There’s a fine line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation. Unfortunately, it seems like many celebrities often cross this line. For those who may be unclear, cultural appropriation basically means that a dominant group is taking elements from the culture of a minority group. Basically, you’re taking the benefits and “cool” parts of a culture, without having any of the experience, history, and potential oppression that comes with being part of that culture.
Whether it’s a Halloween costume or a celeb’s entire style, it seems that there’s always someone else getting in trouble for appropriation. Here are 16 celebs who have gone under fire for cultural appropriation.
16. Kim Kardashian
Unfortunately, Kim Kardashian is just one of the many Kardashians who have gone under fire for cultural appropriation. While the family has been publicly criticized tons of times, Kim specifically gets the heat a lot for her personal “aesthetic” which just so happens to be offensive to many. Her coining her term “boxer braids” as a hairstyle she invented got her in some particularly hot water as the masses recognized that this hairstyle had been sported in black communities for ages. Sadly, that’s not the only stunt that has gotten Kim called out for racist anticts — her spread in Paper Magazine and darkening her skin for a KKW ad are among her many other offenses.
15. Katy Perry
Katy Perry is another star who has been accused of cultural appropriation too many times to count. Throughout her “This Is How We Do” video, she sports cornrows. In the “Dark Horse” video, she dances around in traditional Egyptian clothing. In a performance at the American Music Awards, she wore a traditional geisha outfit and played into stereotypes about Asian women for the duration of the performance. Basically, the list is long. Luckily, Perry addressed the controversy in an interview — apologizing for the serious lack of understanding she displayed, and admitted she had a lot to learn.
14. Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez is another celebrity who unfortunately was guilty of cultural appropriation during a live performance. Her song, “Come and Get It” itself has a pretty noticeable influence from Indian music. However, many felt that Gomez crossed a line while performing the song at the MTV Movie Awards. She sported a red dress and a sparkling bindi. Hindu statesman Rajan Zed spoke on the incident, stating: “[The bindi] 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.” So yeah, wearing a bindi? Not okay.
13. Iggy Azalea
Almost all of Iggy Azalea’s career has been spent dodging accusations of cultural appropriation and casual racism. The biggest issue that many have with Azalea is her refusal to acknowledge how much she benefits from black culture while maintaining her white privilege. Many have criticized the rapper for co-opting black culture and southern hip-hop style without having any concern about the cultural and historical roots that go with it. Basically, she profits hugely off of a culture she’s not in any way a part of (as in, she’s a white girl from Australia).
Yes, even your fave, Beyoncé, has gotten in trouble before for cultural appropriation. The incident? Her video with Coldplay for “Hymn for the Weekend.” The video features Beyoncé wearing traditional Indian clothing, including a bindi. Many Indians felt that the video took a bunch of stereotypes about what India is like and capitalized on it. Rather than accurately portraying a deep understanding of Indian culture, they decided to showcase fire-eaters and snake charmers and — again — wearing the bindi for aesthetics is never okay.
11. Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus is one celeb whose cultural appropriation was heavily talked about. It all started with her ~infamous~ performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, and spiraled into the rest of the Bangerz era. Basically, she made a few hip-hop style songs, danced around in hip-hop-style clothing while never acknowledging or appreciating the culture she was appropriating, and instead using it to make her more money and seem “edgy.” Additionally, many critics stated that Miley used black women as props in her videos and performances in a pretty blatant way.
10. Gwen Stefani
Even after her bindi-wearing days in No Doubt, Gwen Stefani has gotten into a lot of trouble for cultural appropriation. If you can recall, there was a while in the early 2000s where Stefani could be spotted with a group of Japanese girls who followed her around, who she called the “Harajuku Girls.” They were also reportedly required to only speak in Japanese in public. She essentially used these girls as puppets for part of her aesthetic. Rather than addressing and appreciating their culture, she profited hugely off of her Harajuku-related merchandise though she really had no right to profit off of Japanese culture in such a way.
9. Post Malone
Post Malone is another white hip-hop/R&B; artist who has gotten himself into a lot of hot water for cultural appropriation. There have been countless articles and interviews in which the artist has completely refused to acknowledge how he benefits from a culture and music style created by black people. Many critics state that while Post is happy to reap the benefits of rap culture, he refuses to be associated with any of the burden and prejudice that black artists constantly face. He’s even been quoted as saying “I’m not a rapper — I’m an artist.” It’s never a great move to insult the music style that you continue to take influence from.
