Big Names That Changed With the Times to Avoid Being Canceled

'TIME FOR CHANGE' Written in Sand in the Foreground with Ocean Waves on the Top


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'TIME FOR CHANGE' Written in Sand in the Foreground with Ocean Waves on the Top

Names They Are A-Changin'

Companies, products, and artists continually reinvent themselves to keep up with consumer preferences and ensure they're on the right side of history. Rebranding and other such changes are nothing new but have taken on a new urgency in the face of social movements. From musicians revising controversial song lyrics to companies tweaking products and dress codes in the name of inclusivity, some notable shifts have taken place, including a gender-neutral uniform policy at Virgin Atlantic airlines to ensure nonbinary employees feel represented at work.

Related: The Surprising Reasons These Companies and Brands Changed Names

Eleven Airline Stewards and Stewardesses Showcasing Alternating Brown and Red Virgin Atlantic Uniforms in Different Style Combinations, Dramatically, on a White Runway Outside
Ben Queenborough/Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic

Employees of Virgin Atlantic can now wear clothing that best matches their gender identity, following a decision by the airline to adopt gender-neutral uniforms. The policy allows LGBTQ staff and crew members to "choose either the red or the burgundy uniform, depending on which best reflects themselves," according to a news release. The Crawley, England-based company said it is also rolling out optional pronoun badges for employees, as well as anyone traveling with the airline who wishes to wear one.

Related: Unbelievable Airline Incidents Through the Years

Monica Lewinsky, 2022 & Beyoncé During the 2020 BET Awards
Jerod Harris/Stringer/Getty Images & BET Awards 2020/Contributor/Getty Images


The hit singer released an album."Renaissance," to much fanfare — and some backlash. To start, Beyoncé was called out for using an ableist slur, "spaz," in one of her songs — the same slur singer Lizzo was recently in trouble for using in one of her songs merely weeks ago. Beyoncé's team quickly put out a statement three days after the album's release saying that the lyric would be changed on YouTube, Apple Music, and Spotify. Next, Monica Lewinsky irequested her name be removed from one of the songs on the album. "Partition" references Lewinsky's affair with former president Bill Clinton.

Related: Famous Public Meltdowns by Celebrities

Aerial of First Peoples Mountain, Yellowstone National Park, and Surrounding Mountains
National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior/Jacob W. Frank

Yellowstone National Park

One of the largest peaks in Yellowstone has been renamed as part of the national park's 150th anniversary. Mount Doane, a 10,551-foot peak, is now First Peoples Mountain after a unanimous vote by the U.S. Board of Geographic Names. The change came after recent research revealed that Gustavus Doane led an attack on a band of Piegan Blackfeet, killing 173, including women, elderly tribal members, and sick children. After the attack, which has become known as the Marias Massacre, Doane bragged about it for the rest of his life. Other changes to derogatory names could be coming to the park in the future, according to the National Park Service.

Lizzo Performing At the Palace Theatre, St. Paul, in the Center a Dancer on Both Sides, All Wearing Black Costumes
Lizzo Performing At the Palace Theatre, St. Paul, in the Center a Dancer on Both Sides, All Wearing Black Costumes by Andy Witchger (CC BY)


Lizzo, the 2019 Time entertainer of the year and body-positivity advocate, has changed the lyrics on a song that she released just last week after fans pointed out that she used an ableist slur. "Grrrls" included the word "spaz," which comes from the word spastic, a classification for some disorders like cerebral palsy for people who have difficulty controlling their movements. Lizzo posted an apology on her Instagram account, saying, "As a fat black woman in America, I've had many hateful words used against me so I understand the power words can have (whether intentionally or in my case unintentionally). I'm proud to say there's a new version of GRRRLS with a lyric change."

Ringling Brothers & Barnum Bailey Circus, TD Garden, Boston, Elephants and People in Costumes on Stage in the Foreground, 14 Oct 2012
Ringling Brothers & Barnum Bailey Circus, TD Garden, Boston, Elephants and People in Costumes on Stage in the Foreground, 14 Oct 2012 by Chris Devers (CC BY-NC-ND)

Ringling Bros.

