Mother of boy, nine, who dances in dress in 'woke' John Lewis ad says family has had online abuse

Mother of boy, nine, who dances in dress in 'woke' John Lewis ad says family has had online abuse

Mother of boy, nine, who dances in dress in ‘woke’ John Lewis TV advert says family has been target of online abuse after retailer was accused of ‘sexism and gender ideology’ and hit with nearly 400 complaints

  • Sam Parker, 35, said she was furious with the comments about her nine-year-old
  • Reggie was a main character in John Lewis’s home insurance ad ‘Let Life Happen’
  • She said some said boys should not wear her clothes and she did it to make cash
  • But Mrs Parker hit back at those criticising the advert and said she it was just ‘fun’


The mother of a young boy who stars in a ‘woke’ John Lewis advert wearing a dress and make up has hit back at trolls for sending her abuse online.

Sam Parker, 35, from Oxford, said she was furious with the comments about her nine-year-old son Reggie’s performance in the home insurance ad ‘Let Life Happen’.

She said she was told boys should not wear her clothes and others claimed she must have ‘forced’ him to do it to cash in on the commercial.

John Lewis has stoked widespread fury with the video, with it being branded too woke while some claimed it is not woke enough.

The retailer was hit with allegations of sexism, agenda pushing, appropriating trans culture and sexualising children, receiving nearly 400 complaints.

Others also accused it of encouraging male entitlement and patriarchy due to a young girl and older woman doing little to stop the chaos shown in the clip.

Sam Parker (pictured, with her son), 35, from Oxford, said she was furious with the comments about her nine-year-old son Reggie’s performance in the home insurance ad ‘Let Life Happen’

She said she was told boys should not wear her clothes and others claimed she must have 'forced' him to do it to cash in on the commercial. Pictured: Reggie

She said she was told boys should not wear her clothes and others claimed she must have ‘forced’ him to do it to cash in on the commercial. Pictured: Reggie

But Mrs Parker last night hit back at those criticising the advert and said she it was just ‘fun and innocent’.

The family said they were thrilled when Reggie was confirmed for his first TV role and his parents said they thought there would be some minor reaction to it.

She said: ‘I am shocked it has caused so much controversy. It’s laughable, how can anyone be so upset and offended over something fun and innocent?.’

The mother-of-two, who works as a nanny, said she loves the advert for showing ‘a young boy feeling a sassy vibe’.

She said her and husband Lee, 38, had shaken off most of the criticism but some insults had gone too far.

She said: ‘I’ve read comments from people with old fashioned mind sets who don’t want to see a boy in a dress.

‘I’ve seen ridiculous comments saying his ‘behaviour’ is destructive and spoilt – he is acting in an advert for home insurance.

‘But what disgusts me are complaints saying the advert is sexualising Reggie, with lipstick and ‘provocative’ dance moves.’

She added: ‘If you see something sexual in a advert with a young boy – you have a problem.’

The boy smudges paint on his face from a palette he dropped onto the floor while dancing around the house

The boy smudges paint on his face from a palette he dropped onto the floor while dancing around the house

John Lewis has stoked widespread fury with the video, with it being branded too woke while some claimed it has not gone far enough. Pictured: Reggie playing football
Pictured: Reggie in a dress as he tried on options for the wardrobe

John Lewis has stoked widespread fury with the video, with it being branded too woke while some claimed it has not gone far enough. Pictured: Reggie playing football and in a dress

The retailer was hit with allegations of sexism, agenda pushing, appropriating trans culture and sexualising children. Pictured: Reggie with his father Lee

The retailer was hit with allegations of sexism, agenda pushing, appropriating trans culture and sexualising children. Pictured: Reggie with his father Lee

The advert, named ‘Let Life Happen’, premiered during the Great British Bake Off last week.

It shows Reggie in a messy bedroom filled with clothes and jewellery that has been dumped on the floor.

The boy, who is wearing a dress over and large necklace over a t-shirt, then flings a pair of heeled shoes at a lamp and low-hanging light before running downstairs.

The advert also shows him picking up an umbrella and hurling it at an ornament as Stevie Nicks’ Edge of Seventeen plays in the background.

Dancing and posing throughout, the spectacled boy throws paint on the floor and – with his fingertips covered – then rubs it over his cheeks.

Mrs Parker revealed she had also been targeted with abusive comments claiming she has forced her son to do it for the money.

She said: ‘I haven’t and never will make money from my children – or any opportunities they choose to do.’

She continued: ‘Reggie knew what the advert involved and was really excited to play the part.

‘The money will be put into his own account. He will be allowed to spend a small amount because he worked very hard but the rest he will save for when he is older.’

She added: ‘I’ve also read comments that ‘ a boy should be playing football’ – well he does.

