Makeup guru Jackie Aina is being slammed for using a slogan associated with the Nigerian movement against police brutality as an ‘aesthetic’ in her new candle collection.
Aina, 35, started out as a beauty YouTuber and is known for advocating for the inclusion of people of color in the makeup industry. After calling out the Too Faced brand for its limited shade range, Aina collaborated with the brand to expand its foundation collection to include darker skin tones.
On Thursday, Aina’s homeware brand FORVR Mood announced four new candle scents, one of which was called “Sòro Sókè”. The phrase, which translates to “Speak louder” in Yoruba, was a rallying cry used during protests against police brutality in Nigeria.
Nigerian social media users denounced the name of the candle scent as insensitive and criticized Aina for being slow to use her platform to boost the movement at the height of the protests. Aina’s name was trending on Twitter on Friday.
Representatives for Aina and FORVR Mood did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
As of Friday afternoon, the listing for the “Sòro Sókè” candle no longer appears on the FORVR Mood website. The product appears as “not available” at Sephora. A YouTube video promoting the product remains online.
The backlash against Aina, however, continues online.
Aina has been criticized for her silence on the #EndSARS movement, a youth-led campaign to disband Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
The police unit waged a “horrific reign of impunity”, Amnesty International said in a June 2020 report. The organization said it documented at least 82 cases of “torture, ill-treatment and extrajudicial executions” between January 2017 and May 2020.
Activists have been calling for the dissolution of SARS for years. A video that circulated in early October 2020 appearing to show SARS officers fatally shooting a man sparked protests against the police unit across Nigeria. The police unit was disbanded on October 11, 2020 following global pressure, but protests demanding law enforcement reform continued throughout the year.
The phrase “Sòro Sókè” has been used as a rallying cry during protests and has become representative of the Nigerian movement against police brutality and corruption.
Aina was criticized for not publicly supporting the movement until after SARS disbanded. Following mounting pressure to address #EndSARS from followers, Aina posted a topic of infographics in October 2020 calling for police reform in Nigeria and justice for victims of SARS-related violence. She also expressed her support in an Instagram post five days later.
Some of Aina’s followers were unhappy with her posts. Screenwriter Taire Tamarah replied“I tagged you in a tweet in the heat of the moment, as a Nigerian that other Nigerians in the makeup and beauty world look up to, it’s sad that it took you so long to express yourself .”
The release of the “Sòro Sókè” candle sparked a new wave of criticism against Aina. In a YouTube video about the name, Aina described the sandalwood and cardamom scented candle as “bold” and said she wanted to “give it a name that matches the energy” of the scent.
Twitter users compared the meaning of the phrase to those of other social movements. Researcher in anthropology Princess Banda describe the name of the perfume as “immoral”, writing: “It’s the equivalent of a brand naming a product ‘#BLM’, ‘Say Her Name’ or ‘Free Palestine'”.
Others accused her of only embracing her heritage when it suited her. Twitter user Imoteda, who also runs an online candle store, said that Aina’s “Nigerian cosplay” was “beyond disrespectful” to the victims of police brutality and the protesters who were killed. Twitter user Uchenna_ap critical Aina for “performing at a Nigerian fancy dress party and attempting to cash in on the phrase which commemorated the unjust death and suffering of innocent Nigerians”.
Aina also received new backlash for her October 2020 Instagram post, which included an image of a perfume bottle with the words “END SARS” and “EAU DE PROTESTS”.
“Young people were dying in Nigeria and this is what Jackie Aina posted to support the movement because ‘aesthetics should be aesthetics,'” Twitter user TheOluwabukunmi said. said. “She now wants to make money with this same move??? No, it’s not happening. How can we recall those candles, please?”
The candle controversy, as well as Aina’s approach to social causes, has also sparked online discussions about the ethics of influencer culture. Screenwriter Zuva Seven tweeted that the industry is “hinged on marketing and selling products”.
“So yeah, aestheticizing your culture to sell candles makes sense in that regard,” Seven wrote in a thread. “No hate towards influencers either! People have to do their thing. However, it is very important to realize that not everything should be seen (or created) as potential or branded content. Discernment is key, especially in areas like these.”
Neither Aina nor FORVR Mood have publicly addressed the criticism of the new product.