In multiple posts on Instagram, titled “Just Ad Indian,” the “Yellowstone” actor wrote about her own experience as a performer of First Nations descent and of the Native American-themed Dior campaign specifically. Beatty’s character, “the maiden,” is described in marketing collateral as a “suggestive feminine presence, febrile and sensual,” evoking negative stereotypes about Native American women.
Beatty wrote that she was hesitant to take on the role and felt conflicted during filming, “witnessing as a company blatantly disrespected indigenous culture.”
“When we filmed it, I could only hope that it would start the conversation it now has,” the Canadian actor, who is of Da’naxda’xw tribe descent, said.
Teasers for the Jean-Baptiste Mondino-directed short film — which was supposed to be released Sept. 1 — were posted to Dior’s social media accounts on Aug. 29 but deleted within hours following criticism that the “We are the Land” campaign relied on stereotypes about Native American cultures and constituted cultural appropriation.
“My intention is not to shame Dior or call out Johnny Depp. The issues are far bigger than any advertisement. And having worked with them, I do believe Dior — though misguided — had every intention of showing indigenous culture in a beautiful light while giving jobs to some Indians in the process,” Beatty continued.
She also indicated that she would be making a donation to an inter-tribal environmental non-profit. “And… perhaps I’d even encourage a certain perfume company and a certain beloved pirate to make a donation as well. Just sayin’,” Beatty wrote.
Beatty also went on to detail some of the indignities she has suffered as an actor of Native descent, noting that many roles offered to Native actors are problematic. “On set, I’ve had my hair touched, been told I am too native looking, not native looking enough, been asked to be naked, been told I need more fake blood on my face to look like I’ve been really raped, been touched inappropriately, been called slurs, and been told by someone that they didn’t know natives still [existed].”
“Throughout the history of Natives in film, we’ve been made a spectacle. Marginalized, fetishized, used as a backdrop,” she added.
In addition to accusations of cultural appropriation, critics of the Dior campaign took issue with the name of the fragrance itself, as “sauvage” is French for “wild” and “savage,” the latter being a racial slur used to describe Native peoples throughout North American history (the fragrance name has been used since the 1960s).
One since-pulled trailer shows Depp playing guitar riffs against the Arches National Monument in Utah and Rose Sioux tribe member Canku Thomas One Star performing a traditional dance. The film was made in partnership with the non-profit Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO).
Depp himself has made claims of Native American ancestry in the past and, in 2012, was adopted into the family of AIO president LaDonna Harris, a member of the New Mexico-based Comanche tribe. In the trailer, Depp says that he was christened a cultural name, Mah-Woo-May, which means “shapeshifter.” He has been the face of the fragrance since 2015.
The since-deleted trailer touched on the topic of cultural appropriation.
“Cultural appropriation, for us, is a huge thing because we’ve been dealing with this since colonization,” says consultant Ron Martinez Looking Elk.
When asked for comment following the initial social media posts, a representative for Dior forwarded a press release from the AIO which stated that “Depp reached out to his Comanche family to ask for their help to ensure Native cultures were portrayed appropriately.”
The statement added that the campaign is part of a larger initiative “to change the misperceptions about Native Americans, to share accurate American history, to build awareness about Native Americans as contemporary peoples and to promote Indigenous worldviews.”
Depp played Tonto in Disney’s re-imagining of “The Lone Ranger” in 2013, a portrayal that drew criticism for promoting a stereotypical image of Native Americans.
This is not the first time the LVMH-owned luxury brand has been accused of cultural insensitivity. In 2018, Dior was accused of whitewashing in promotions for its Dior Cruise 2019 collection, inspired by Mexican horsewomen called escaramuzas. The campaign featured Jennifer Lawrence, a face of the brand since 2012, who is not of Mexican descent.
Representatives for Depp and Mondino did not immediately answer requests for comment.