After a six-year hiatus, this beloved circus had a comeback in 2023 — but without those signature lions, tigers, and elephants. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus ceased operations in 2017, citing a number of factors, despite pressure from animal-rights groups for decades of its 146-year run. The company dropped elephants from its show in 2016, but kept lions and tigers. When and if the show returns, no animals will appear, a decision cheered by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Instead, the circus featured extraordinary human performers to participate in acts. "Ringling Bros.’ announcement perfectly reflects our society’s intolerance of the practices of carting elephants and other nonconsenting animals across the country and bullying them into performing stupid tricks," PETA said in a statement. "Fifty years ago, less-informed audiences may have felt wonder at seeing a tiger jump through a hoop or laughed at a pig spinning on a pedestal. But times and tastes have changed."

Barbie Fashionistas Doll #121

Mattel's Barbie

If you're still picturing Barbie as a blonde with impossible measurements (as she appeared in the movie "Barbie"), it's time to get with the program. Mattel's iconic line of dolls has gotten a 21st-century makeover in a big way, with a much wider range of body types, skin colors, hair styles, and careers. Notable recent changes have included a gender-neutral line and a doll with a prosthetic leg. The latest additions: A Barbie with hearing aids has joined the Fashionista lineup for the first time, as well as a Ken doll with the skin condition vitiligo. The dolls are available through Walmart, Target, and Amazon.

Google Homepage on the Safari Browser on the Screen of a MacBook, Man with Back Towards the Camera, Laying on a Couch with Laptop on His Knees


Google is launching a new feature to take an all-inclusive stance. The search engine's inclusive language function aims to cut down on the use of certain words. For instance, users who type "landlord" in Google Docs will see a warning that the terminology used "may not be inclusive to all readers." Google is also working to diminish gender-specific terms like "policeman," prompting usage of "police officers" instead. Vice even documents a writer being told in Google Docs that the term "motherboard" is not inclusive. The criticism was swift, and Google told the Washington Times that it is pausing the feature while it continues to improve the technology.

Darren Barnet Wearing a Victoria's Secret Apricot Hoodie, Back Towards Camera, He Is Slightly Turned Around Looking At the Camera
Victoria's Secret PINK

Victoria's Secret

This lingerie juggernaut has had a rough go of it in recent years, with customers increasingly turning away from the brand's image of unattainable beauty and supermodel-perfect bodies. In response, Victoria's Secret has been working to include more diverse faces and bodies in its advertising. It has partnered with athletes, actors, and activists like soccer legend Megan Rapinoe, actor Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Brazilian transgender model Valentina Sampaio as its new spokespeople. Its latest ambassador is even a man: Actor Darren Barnet signed on to promote the gender-free collection of Victoria Secret's casual PINK line. The chain has even started putting male mannequins in some stores, the New York Post reports.

Five Bags of Cracker Jills, Each with a Different Cartoon Girl on the Front, Showcasing Diversity, on Astro Turf
Frito-Lay North America

Cracker Jack

Get ready to sing, "Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jills" at the ballpark this summer. Frito-Lay, parent company of Cracker Jack, has added Cracker Jills to its lineup as an homage to women and girls in sports. What's inside is the same as it has been for 125 years, but Cracker Jill bags will depict a female athlete inspired by the most represented ethnicities in the U.S., according to Census Bureau data. You can get your own bag at pro ballparks this season or with a donation of $5 or more to the Women's Sports. The classic song "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" has even changed to include Jill: A new version, sung by Normani, says, "Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jill. No one can stop you if you have the will.”

60th Anniversary Celebration in Disneyland, Anaheim, California, During Evening, Blue Lit Castle in the Background with Blurred Pink-Brown Lit People in the Foreground

Walt Disney Co.