‘He is a goal keeper, he gets muddy and he is always in the garden or playing Fifa – he also loves dressing up and has been street dancing since he was four and that’s ok.’

The advert begins by showing a messy bedroom covered in dumped clothes and jewelry, before the boy appears in a dress over a t-shirt

The advert begins by showing a messy bedroom covered in dumped clothes and jewelry, before the boy appears in a dress over a t-shirt

The boy smashes photo frames as he makes his way downstairs to continue the carnage shown throughout the advert

The boy smashes photo frames as he makes his way downstairs to continue the carnage shown throughout the advert

John Lewis has been hit with allegations of sexism, gender ideology and patriarchy following the release of the advert on Monday

John Lewis has been hit with allegations of sexism, gender ideology and patriarchy following the release of the advert on Monday

A glass of liquid is spilled onto a kitchen surface and laptop as the boy makes his way through to a dining room, where the advert concludes with him throwing glitter

A glass of liquid is spilled onto a kitchen surface and laptop as the boy makes his way through to a dining room, where the advert concludes with him throwing glitter

The commercial is Reggie’s first acting role, having only joined the USI agency seven months ago.

Mrs Parker said: ‘We love seeing him pop up on our tv, it’s amazing. His school friends absolutely love it, his teachers played it in class.

‘I explained in advance to Reggie that some people might have questions, I didn’t want to be naïve in thinking there wouldn’t be some children who might ask why he was wearing a dress.

‘But they all thought he was brilliant, enjoyed the fun and chaos and even asked for autographs. It just goes to show that it’s only adults over thinking it.’

Mrs Parker decided to speak to Reggie about the comments online, saying he is old enough to be aware and she is so proud of his reaction.

Reggie, who wants to be a brain surgeon shrugged them off, saying: ‘I’m not transgender, but even if I was what would it matter?

‘It’s just a boy dressing up and having fun. It’s over the top as it’s supposed to be funny.

‘Even if I was transgender or gay it doesn’t make me who I am or change my performance.

‘I like the LGBTQ world, but actually it shouldn’t be a thing and everyone should live in one world. A person is a person.’

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Angel Tola from USI Agency said: ‘We are extremely proud of Reggie and knew he was going to be a superstar.

‘The John Lewis advert has proven what an amazing, talented and professional actor Reggie is.

‘To get everyone talking about you in this industry is hard to achieve, to do this at the age of 9 is nothing short of incredible.

‘We cannot wait to continue working with Reggie, he is definitely one to watch out for.’

Reggie’s older sister Imogen, 13, was also spotted in the advert in family photos displayed in the kitchen.

John Lewis defended the advert, saying it was just a ‘fictional story’ of a boy ‘dancing to his favourite song’.

A spokesman said: ‘Our advert is a dramatic, fictional story showing our main character getting carried away and dancing to his favourite song – unaware of the unintentional consequences of his actions and does not show wilful damage. 

‘If customers have Accidental Damage Cover with our Home Insurance, this would cover a range of major and minor home disasters – which includes unintentional breakages caused by children in the family.

‘We carried out customer research on the advert prior to its launch and this was well received.

‘We featured a young girl in our Tiny Dancer home insurance advert in 2015, so chose a young male actor for this advert.’

Woke? No, the John Lewis ad is just sexist, says ISABEL OAKESHOTT: It features a boy in lipstick and a dress trashing his house. But the gender agenda isn’t the real controversy

Oh John Lewis — what have you done? The department store that is famously ‘never knowingly undersold’ is supposed to be like those lovely feather and down duvets it sells at such a reasonable price: a comfort blanket of conventionality. Now it has waded into gender politics — and got it all wrong.

As a customer, my heart sank at the company’s new home insurance advert featuring a boy wearing bright blue eyeshadow and lipstick, prancing about in a maxi dress. Like Sainsbury’s promoting Black History Month in the supermarket aisles when all shoppers want is a pint of milk, it seems a totally unnecessary foray into the culture wars.

As a mother, I am even more dismayed. For with this stupidly provocative and divisive advert, John Lewis is not truly challenging gender stereotypes, as it’s oh-so-woke marketing people clearly believe. In the roles it has assigned the two female characters — both passive onlookers — it is reinforcing all the old cliches about how girls and women behave.

Isabel Oakeshott explains why the John Lewis home insurance advert featuring a boy wearing a dress and make-up (pictured) made her heart sink

Isabel Oakeshott explains why the John Lewis home insurance advert featuring a boy wearing a dress and make-up (pictured) made her heart sink

The advert stars a boy of about ten, somewhat past the standard age for trying on mummy’s dresses. Of course, he could just be a little lad in fancy dress, but that is not the impression conveyed. With his chest thrust out and pouting seductively for the camera, he looks more like a mini contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race than a child at play.

