Old Navy Creates Santa Claus School to Train New, Diverse Santas

Photo: (Photo : Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Old Navy is supporting diversity this holiday season by launching a Santa Claus school to train new Santas from different cultural backgrounds. The company said that they want all children in the U.S. to have proper representation thus they should have a Santa they can identify with.

In a statement, the clothing company said that less than five percent of Santa Clauses in the U.S. are people of color but nearly half of the kids in America below 15 years old are not white. Old Navy's SVP and CMO, Jamie Gersch, said that their company's values promote inclusivity and diversity so they are launching the Santa Bootcamp to prepare talented individuals for holiday employment.

Any person may sign up to be part of the short training, where they will learn the fundamentals of being Santa Claus. They will receive tips and instructions from Timothy Connaghan, a highly-sought-after Santa booking agent and trainer. Dion Sinclair, known as The Real Black Santa, and Bob Torres, the bilingual Santa, will also be teaching the classes.

Read Also: Halloween Canceled: Michigan School District to Forgo Traditional Activities Due to Inclusion Concerns

Red Hat, White Hair Magic

Connaghan said that regardless of skin color, it's the red hat and white hair that create the magic of Santa Claus. He believes that regardless of a person's appearance, a good Santa exudes joy and the spirit of the holiday.

As part of the initiative, Old Navy will have Santas in diverse backgrounds at their Chicago, New York and San Francisco stores. The idea to diversify Santa came from the company's three-toned Santa pajamas, which was a hit during the last holiday season.

Black American actress Keke Palmer will also star in the new holiday campaign for Old Navy with a focus on the importance of diversity.

"Believing that everyone is a Cinderella, that everyone is Santa, that we all are these people - these stories are meant to be lived in our lives, for us to be able to see ourselves in these inspirational positions," Palmer said, adding that it's very important for all people to be part of the story of Christmas with an amazing character like Santa Claus.

Shortage of Santa Claus

The news comes as booking agents said there is a shortage of Santa Claus actors this year. As Christmas party traditions resume post-COVID, the demand for Santa appearances has gone up by over 120 percent.

However, there are fewer older, Caucasian people booking for the job as many remain at risk for virus transmission. According to reports, most traditional-looking Santa Clauses are not eager to wear the red suit and interact with the public and the kids because they could still catch the virus.

Some regular actors booked for the holidays to play Santa Claus are also no longer around as they have been casualties of the pandemic. HireSanta.Com estimated that there were 700 Santa actors who died from COVID-19 in the U.S.

With not enough Santas for the parties, booking agents have been turning down requests for appearances. Thus, some are turning to alternative and hiring people of color as Santa Claus for as long as they have the Santa suit, the belly, the beard and the Christmas joy.

Related Article: Santa Claus Likely a No-Show at the Malls or Events Due to Workers Shortage

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