Disney hasn't shied away from culture wars lately — it's even gone on record against the infamous "Don't Say Gay" bill that was passed in Florida. Now comes news that Disney theme parks have decided to boot a common greeting, "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls," in an effort to be more inclusive. "We want to create that magical moment with our cast members, with our guests," said Vivian Ware, Disney's diversity and inclusion manager, in a video posted to Twitter. "And we don't want to just assume because who someone might be in our interpretation, maybe presenting as female, that they may not want to be 'princess.' " Replacing the gendered greetings: Gender-neutral language including "Hello, everyone" and "Hello, friends."

Closeup of a Gypsy Moth on a Twig, Selective Focus

Gypsy Moths

A common but invasive and damaging moth got new name. The gypsy moth is now called the spongy moth by the Entomological Society of America, which also renamed the insect in a prominent bug database. Why? The word gypsy is considered an "offensive, dangerous, and dehumanizing" term for the Romani people and has been for centuries, said Margareta Matache, director of the Roma Program at Harvard University. The renamed spongy moth is a pest known for destroying the leaves of hundreds of species of trees in North American forests.

Postage Stamp with a Vintage Skier Scene, Squaw Valley, Magyar Posta, Hungary

Squaw Valley and Other Sites

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, the noted California ski resort, announced in September 2021 that it was changing its name to Palisades Tahoe, and the federal government is following in its footsteps. An Interior Department Taskforce declared the word derogatory in 2022, saying it is "an offensive ethnic, racial, and sexist slur, particularly for Indigenous women." Now Uncle Sam is seeking replacements for the word, which is used in a staggering 660-plus geographical names across the country. "Words matter, particularly in our work to make our nation's public lands and waters accessible and welcoming to people of all backgrounds," said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American member of the Cabinet.

View of Upper Seating, Empty, in the FedExField, Landover, Maryland, Three Camera People Focused on the Field, 2020
Rob Carr/Staff/Getty Images

Washington Football Team

Renaming an NFL team is a costly affair, but Washington decided 2020 was the year, especially after prompting by major sponsor FedEx and other investors. Long considered offensive by many Native Americans, the nickname was initially replaced with the most generic of temporary names: the Washington Football Team. The team has since adopted a new name: the Washington Commanders.

Minnie Mouse in Pant Suit, Designed By Stella McCartney, 2022
© Disney

Disney's Minnie Mouse

For the first time, Minnie Mouse got to rock a powerful pantsuit. Disney updated the iconic mouse's signature look with a more modern ensemble to coincide with International Women's Day and the 30th anniversary of Disneyland Paris. The blue polka-dotted tuxedo and matching bow were designed by Stella McCartney to make Minnie "a symbol of progress and empowerment for a new generation." It's not the first time Minnie has ditched her dress — she has an extensive wardrobe, of course — but this new look is a little more visible than the maritime pantsuit she donned in 2019 for Disney Cruise Lines.

Top-View of Updated Six M&M's Character Laying on Their Backs in a Circle, Looking Up At the Camera, 2023

M&M's Characters

The M&M's characters have gotten a makeover, though you may not even notice the subtle differences that promote gender equality. Everyone has received new shoes, including swapping Green's go-go boots for sneakers and lowering Brown's heels to a sensible pump. The goal was to make the characters, especially the female ones, more representative of the consumer, according to the company. Green and Brown have received promotions as well, appearing front and center in more ads and packaging in an effort to promote better gender representation.

Elvis Costello Performs Live on Stage with The Imposters At the Hammersmith Apollo on March 13, 2020 in London
Jim Dyson/Contributor/Getty Images

Elvis Costello's 'Oliver's Army'

Elvis Costello has been touring, but one song is off his roster. He's decided to stop performing "Oliver's Army," a song he wrote in 1979 about the Troubles in Northern Ireland that ended up becoming one of his most notable tracks. The lyrics include a racial slur, and have been censored on the radio since 2013. Costello wrote a new verse for the song about censorship, but ultimately decided to retire the song, and asked radio stations to do the same. He'd think twice about writing the same lyric today, he has said, "but people hear that word, go off like a bell and accuse me of something that I didn't intend."

