indian American actor and designer, Waris Ahluwalia, is the new face you see in Gap's Holiday 2013 Ad Campaign. And as was the case when America got it's first Indian American as Miss America earlier this year, it led to controversy.


First, about the campaign. The Holiday 2013 Ad Campaign was launched by Gap in early Nov. The ad shows Waris Ahluwalia complete with his long beard and turbaned look, along with artist and filmmaker, Quentin Jones.


Secondly, a little about Waris Ahluwalia. Ahluwali was born in Amritsar, Punjab, living in New York since he was five. He is the founder of House of Waris, designing fine jewelry that are unique in blending the old with the modern. He has collaborated with various other designers and owns a pop up tea room under the High Line in NYC where Himalayan tea is served along with his jewelry and other designer items. Ahluwalia has worked in about a dozen films (like Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou , Spike Lee’s Inside Man and The Darjeeling Limited) and TV Series. In 2010, he made it in Vanity Fair's Best Dressed list, bagged the British GQ's second best dressed man internationally title and was included in Vogue's 10 Most Impactful people list. Suffices to say, he's made a good name for himself and is certainly a successful Sikh American celebrity. We say kudos to Gap for picking such a deserving candidate. And double kudos for giving a new face to what 'being American' means -much like Nina Davuluri winning the Miss America 2014 title promoted the notion of Indian Americans as being acceptable as a face of America. So we say, way to lead, Gap!


Now, about the response to the ad. This is three-fold. Here're the responses and what we have to say. Let's say it.

#1. At first, the ad generated a feeling of pride and acceptance among Sikh Americans and other Indian Americans, as seen by the following tweets-

Bhavna Batra@MsBhavnaB 4 Nov

Love this ad feat. Waris Ahluwalia! So great to see us South Asians feat. in mainstream media.

Sarah Khan@BySarahKhan 1 Nov

My president is black, my model's .

We say- yes, it is certainly a matter of pride. After all, mainstream is where we want to be. No explanations. No exceptions.

#2. Soon reports started surfacing that he posters of the ad across New York city were vandalized with anti-Muslim remarks like "Make Bombs" and "Stop driving taxis". We say, it's high time the general public in America gets itself educated on the difference between a Sikh and a Taliban. Again, kudos to Gap to defend and stand by their ad, supporting 'inclusion and diversity' according to ABC news.


#3. Finally, a controversy comes from the Sikhs themselves. A facebook event has been created for December 5, Thursday, in CA, inviting those who 'feel strongly that Sikhs are being disrespected & insulted in this new Gap ad which depicts a Sikh with a woman's hand lustfully placed on his turban and chest', declaring that ' Sikhs are religious family oriented people and not interested in being part of this sexy Gap ad'. We say- Pick Your Battles, guys. Drop this one!

 (by Sonal Kulshrestha)

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