Brooklyn moms aren’t very happy with Jessica Alba these days.
Calm queries for gently used onesies and changing tables have given way on some Brooklyn-area list-serves to impassioned calls for boycotting products made by Alba’s The Honest Company. Several parents have committed to ditching their monthly subscriptions, and one has gone so far as to call Alba a hypocrite.
So why are the mommies of Brooklyn in revolt? Two words: Donald Trump–or more precisely, the Honest Company’s perceived support of President-elect Trump and his controversial policies.
The Los Angeles-based consumer products maker co-founded by Alba and CEO Brian Lee is one of 12 brands that have sponsored NBC’s The New Celebrity Apprentice, the rebooted reality TV show executive produced by Trump. The president-elect formally hosted the elimination show between 2004 and 2015. The new host is former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Critics of the series–and of the companies that have signed on as sponsors–lambaste the President-elect’s sexually explicit comments, as well as sexual discrimination allegations levied against him, and his proposal to bar some minorities from entering the country. On the campaign trail, Trump referred to Mexican immigrants as “criminals” and “rapists,” for instance. Many view sponsorship of the show as indirect support of the billionaire businessman by putting money back in his pocket.
On this season of the show, Alba will appear as a member of Schwarzenegger’s fictional “board,” helping to decide which celebrity contestant wins $ 250,000 (to donate to the charity of his or her choice.) Other companies slated to appear–and which critics have similarly threatened to boycott–include Trident, Welch’s, King’s Hawaiian, Kawasaki USA, See’s Candies, Lorissa’s Kitchen, Universal Studios Hollywood, the L.A. Clippers, QVC, and Carnival Corporation.
Tyra Banks, in her role as founder and CEO of beauty retailer Tyra Beauty, appeared on the premiere episode of the series this week, which drew tepid ratings compared to the earlier Trump era. Just 4.93 million viewers tuned in on Monday night, down more than 43 percent from the last premiere in 2015, according to Nielsen’s data.
The Honest Company said in a statement that it’s not currently an “active sponsor” of the show. The business paid an (undisclosed) flat fee to cover production costs for the episode in which Alba and Honest Company products appear. The episode was taped in February, before the presidential election, but after Trump announced his candidacy, a company rep tells Inc. Alba and Lee declined to comment further.
Dozens of angry mothers in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens neighborhoods are among those calling to cancel their monthly subscriptions, or “bundles.” E-commerce accounts for a large portion of Honest Company revenues, Lee told Inc. in 2015. The business reportedly generates around $ 300 million in annual sales.
Lydia Gerthoffer, a Brooklyn-based mother and pre-school teacher, has been an Honest Company customer for most of the startup’s five-year-history. She spent about $ 40 per month for household cleaning products and feminine care, and previously subscribed to a diaper bundle when her daughter, now five-years old, was an infant.
“I was really upset to read that a brand that I have always trusted would align itself with this conflict of interest,” Gerthoffer says, referring to Trump’s knot of business ties. Boycotting the Honest Company, she adds “is a small way that I can resist in my own household, and put my money where my mouth is,” she adds.
The company claims the uproar is unfair, since the limited sponsorship happened nearly a year ago. But Miriam Sondag isn’t buying it. An affordable housing attorney in Brooklyn–and fellow outraged parent–characterizes the statement as disingenuous “corporate speak.”
“That’s such a silly line to draw,” Sondag tells Inc., referring to the company’s timeline of events. “It would be one thing if this was filmed five years ago, and the world was in a completely different situation. But a year ago, the election was well underway. Many of the things that have made people so uncomfortable with the president-elect had already happened.” (For instance, he had referred to women as “slobs”and “disgusting animals.”)
The lawyer is currently nursing a seven month old, and has boycotted the company’s dish soap and wipes. (She plans to buy from competing brands including Mrs. Meyer’s and Method.) Sondag urged other parents to boycott the company’s products via a private Facebook message board. So far, at least 22 have agreed, with dozens more “liking” the post.
Bigger Than Brooklyn
It’s not just the local parents’ community up in arms about the company’s involvement with the show. Jill Fields, a professor of history at California State University at Fresno, has taken her business elsewhere, and encouraged others to do the same via Facebook. (Some two-dozen have agreed, and Fields is passing around a flyer.) Victoria Cormack, a freelance writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, adds that she’s boycotting “all products,” affiliated with Trump’s business interests, including See’s, QVC and Welch’s.
Small businesses that carry Honest Company products may also consider a boycott. Suzanne Price, the founder and chief executive of Sprout San Francisco–a store selling organic childcare products with five locations in Brooklyn, Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area–already distances her brand from anything Trump-related. Currently, Sprout carries 14 Honest Company products, including the branded shampoo, conditioner, diapers and baby wipes.
She has no plans to reduce the company’s presence currently. To her the timing is important. Since the sponsorship took place a year ago, the entrepreneur says she can “live with that.”