8. Lady Gaga
Although Lady Gaga later changed the highly-controversial song title from “Burqa” to “Aura,” the song has gotten Gaga in serious trouble for cultural appropriation and insensitivity. The song is basically about sexualizing women who wear burqas, one of the lyrics even says “Do you want to see me naked, lover? Do you want to peek under the cover?” Basically, Gaga shows a serious misunderstanding of the situation for women in Islam, and has even donned this religious garment as a fashion statement.
7. Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift has always been a pretty controversial celebrity. Whether it’s over her newest breakup or a beef with another celebrity, it’s hard to go more than a week without hearing about her in the news. However, after the “Shake It Off” video, the star got slammed for cultural appropriation. Many people felt that the “hip hop” scenes in her video were trivializing hip-hop and rap music’s rich culture, making a mockery of the entire thing and objectifying black women and culture. Others argued that the whole video was silly and celebrated multiple cultures, rather than appropriating them. You can watch the video and decide for yourself.
6. Justin Bieber
Let us not forget the fact that Justin Bieber for some reason decided it would be a good idea to wear his hair in dreadlocks. Why? As if the young star wasn’t gaining enough negative attention, he decided to sport this traditionally black hairstyle in order to come across as — what — cool? Many people felt that Justin, like most white people, shouldn’t sport the look — as it appropriates a hairstyle that people of color have been wearing for centuries, only to be criticized and marginalized FOR wearing their hair in such a way. The biggest argument is that dreadlocks have a rich cultural and historical association that does not involve white people, so when celebs like Justin decide to sport them — it shows a serious lack of understanding.
5. Alessandra Ambrosio
Alessandra Ambrosio (along with about 8 million other white girls) decided that the go-to Coachella style should involve traditional Native American headdresses. Wearing Native American garb has long been considered cultural appropriation. Essentially, many Native Americans feel that after their culture was effectively destroyed by white people and their people were mass-murdered throughout colonization, it isn’t exactly appropriate to wear said culture’s sacred clothing. It’s about appropriation vs. appreciation, and taking a small piece of a culture without understanding its significance, just for a few Instagram pics, isn’t exactly appreciation.
4. Hilary Duff
For Halloween in 2016, Hilary Duff and her then-boyfriend Jason Walsh also decided to contribute to the appropriation of Native American culture. While Hilary dressed as a pilgrim, her boyfriend dressed in traditional Native American clothing, including face paint and a headdress. While the couple apologized profusely for the offensive costume, many were still irritated with Walsh’s cultural insensitivity. Plus the fact that pilgrims were responsible for killing the Native Americans, it’s a less-than-appropriate couples costume, to say the least.
3. Chrissy Teigen
Finally on the long list of celebs who have dressed up in Native American clothing, we have Chrissy Teigen. With her “sexy Indian” costume, Teigen got a whole lot of flack after this incident of cultural appropriation. This one was particularly controversial because not only did she decide to wear traditional clothing as a costume, many accused her of fetishizing it. Basically, the idea of taking significant cultural objects and turning them into a sexy Halloween costume is something that should be avoided at all costs.
2. Avril Lavigne
In another instance in which pop stars fetishized Japanese culture, we have Avril Lavigne. Her video for “Hello Kitty” featured the sk8r grl and a group of Japanese backup dancers wearing colorful clothing and dancing around playfully. Many felt that the video was not accurately embracing and representing Japanese culture, but instead making it seem like all Japan is, is Hello Kitty, looking cute, and being giggly. Avril defended herself, stating that many Japanese people were involved in the video’s production, and she spends a significant amount of time in Japan. However, others argued that her video still showed a serious lack of respect, no matter how much time she’d spent in the country. Many critics likened her response to saying that someone can’t be homophobic because they have a gay friend, or can’t be racist because they have a black friend. Obviously, it’s totally ridiculous.
1. Kylie Jenner
Let’s be honest, it seems like every time Kylie Jenner posts anything on social media, it turns into some kind of scandal. She’s constantly criticized for appropriating black culture, but some instances were more blatant than others. For example, Kylie posted a picture of herself wearing cornrows, captioned: “I woke up like this.” The biggest problem with that statement is that she didn’t wake up like that. There were lots of comments that she was taking advantage of black culture and style without facing any of the repercussions that black people do for wearing their hair naturally.