Last week an image of a young black boy modeling for H&M created global uproar. When a photo of little Liam sporting a green hoodie with the phrase "Coolest Monkey in the Jungle" hit Twitter, everyone from the Weeknd to LeBron James spoke out against the racially insensitive move.
H&M quickly apologized for both the product and the photo shoot, but now the parents have shared their thoughts in an interview with the British show This Morning. Despite an earlier report, Liam's mother Terry doesn’t think the outcry was unwarranted. “It is not an overreaction when it comes to racism,” she said in the interview. “Everyone should act differently based on their opinions of what racism is.”
She goes further to share her own experience with the word monkey. “I have had racist remarks directed to me firsthand,” she said. “Even with the name monkey. I’ve been called a monkey before on a cruise ship.”
Liam’s family lives in Stockholm, Sweden, and didn’t know about the controversy at all until the internet erupted in backlash. “Until the controversy came out we did not know that there was such a T-shirt,” Terry said. When asked if they remembered the shoot, both parents said that they didn’t. Liam is signed to a Swedish modeling agency hired by H&M, and the couple has accompanied their son to dozens of similar shoots.
Though the parents understand the controversy, they said they don’t see the hoodie in the same light. “I wouldn’t see such a connection to anything other than my son modeling a shirt,” Terry said. “To put the T-shirt and the word monkey with it that is not my way of looking at it.”
Liam’s father Frank then explained that the uproar has made it hard for them tor have a “normal family life.” “For me it’s very important that people understand that me and Teresa, we have a son, we have other children in the home that we are raising, and we have an obligation to protect our children,” he said.
As for Liam, the young model apparently doesn’t understand all the commotion. “He’s aware he’s a superstar and people love him,” Terry said.