We then watch while our anti-hero goes on the rampage through the family home, trashing everything in his path, while his sister and mother, bizarrely untroubled by the unfolding drama, do nothing. Championing equality and diversity? Hardly.

Strutting to the strains of Stevie Nicks’ hit Edge Of Seventeen, we first meet the lad in his mother’s bedroom, where wardrobes have been flung open, clothes are strewn across the bed, shoes and underwear are scattered across the carpet, and the dressing table is littered with jewellery, nail varnish, and other cosmetics.

Dressed in kitten-heeled boots, his mother’s dress pulled over a Breton t-shirt and cinched at the waist with a gold belt, the boy flounces onto the scene. Flinging fistfuls of pillow feathers into the air, he sashays onto the landing, where he kicks off his footwear, deliberately aiming the boots at a pendant lampshade and smearing make-up along the white bannisters. Making his way downstairs, he swipes at a row of pictures on the wall and hurls an umbrella at a shelf of ornaments, sending everything flying.

It is at this point that we meet his sister, who is sitting at a coffee table quietly painting a picture.

As the soundtrack reaches its climax, the boy picks up her tray of paints and tips it all over the carpet, before twirling and pouting his way into the kitchen where he wreaks yet more havoc.

Isabel said viewers are seemingly expected to smile indulgently at the naught boy's (pictured) antics, however all hell would've broken loose if her son did this to his sisters

Isabel said viewers are seemingly expected to smile indulgently at the naught boy’s (pictured) antics, however all hell would’ve broken loose if her son did this to his sisters 

So here we are again: a naughty boy having fun at his sister’s expense, wrecking her downtime and being allowed to do so with impunity. It seems viewers are expected to smile indulgently at his antics.

In my household, all hell would have broken loose had my son done this to his sisters. The girls wouldn’t have given a damn about the carpet, but they would have been enraged at being rudely interrupted from their artistic endeavours. Yet the girl in the advert doesn’t even react.

What on earth is wrong with her? Has she been taught to believe ‘boys will be boys’? If so, I blame her mother, who is equally uncomplaining. As the boy continues his wanton trail of destruction, she briefly looks up from the recipe book she is reading in the kitchen but doesn’t do or say anything as he destroys the house.

We hear nothing more of her as he pirouettes on the dining room table while throwing fistfuls of glitter at the wall.

Is she too busy studying how to bake the perfect cupcake to do anything, or does she think it’s fine to let kids charge around the house breaking stuff? The ‘Let Life Happen’ slogan at the end of the advert certainly reinforces that impression.

Isabel said the sexist stereotyping throughout the advert (pictured) is ironic, given the message John Lewis is trying to send out with the gender-fluid star

Isabel said the sexist stereotyping throughout the advert (pictured) is ironic, given the message John Lewis is trying to send out with the gender-fluid star

Meanwhile, where’s dad? Is he out at work, while mum sits pretty at home? Perhaps there isn’t a father, which would be thoroughly modern, if only the females in the advert were stepping into some traditional male roles. But no, they are little more than decorative after-thoughts.

This is sexist stereotyping writ large — pretty ironic, given the message John Lewis is trying to send out with the gender-fluid star. It is all so ham-fisted, when the company could simply have shown a happy girl sliding down the bannisters and accidentally smashing a vase or trampling over the carpet in muddy boots after football.

And as for the whole point of the advert, are we to believe that the claims department at John Lewis would just pay out for all the broken and ruined stuff the boy leaves in his wake?

A spokesman says: ‘If customers have accidental damage cover, this would cover a range of major and minor home disasters, including unintentional breakages caused by children in the family.’

Isabel said the advert (pictured) was clearly designed to wind up middle England, while admitting she's dreading the John Lewis Christmas advert

Isabel said the advert (pictured) was clearly designed to wind up middle England, while admitting she’s dreading the John Lewis Christmas advert 

But it’s not accidental damage we see in this ad — it’s the wilful making of a giant mess that will take ages to clean up. And who will have to pull on the Marigolds at the end of the little darling’s rampage? Mum and stoic daughter, no doubt. What an insult.

By using this clunky attempt to celebrate gender ambiguity, perhaps the powers-that-be at John Lewis are playing a long game, calculating that the new advert will appeal to their next generation of customers.

Doubtless the marketing team is thrilled by the fuss. The advert was clearly designed to wind up middle England, and it has done just that. The question is whether it has achieved anything else.

In a few weeks, John Lewis will unveil its keenly anticipated Christmas advert. I dread to think what horror awaits. Perhaps they’ll turn the Three Wise Men into Three Wise Women. If so, I might just stick to Argos this year.

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James Gant

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