Old Navy brought in white workers and hid staff of color for 'Queer Eye,' Philly employees say

Old Navy said it "would never select employees to participate — or not — based on race" and that it was "proud to work" with the Netflix show.
The Old Navy on Chestnut street in center city Philadelphia.
The Old Navy on Chestnut street in Center City in Philadelphia.Google Maps

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By Janelle Griffith

Two employees of color at an Old Navy store in Philadelphia say that they and other workers of color were kept in the background during an in-store taping of the Netflix series "Queer Eye" last week — and that white employees from other stores were brought in to be featured prominently.

Old Navy said the allegations are "completely inaccurate" and against its values as a company.

Monae Alvarado, who has worked at the store in the Center City area of Philadelphia since February 2018, said in a now-viral Facebook post — first reported by Philadelphia Magazine — that she and most of her colleagues worked overnight last Tuesday to spruce up the store in advance of the taping of "Queer Eye."

When she arrived to work at 7 a.m. Aug. 21, Alvarado said she was shocked to find 10 to 15 employees, all of whom are white, from other stores in the region.

Alvarado, whose responsibility it is to fulfill online orders, said she was informed by a manager that she was assigned to the second floor — away from the cameras.

"I didn’t expect them to bring in other people from other Old Navy stores and then have us pushed to the back," Alvarado, who is of Cambodian descent, told NBC News on Thursday.

She said as she tried to satisfy online purchases on the first floor, she was again told to go to the second floor.

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"Then my manager called me over and told me they didn't want me in the front," Alvarado said. "I don't know if it was her boss or production."

Marjorie Williams, an Old Navy employee at the Center City location who also worked that day, said that the store's entire staff was "whitewashed."

“Our staff is 98 percent African American and to come in the morning of filming to see so many white people, I was in shock,” Williams told NBC News.

Three of the four African American employees working that day were in the back, she said. The other employee, a manager, was “front and center,” Williams said.

“Only the whites signed waivers to be filmed,” Williams said. “They did not want us anywhere near the production.”

Had the white employees been actors, she would have understood, Williams said, but they were all workers from other Old Navy stores.

Old Navy said it "would never select employees to participate — or not — based on race" and that it was "proud to work" with the "Queer Eye" show and to have a local store manager appear on camera.

“We also worked with additional employees in the area to help ensure the store ran seamlessly for customers, as the location was open for business during filming, and we expect they may appear in background shots," the company said in a statement. "These individuals are reflective of our diverse employee population."

The "Queer Eye" reboot on Netflix is a reality series in which five experts on such topics as fashion, food, interior design and culture give a makeover to an individual nominated by a friend or family member. The show has been filming in Philadelphia for its fifth season, featuring businesses around the city.

Netflix said the show's hosts, producers and crew had no knowledge or influence on staffing at the Old Navy location while filming in the Center City store and that an African American manager was featured in the show.

"While filming, production featured one female employee, an African American manager, who completed an on-camera styling consultation and also served as a point of contact for our crew," Netflix said.

Alvarado said that even if the intent was not to disrespect the mostly minority staff at the Center City store, that was the reality.

"We felt like we were nobody to them," she said.