Ronald McDonald Sitting Statue Cropped in the Right Foreground with Blurred McDonald's Restaurant in the Background, Bangkok, Thailand


Amid criticism of its commitment to racial equity, including a lawsuit from more than 50 Black former franchisees alleging discrimination, McDonald's pledged to increase diversity among its restaurant owners with a five-year, $250 million plan. The lawsuit claims the company steered Black franchisees toward low-income neighborhoods where costs would be higher and offered white franchisees, who often have easier access to the capital it takes to open a McDonald's, better loan terms. McDonald's diversity plan, which focuses on recruitment, training, and alternative financing, is the latest step the company has taken to increase diversity among its ranks, including prioritizing purchasing from minority-owned businesses.

LEGO Friends 41394 Heartlake City Hospital

Lego Group

Lego is pushing back against gender stereotypes and has pledged to remove gender bias from its toys. The move comes after the Danish company conducted research about jobs, hobbies, and toys, and found that parents were much more likely to encourage girls to play dress up and boys to play sports. Shockingly few — only 24% — would encourage their daughters to play with Legos. Though Lego hasn't said how it's going to becoming more gender inclusive, controversial sets like Lego Friends could be on the chopping block.

Ronnie Wood, Steve Jordan, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards Perform Onstage During The Rolling Stones 'No Filter' Tour at SoFi Stadium on October 17, 2021 in Inglewood, California
Kevin Mazur/Contributor/Getty Images

The Rolling Stones' 'Brown Sugar'

Observant fans may have noticed something surprising during the Rolling Stones' recent No Filter tour: The band's massive 1971 hit "Brown Sugar" hasn't been on the set list. The controversial song, which references slavery and the sexual abuse of Black women, was dropped by the Stones, but whether it will stay off limits remains to be seen. Keith Richards, who insisted the song is actually about the horrors of slavery, said he hopes the band can "resurrect the babe in her glory" at some point.

Monopoly Board Game in the Middle of a Game, Paper Money, Cards, Dice, and Pieces During a Game, Players on All Four Sides

Hasbro's Monopoly

What could possibly be offensive about Monopoly, a board game that's been around for almost 90 years? Hasbro thinks Community Chest card topics "like beauty contests, holiday funds, and life insurance" feel out of step in the 21st century. Making the initial cut in a round of voting for replacements: cards about rescuing puppies, shopping local, and weeding the community garden.

Potato Head Attends the Zimmer Children's Museum Event in Los Angeles, He Is Looking Towards the Right, 2017
JB Lacroix/Contributor/Getty Images

Hasbro's Mr. Potato Head

Excuse us: It's just Potato Head now. Hasbro said in early 2021 that one of its most iconic toy brands would officially drop Mr. from its name in an effort to broaden its appeal. The gender-neutral makeover also includes a play set that allows kids to create their own potato families, including with two moms or two dads.

Bottles of Aunt Jemima Pancake Syrup Displayed on a Shelf At a Safeway Store, Three Bottles in the Foreground
Justin Sullivan/Staff/Getty Images

PepsiCo's Aunt Jemima

In early 2021, PepsiCo said that the eponymous Aunt Jemima syrup would be getting a new brand name and logo: Pearl Milling Co. The brand's origins were "based on a racial stereotype," executives have acknowledged, and the logo had already been tweaked several times, including to remove a kerchief from Aunt Jemima's head.

Nestle EskimoPie Milk Chocolate Dessert Bars

Nestle/Dreyer's Ice Cream Bars

A favorite childhood ice cream treat has a new name: Edy's Pie. The original name, considered offensive by indigenous groups like the Inuit, got the heave-ho, as did the mascot, a young boy in a furry hooded robe and boots. Parent company Dreyer's said it "recognizes the term is derogatory" and had been reviewing the brand, acquired from Nestlé, for some time.

