Three employees of color at a Philadelphia Old Navy store claim managers hid nearly all people of color from view when Queer Eye recently filmed an episode there.
The workers, who spoke to Philadelphia magazine, say they were instructed to move away from view when cameras began to roll, while white employees from other stores were bused in for background shots.
“I was told to go to the back of the store by [Old Navy managers] involved with the production,” Old Navy employee Monae Alvarado told Philadelphia today, after tweeting the same story last week.
“About six of my fellow coworkers were there, and we were shooed away from the camera as they filmed with these outside employees, who came from West Chester, Mount Pocono, and New Jersey. It immediately seemed odd to me that they were being used to tape at our store location when we already have a diverse group of workers who had been preparing for Queer Eye to come for nearly a week.”
Two other anonymous employees told the same story to the magazine, with one person claiming, “I felt the racism the moment I was being told by managers to go to sections of the store that I usually don’t work around.”
All the workers expressed not only anger but disappointment, as they had spent days cleaning and organizing the Center City store for the taping.
Both Old Navy and Netflix denied the report, with the former releasing a statement reaffirming its commitment to diversity and claiming other stores' employees were brought in "to help ensure the store ran seamlessly for customers." Netflix, meanwhile, issued a short statement saying only one Old Navy employee appears in the Queer Eye segment, an African-American woman. Tan France, one of the stars of the gay makeover hit, tweeted the same thing in response to Alvarado's tweet.
“I don’t know what happened behind the scenes, or overnight, but what I can tell you is that there [is] no way I would ever have allowed production to move [people of color] to the back,” France wrote, according to Philadelphia. “I should also mention that I had one person join me on camera, from Old Navy. She was African American. This is the last I will say on this matter.”
France's statement didn't placate one of the unnamed Old Navy employees, who reiterated that outside white employees were brought in while black and brown workers who actually work in the store were hidden from view.
“[Needing extra employees] doesn’t explain the need to bring in additional white staffers to be in the background of our store,” the employee told Philadelphia. “Having one black person featured on the show when most of us already work there full time is a slap in the face. They would all be better off saying they didn’t want a bunch of black people on their show because they thought it would be ghetto. I’ve seen Queer Eye — they don’t have too many of us on there like that.”