Feminist queen of TikTok Drew Afualo has come under fire recently for her unexpected partnership with fast fashion company, Shein.
The online icon has built her platform around her unfiltered, unapologetic takedowns of men who make misogynistic videos about women— whether they know it or not. Drew has said that her signature quick-witted, “not afraid to go there” tactics have served her well, resonating with over 6 million followers on TikTok.
“I don’t waste time trying to educate full-grown men on why they shouldn’t be [openly] horrible on the internet,” Drew told Pedestrian.
“I truly just make them regret ever making that video,” she said.
Drew announces partnership with Shein
In a video posted in March, Drew revealed that she had partnered with Shein, a notoriously controversial fast fashion company.
Multiple public investigations have exposed the true cost of the ridiculously low prices that Shein boasts, with Swiss advocacy group Public Eye reporting that Shein’s factory workers, mostly migrants, work up to 75 hours a week, often working multiple shifts in a day. Another report by Sixth Tone revealed that Shein’s messy, untraceable supply chain makes it almost impossible to know who to hold accountable for the company’s blatant breach of labour laws. The report also found that factory workers worked in cramped conditions in unregistered factories, and were not being paid what they were promised.
Drew asks followers to ‘check your privilege’
Given Shein’s record of exploiting their workers, many fans of Drew were surprised and disappointed with this seemingly misaligned collaboration.
Drew swiftly responded to the backlash, replying to comments on the video that sustainable fashion is not affordable for everyone, nor does it cater to plus-sized bodies.
“Shopping sustainably, is a privilege not afforded to everyone. ESPECIALLY plus/mid/fat women. Remember that,” she commented on her video.
But is it a privilege for Drew?
Fans had mixed reactions to Drew’s clap back, with many people pointing out that while shopping sustainably is indeed a privilege, it wouldn’t be too out of reach for a successful influencer like Drew.
“It’s not about ‘check your privilege’, because if it was about ‘check your privilege’, it wouldn’t apply to you. It would apply to all the people who genuinely are larger and can only shop fast fashion,” TikTok user @comewhatmayjor said.
Other people pointed out that promoting a company like Shein that has such a dismal track record for exploiting their mostly female factory workers goes directly against Drew’s brand and message as a feminist creator.
“You actively contributed to the suffering and exploitation of these people because you shared and promoted this brand to 6.6 million people,” TikTok user @agojaa said.
Fans stand behind Drew
However, not all Drew’s followers were on the same page. Many fans jumped to her defence, agreeing that not everyone can afford sustainable clothing or find sustainable clothing that fits them.
One TikTok user commented, “Not everyone can afford ethically sourced things. A lot of companies don’t make inclusive sizes. Check yah privilege at the door ppl,” to which Drew replied, “THANK YOU”.
Drew finally addressed the issue on Twitter on April 2nd, saying “watching thin women try to call my feminism performative after seeing one brand deal they don’t like, truly is so rotten”.
This time, most Twitter users commented with messages of support, agreeing with Drew and saying that many people would have promoted Shein for a paycheck too if they were given the chance.
As the backlash subsides, Drew has returned to posting her regular content on TikTok. But if there’s anything for influencers to learn from this situation, it is that time and time again, online followers prove that they will notice and call out misaligned partnerships and unethical practices, no matter who their favourite creator is.