Why Celebrities Need To Stop Making Cultural Appropriation A Trend

Over the past year, there have been so many accusations of cultural appropriation towards celebrities that the issue almost seems tired. Although it has been a problem for years, the issue of cultural appropriation seemed to gain a ton of attention this past summer in particular. This largely had to do with the fact that Amandla Stenberg called Kylie Jenner out for wearing cornrows. But then, as with most things in Hollywood, it went right back to being a non-issue.

It is extremely important to not let something like this fade into the background and to make sure that everyone knows that the constant misuse of someone else’s culture is never okay. There are still people who believe that the only way to smoke pot at a music festival effectively is to wear a bindi or a headdress. I think we all need a nice refresher on the difference between fashion and appropriating an entire culture before we eagerly seek out the lineups of summer festivals. So here it is:

If you want to get technical, cultural appropriation is defined on wikipedia as:

the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture

But cultural appropriation goes much deeper than just that. I think Amandla Stenberg said it best when she stated that “appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalizations or stereotypes where it originated, but is deemed high fashion, cool, or funny when the privileged take it for themselves”.

tumblr_nmtyhm0XXn1r8jjn6o2_400The population that doesn’t consider cultural appropriation an issue are the ones who say things like “it’s just a fashion statement” or “black people should be flattered” as a way to justify their actions. These are the same people who likely have no idea why appropriating a culture is so offensive, due to their privileged upbringing in a society that is pretty much only tolerant of white culture.

The act of appropriating a culture is messy itself, but it becomes even more of an issue when people aren’t seeing the problem with it. It gets even worse when people begin believing that the white celebrity appropriating a stolen fashion is the one who made it popular in the first place.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 5.29.36 PMIMG_5999








In case Kylie Jenner made anyone forget, big lips are universally known as an African feature. Black women have often been known to embrace this distinct feature (as they should). And black women definitely do not need to be told that a feature so distinctly theirs, now belongs to Kylie Jenner.

Turning the appreciation for another culture into a fashion inspiration is fine, flattering even. What’s not okay, is when the culture isn’t given the credit it deserves. Not only are celebrities rarely crediting the source of their fashion inspirations, but the celebrities that tend to appropriate are also the ones that show no interest in the actual issues of the same culture they are appropriating (ex. Kylie Jenner not using her fame to support the #blacklivesmatter movement but wearing cornrows and grillz for fun).


When the privileged culturally appropriate, it leads to the discrediting and erasure of a culture. Plain and simple. Caucasians literally have no right to take bits and pieces from cultures that have been oppressed for the exact features or fashion that we intend to make our own. We all remember the little girl who was punished for wearing dreads to school, right? But when Kylie Jenner does it, it’s considered trendy? That’s definitely not right.

The next time you idolize a white celebrity wearing cornrows for Instagram or a headdress at a music festival, think about the disrespect behind it. It is so easy for the privileged to turn a blind eye and pretend something like this is fine. Of course it doesn’t affect us, it’s not our culture that’s being appropriated. Stay informed, because there’s no reason for this to continue happening if we don’t let it.

Feature image via Gigi Hadid.


  1. Would love to see some evidence as to how only white culture is accepted in today’s society… Pretty big claim to make with no evidence. Also, how is the way someone dresses their hair part of their culture? If black women straighten their hair are they stealing white people’s culture? Overall not a very well thought out article. Perhaps next time try to look at the issue from both sides so you don’t end up sounding so angry towards whites over little shit. Doesn’t make any sense that you are making it seem like white people are the only ones who ever take from other people’s culture.

  2. Danielle, I usually really like your articles, but I have to disagree with you on this one.
    First off, I know you’re not racist, so to help you not appear to be so, let me point some things out:
    1. Big lips are not an African-American thing. They are an African thing (even if they are living in Canada, Whales, China, Chad, Colombia, ect.) SOMETIMES. Not all black people have them and they are not exclusive to black people and I would argue that making that blanket statement would be more racist than wanting to have them because they can be a beautiful feature.
    2. It’s not only “white celebrities” are not the only ones capable of appropriation. ANYONE is so just say celebrities. That is racist against white people and yes that kind of racism can exist and does happen. You say “Caucasians literally have no right to take bits and pieces from cultures…” so does that mean that as a Latina I can still try ion a hijab or sari because I think they are beautiful and quite practical in certain cases.

