The tween and teen retail store Justice is best known for its bright lights, blaring music, and adorbs fashion trends. It can be downright impossible to escape from the store without dropping a couple hundred bucks and picking up a serious case of sensory overload. In fact, just walking past the store on my way to Ann Taylor Loft makes me feel old. (Or maybe it’s the fact that I shop at Ann Taylor Loft that makes me feel old, who knows.)
But despite the fact that it sometimes looks like a BeDazzler exploded in the store, Justice is earning serious points for its empowering and all-inclusive marketing. A few days ago, Justice changed its Facebook cover image to one that features a diverse group of eight girls — of different body types and skin colors — with arms around each other’s shoulders and jumping for joy. In the middle of the group, there is a Muslim girl wearing a hijab.
The significance of the cover photo didn’t go unnoticed, especially by women of color, Muslim women, and their daughters.
“When I first showed my daughters, who are 8 and 5, the cover photo for the Justice Facebook page, their eyes widened and their jaws dropped,” Saima Ahmed, a Muslim mother from the Chicago area, told Scary Mommy. “Their shocked faces quickly turned to proud smiles. ‘What?’ the older one yelled, ‘A hijabi!?’”
For Ahmed, and many other Muslim women, the image was a long-awaited recognition of their presence, worth, and beauty in this country.
“I was born in Chicago and grew up in the suburbs my entire life,” Ahmed told Scary Mommy. “I remember going through advertisement papers when I was a kid. I used to stare at the kids wearing clothes in ads like Kmart and Venture. I secretly wished I could be in one of those pictures, but I knew I never would. Kids that looked like me were never in those ads back in those days.”
For women like Ahmed, the ad is a sign of progress. “Justice’s advertisement makes me really happy because it shows me that in my lifetime, we have come a long way as a country in defining what it means to be an American kid. It was a breath of fresh air for me personally, as an American Muslim mom; a break from all the angry noise we’ve been inundated with lately.”
Mothers aren’t the only ones noticing and appreciating the ad, so are their daughters. Ahmed’s 8-year-old daughter Khadijah Faiz told Scary Mommy that when she saw the picture of the girl wearing a hijab in the Justice photo, she felt like people were supporting her as a Muslim American kid — a child who, like everyone, doesn’t want to be hurt by what other people say about her.
“It makes me feel happy and special because I always wanted to be on a big picture like that,” said Khadijah Faiz. “Now there is someone who looks like me that’s on a big picture that lots of people can see.”
Not only is the photo a sign of progress and a celebration of diversity, but many — including Ahmed and her daughters — see the it as a form of resistance. Given the current political environment and divisiveness in the country, particularly with respect to Muslims and other minorities, it is an affirmative acknowledgement of the company’s celebration of diversity and an admonishment of hate.
“The ad helps me feel a little more comfortable with what is happening right now with our president and our country,” 8-year-old Faiz said.
Justice isn’t the only one making affirmative statements against the climate of hate. During the Super Bowl, Budweiser aired an ad that showed the struggles its founder faced as an immigrant coming to this country in 1857 to pursue the American Dream. Coke featured an ad with people singing a multilingual version of “America the Beautiful,” and Audi touted its commitment to gender equality and equal pay for equal work.
Although there was some backlash from the ads, including #boycottbudweiser (seriously, people?!), doing what’s right and taking a stand for social justice usually pays off for companies. According to Susan Credle, chief creative officer at ad agency FCB, “The number one thing that brands need in this world is authenticity.”
In fact, the Justice ad has made Ahmed and several other commenters more loyal customers. “Justice has featured kids of all skin tones, shapes, and sizes since I started shopping there in the past year,” Ahmed said. “I’m really looking forward to the next time me and my girls walk in the store. Hopefully my girls will see a kid who looks like they do up on the wall.”
Whether Justice changed its cover photo as an intentional marketing effort, or simply because it’s the right thing to do, kudos to them for their celebration of inclusivity, diversity, and fierce girl power. In a world that tells girls how to dress, look, and act pretty much from the moment they emerge from the womb, Justice’s latest Facebook image is saying, You be you. We got your back.