They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but when it comes to cultural, the line between right and wrong often gets blurred. Cultural appropriation happens when an individual makes a profit off another culture without giving credit to its people, or worse, ignoring the actual value and significance of the culture.
It’s hurtful and disrespectable, especially when these larger groups don’t actually bring themselves to acknowledge and respect the cultural and religious significance of the looks, they’re appropriating. This is why it’s important for celebrities to take the lead by setting an example. Whether it’s on stage, on TV, or online, here’s a list of celebs and personalities who were accused of cultural appropriation:
1. Ariana Grande
ICYMI, Ariana Grande’s in a rather sticky situation over her little Japanese BBQ tattoo that she thought read “7 Rings” in Japanese Kanji, the language that appeared in the music video of her song of the same name. Ari hit back with a series of now deleted tweets when fans dragged her for appropriating the Japanese culture and not even doing it justice by getting it right.
“I can’t read or write Kanji obviously. What do you want me to do? It was done out of love and appreciation. What do you want me to say?” she wrote to a person who pointed out that she should apologise for appropriating Japanese Kanji.
2. Coldplay & Beyonce
For “Hymn for the Weekend”, Coldplay and Beyonce shot a shiny video of the band performing in the streets of Mumbai during the annual Holi festival with colours being splashed on them while Beyonce appears on screen wearing elaborate embroidered sequin outfits by Indian designers Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla while her hands were covered in mehndi.
Though Bey did pay tribute to the community by appointing Indian designers, some have pointed out that the way Bey did her mehndi was paler than the way most Indians wear it. Mehndi when done the right away is supposed to leave the pattern in a deep orange-brown shade and Bey probably didn’t have enough time to wait hours for her mehndi to turn dark. But in a video that was so focused on detail, folks at MTV were perplexed that this was overlooked. Teen Vogue, however, just accused the band of using India as a vessel to “find themselves” and described the video as “a white person’s fever dream for what India looks like.”
3. Datuk Rizalman & Izara Aishah
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Just last year, renowned fashion designer Datuk Rizalman Ibrahim, released a Raya collection for Zalora that was heavily “inspired” by Bollywood and actress Izara Aishah as his muse. The star-studded collection launch featured dozens of dancers dressed in lehenga skirts, t-shirts, long braids with Izara leading the opening dance performance. The show ended with Datuk Rizalman’s dramatic entrance, with him spotting a fake beard and a long yellow flower garland. Though netizens called out the actress and designer for not using Indian models, the actress responded by saying that she does the Bayaratnam better than “most Indians on Twitter”.
I do Bharatanatyam without prayers better than most Indians on twitter if you wanna go all cultural shit with me. But yea. Please don't be overly judgemental. Not all of us are like that. I'm proud if an Indian wears baju melayu. Why can't we just be open.
— Madame Izara (@IzaraAishah) February 27, 2018
According to The Daily Seni, Izara Aishah’s Twitter response to the backlash is due to the fact that she is half-Pakistani, half-Malay and her family speaks Urdu. Though there may be some logic to this, The Daily Seni points out the elephant in the room – a long-standing tradition in multi-cultural Malaysia where people only seem to claim an Indian heritage when there’s a shiny slice they’d like a piece of.
4. Katy Perry
Katy Perry’s had her fair share in appropriating culture as well. At the 2013 American Music Awards, Katy appropriated the Japanese culture by dressing up as a geisha while performing her single “Unconditionally” at the awards ceremony. In 2014, Katy was accused of appropriating the African American culture when she sported cornrows in the music video of her song “This is How We Do”.
She later went on to address this on a podcast hosted by Deray McKesson where they discussed the incidents. “I won’t ever understand some of those things because of who I am, I will never understand, but I can educate myself, and that’s what I’m trying to do along the way…” she said in the podcast. “I didn’t know that I did it wrong until I heard people saying I did it wrong. And, sometimes that’s what it takes. It takes someone to say, out of compassion and out of love, ‘Hey, this is what the origin is.’”
5. Selena Gomez
In 2017, Selena Gomez was slammed for her performance at the 2017 MTV Movie Video Awards where she wore a Hindu bindhi on her forehead as a fashion statement. Though actress Priyanka Chopra was quick to defend Gomez, Hindu statesmen Rajan Zed told Huffington Post that the bindhi is also sometimes referred to as the third eye and the flame.
“It is an auspicious religious and spiritual symbol … It is not meant to be thrown around loosely for seductive effects or as a fashion accessory aiming at mercantile greed. Selena should apologise and then she should get acquainted with the basics of world religions,” he was quoted as saying.
Article by Nadhirah Badardin.