    I agree it is absolutely not okay to take items that a culture or religion holds sacred and to parade them around as if they were nothing but trinkets (like eagle feathers for example), but when it IS nothing more than a style or fashion typical (but never exclusive) of a culture (like cornrows or dreads), there is no reason that admirers of it should not be allowed to take part. I’d also like to know how you propose to give credit to these other cultures? You can’t tell every person who sees you or a picture of you unless you are literally wearing a sign explaining yourself in every language and I don’t think that would fly for many people.

    Also, I have frankly never heard of anyone from a cultural group criticize someone else for wearing (or eating! Food is just as much a part of culture as clothing is! Is Taco Bell, KFC, Manchu Wok, ect. racist?) something of their culture. I would like to hear what they think because personally, I have never felt this way when I see someone integrating a piece of my culture into their own (provided it’s not a sacred object).

    In the end though, you’re right what you say in your final line: “there’s no reason for this to continue happening if we don’t let it.” If something a celebrity is doing is offensive to you, or you don’t believe to be right, take away their power to project that by taking your eyes and support away from them. You can’t be famous if no one looks at you. Believe what you believe and exercise your right to make a statement, but whatever you do don’t empower them!

    Keep writing! I like to read what you say!

    • She’s not saying it’s just white celebrities that appropriate our culture, of course everyone appropriated each others culture but it’s mostly the white celebrities that due so, and think it’s okay.

  3. How is the photo is G.Hadid’s photo culture appropriation? They are wearing scarfs! How is that cultural appropriation? Covering your face is not only relevant to only middle eastern countries but all across the Asia and around the world. People have been treating scarfs like hoods and veils since the Roman Empire. What do you think a toga is? It’s a giant piece of linen wrapped around your body like a scarf. To cover ones face, or have a veil is present throughout art history. Whether to protect from sickness or from creepy men hitting on you. Lengthy pieces of linen/fabrics has been present throughout history since people decided to start wearing clothes.

    I think it’s ridiculous that you are making such a big effort to make this general claim about the Jenners. Seriously do you have to make this article about African Americans about having something first? Really, because having certain features are results from variations of genetics. To even put the statement, having big lips is such a narrow-minded stereo typical statement. You are putting so much emphasis on cultural appropriation and oppression, but through-out the entire article you marginalize yourself with these standards.

    The term Grills is likely African American, but the technique of making jewelry for teeth is normalized. Especially when an greater part of our generation, received silver caps and fillings for cavities from their dentist throughout childhood. But also pirates or rich people displaying their wealth with real gold plated teeth.

    Honest truth I think #BlackLivesMatter has good intentions, and seeks greater social and judicial changes. But arguing about culture appropriation in every detail of our lives is ridiculous. I think everyone has the freedom to travel the world and experience new culture, and find spiritual meaning in their life. I think with each generation, we are becoming more open minded, and mindful of other experiences beyond our self. I think through education and history we can empathize with others and find meaningful solutions beyond our binary societal views.

    **But jokes #AllLivesMatter if you want talk about other circumstances in history, Asia’s history isn’t credited or taken seriously much either. Haha The Industrial Revolution, WWI and Hiroshima good times. Oh and don’t get me started on the First Nations. BUT YES!!! WESTERN Civilization sucks! NOT JUST WHITE PEOPLE BUT EVERYBODY… GUESS WHO HAD CONCENTRATION CAMPS DURING WWII!? CANADA & U.S. for the Asians. BuT I DoN’t HaRbOuR AnY BaD FeElIngs sInCe aT LeAsT wE hAvE eDuCaTiOn aNd oPpOrtUnItIeS for success. </3


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.