Three employees say Old Navy in downtown Philadelphia hid them away and bused in white workers from the suburbs for the taping of the hit Netflix show "Queer Eye."
Monae Alvarado, a Cambodian woman who works at the City Center retailer, said the store employs only people of color at that location, but they were kept out of sight while the show was recorded for an upcoming episode, reported Philadelphia Magazine.
"Most of us did an overnight to help make the store look beautiful," Alvarado posted on her Facebook page. "Today they brought all these workers from other store around the region (West Chester, Mount Pocono, and Deptford NJ) and they were all white. They had us standing in the back not to be seen while the other workers from another store get to work on our floor like it’s their store. The shade I tell you."
Two other store employees, who declined to give their names, confirmed Alvarado's account.
“Corporate brought in new clothes, signs, and repainted parts of the store," said one of those workers. "We had to hide all tags under clothes and fold everything a certain way to make the place look spotless."
“We were under the impression from our managers that we would be filmed and to remain professional," the worker added. "I was super-excited up until the day of and a random group of white folks came in to replace us at our own store.”
Alvarado told the magazine that about 10 white workers were brought in from suburban stores to work during the taping, and a third employee said the decision was clearly racist.
“I felt the racism the moment I was being told by managers to go to sections of the store that I usually don’t work around,” that employee said. “It became clear that we weren’t going to be filmed because we hadn’t been asked to sign consent forms, and they made it a point to keep us as far away from the cameras as possible. Most of the staff and managers at our store location are black.”
A spokesperson for Old Navy told the magazine the company celebrates the diversity of its employees and customers, and insisted the outside employees were brought in to help the City Center store remain operational during the show's taping.
"We were proud to work with The Queer Eye show to film at our store in Philadelphia and to feature our local store manager on camera," the spokesperson said. "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. These individuals are reflective of our diverse employee population. We would never select employees to participate – or not – based on race. That is completely inaccurate and against the values we stand for as a company.”