Valley Dwellers Find Kendall Jenner’s ‘818’ Tequila Branding Less than Endearing

“The 818 does not claim Calabasas,” one local responded

Kendall Jenner is launching a tequila brand–with a familiar name. 818 Tequila takes its branding from the 818 area code that covers the San Fernando Valley region where Jenner, technically, did grow up. But a lot of folks from the Valley quickly took to social media to say the Kardashian-Jenner version of the 818 doesn’t match the one they know and love.

Jennie Molina, a health justice advocate from the San Fernando Valley, was among those who expressed irritation at Jenner’s marketing move.

“Kendall Jenner starting a tequila brand with zero knowledge of Mexican culture and calling it ‘818 Tequila’ is gentrification. The 818 does not claim Calabasas,” she posted in a thread of tweets.

Molina called out Jenner for what she perceives as an attempt to appropriate the Valley’s association with Chicanx, Central American, and Latinx communities to market tequila nationally, without addressing the fact that those communities, not far from the Kardashian-Jenner headquarters in the elite enclave of Calabasas, are among the poorest, least-resourced, and most devastated by pandemic in the region.

“Like many places in Los Angeles,” Molina noted, “wealthy folks try to erase the real people and culture from the 818 to appeal to white folks and their version of the 818.”

Jenner’s tequila, which the 25-year-old model says she has been developing for four years, is reportedly produced by the large La Cofradía SA de CV distillery in Jalisco, which produces a number of other brands, including the popular JAJA. That arrangement is similar to other celebrity-backed tequilas like George Clooney’s Casamigos.

“You shouldn’t buy celebrity-owned tequilas,” L.A. bartender and craft cocktail expert Lucas Assis stated in a video posted to Instagram. “These tequilas are killing the industry. They just reach out to a factory, the factory sends out samples they have, they put their name brand on the bottles and market it at whatever price they think will sell.”

That dynamic, Assis says, is contributing to a consolidation of the agave industry into just a few large producers responsible for many different bottlings, and making it more difficult and costly for small, family-run brands to survive.

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