Sizzling Celebrity Cultural Appropriation Fails We Can’t Stop Shaking Our Heads At
Cultural appropriation has become a buzzy term as of late, but it’s not a new trend. Sadly, the bad habit of adopting and flaunting an aspect of another culture (often clothing) has been going on for ages, and it’s only recently that it’s gotten called out in public forums. Celebrities are not immune to these insensitive gaffes, and are often the highest-profile perpetrators of cultural appropriation. From awards show appearances to magazine cover photo shoots to music videos, stealing another ethnicity’s attributes for shock value has become commonplace. But that doesn’t mean we have to let it slide. These are the sizzling celebrity cultural appropriation fails we can’t stop shaking our heads at.
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Katy Perry got tongues wagging after her 2013 American Music Awards appearance in which she performed “Unconditionally” dressed like a geisha. The pop singer didn’t learn her lesson, however; one year later, in her “This Is How We Do” music video, she donned cornrows. She later apologized for both missteps in a podcast interview.
Beyoncé and Coldplay
How these seemingly woke performers managed to mess this up is beyond us. But they did. For her role in Coldplay’s 2016 music video “Hymn For The Weekend,” Bey dressed up in traditional Indian dress with mendhi (henna) on her hands.
Iggy Azalea is beyond ignorant. One look at her music video "Bounce," which features her dancing in Indian apparel, and you’ll see why.
Selena Gomez is obsessed with Indian everything and doesn’t seem to get why her costume choices are offensive. In 2013, she appeared at the MTV Movie Awards wearing a Hindu bindi and "Indian-inspired" outfit while performing her song “Come and Get It.” And just days later, she busted Bollywood-esque moves during an appearance on Dancing With the Stars.
Fashion moguls always push the envelope, but Marc Jacobs went too far in 2016, when his all-white brigade of models appeared on a New York Fashion Week runway in dreadlocks. While his team spun the hairstyle choice as inspired by rave culture, Jacobs’ lashed out on Twitter with a tweet saying, “Funny how you don’t criticize women of color for straightening their hair.” That quip was quickly deleted and replaced by this: “I respect and am inspired by people and how they look. I don’t see color or race- I see people. I’m sorry to read that so many people are so narrow minded…Love is the answer.” We’d love you to go away now. K, thanks.
Taylor Swift can be annoying, no doubt, but she really crossed the line into offensive with her 2014 “Shake It Off” music video. It doesn’t take a genius to see that she divided her back-up dancers among racial lines, with all-white ballerinas and all-black women twerking – not to mention Swift’s attempts to look hood with big hoop hearings and golden bling. Spare us, please.
Victoria’s Secret model Karlie Kloss took heat in 2012 when she appeared on the runway wearing a Native American headdress and turquoise-bejeweled panties as the word “Thanksgiving” beamed behind her. The outfit was removed from the broadcast of the lingerie fashion show and both the company and the model wrote mea culpas.
Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage (Getty Images)
The petite pop starlet has a fetish for all things Japanese, which came back to bite her when she tried to get a tattoo honoring her song “7 Sings.” The tat came out reading “BBQ grill” instead. Undeterred, Grande has also used Japanese characters on merch, which has since been removed from her site. But the singer isn’t apologetic. "What do you want me to say?" she ranted in now-deleted tweets. "U kno how many people make this mistake and DON’T care just cause they like how it looks? Bruh… I care sooooo much. What would u like me to do or say? Forreal. There is a difference between appropriation and appreciation. My Japanese fans were always excited when I wrote in Japanese or wore Japanese sayings on my clothing."
Reality TV star and cosmetics mogul Jenner has a thing for cornrows, and no amount of backlash is going to get her to stop appropriating the African-American hairstyle. After being called out for appropriation previously on social media, she still posted an Instagram selfie with cornrows and the caption, “I woke up like disss.” When confronted via comment, she sassed, “Mad if I don't, Mad if I do.... Go hang w Jaden or something.” Someone clearly needs to get schooled.
Truth hurts indeed. The Grammy-winning hip-hop artist and body positive role model got in double trouble for her February 2020 Rolling Stone cover photo shoot, which featured her (barely) dressed as a Mexican saint and in Southeast Asian attire, which she tweeted out with: "Happy New Year to my fellow Asians." Um...no. And we thought that inflatable ass at the VMAs was the most offensive thing about her.
The internet was not “Happy” when Pharrell Williams showed up on the cover of Elle UK in a Native American headdress. The singer later repented, stating, “I respect and honor every kind of race, background and culture. I am genuinely sorry.”