Closeup of Host Jeff Probst Poses At CBS' 'Survivor: Guatemala - The Maya Empire' Season Finale in Los Angeles, 2005
Kevin Winter/Staff/Getty Images

CBS' 'Survivor'

Jeff Probst, host of the long-running CBS reality TV show "Survivor," has made a subtle change in an effort to be more inclusive: retiring his gendered catchphrase, "Come on in, guys," when he greets contestants. Probst and contestants discussed the issue during a season premiere of the show in 2021, leading to the decision to ditch the greeting.

Boxes of Uncle Ben's Rice Displayed on a Shelf At a Safeway Store, Three Shown in the Foreground, Different Kinds
Justin Sullivan/Staff/Getty Images

Mars' Uncle Ben's

The box of rice in your pantry has a new look. Mars, owner of the Uncle Ben's brand, said in the wake of protests over racial injustice in 2020, "Now is the right time to evolve the Uncle Ben's brand, including its visual brand identity." The bowtie-wearing Black rice farmer (whose image was based on a Chicago waiter) is gone, and the brand is now known as Ben's Original.

Musicians Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines and Emily Robison of the Dixie Chicks in Beverly Hills, 2014
Kevin Winter/Staff/Getty Images

The Dixie Chicks

Years after stirring up controversy for their vocal opposition to President George W. Bush and the Iraq war, the Dixie Chicks were back in the spotlight in 2020 for their decision to drop "Dixie" from their band name — becoming "The Chicks" instead. They felt the word "Dixie," still widely associated with the Confederacy, simply didn't hold up in light of their efforts to promote racial justice.

New York Fair & Lovely Active Brightening Cream

Unilever's Fair & Lovely

Though not as recognizable stateside, Fair & Lovely has long been a common sight on drugstore shelves in much of Asia. The Unilever-owned brand of skin-lightening cream changed its name to Glow & Lovely in recognition that "the words 'fair,' 'white' and 'light' suggest a singular ideal of beauty that we don't think is right."

Cream of Wheat Hot Cereal

B&G Foods' Cream of Wheat

This decades-old brand of hot wheat cereal said in 2020 that it, too, would perform "an immediate review" of its brand packaging. The label owned by B&G Foods includes the image of a smiling Black chef in a bowtie based on an offensive stereotype. The company said it would "proactively take steps to ensure that we and our brands do not inadvertently contribute to systemic racism."

Mrs. Butterworth's Original Thick and Rich Pancake Syrup, 12 oz.

Conagra's Mrs. Butterworth's

Aunt Jemima isn't the only brand of syrup in line for an update. Its Conagra-owned counterpart, Mrs. Butterworth's, is undergoing a brand and packaging review, a spokesman told Forbes. The branding was supposed to "evoke the images of a loving grandmother," the company said, but others say it perpetuated slavery-era stereotypes similar to Aunt Jemima.

Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood of Lady Antebellum Perform Onstage During the 2019 CMT Artists of the Year, Nashville
Terry Wyatt/Stringer/Getty Images

Lady Antebellum

The Dixie Chicks may have been spurred on by another big country group that beat them to the punch. Lady Antebellum, now known as Lady A, decided to shorten its name in 2020, too. The band said it had to consider the "associations that weigh down this word," including slavery. The name change then faced more controversy when the group ran afoul of a Seattle-area blues singer who has been going by the name Lady A for years.

Land O'Lakes Salted Butter, 1 lb. in 4 Sticks

Land O'Lakes

Have you noticed something different about your butter? Land O'Lakes redesigned its logo in 2020, leaving off the Native American woman who had been on its packaging for nearly 100 years. The company said that the changes were meant to emphasize its relationship with dairy farmers, but most observers saw the rebranding as a convenient way to get rid of an "embarrassing, outdated, and downright racist" logo.

Front Exterior of Abercrombie & Fitch, Indianapolis, Front Doors Opened

Abercrombie & Fitch

Several years ago, the struggling Abercrombie brand had an image problem of its own making, with a CEO who reveled in excluding customers who didn't fit Abercrombie's oversexed mold and lawsuits from employees over various issues, including being forced to wear company clothing without reimbursement. But starting in 2014, the chain embraced a more wholesome look, closed underperforming stores, and beefed up its mix of products.