by Jesse Lopez
So, you mean to tell us that Rita Ora has been blackfishing us this whole time? Wait a minute. What is blackfishing anyway? If you remember the story of Rachel Dolezal, who now goes by, Nkechi Amare Diallo (if you can believe it), you have some idea of what blackfishing entails. According to the popular Reddit "r/blackfishing" thread, blackfishing is "when a person has altered their appearance to fool others into thinking they are of Black or African race or ethnicity." This term was partially coined in 2018 by a Twitter user, WannasWorld, who created a thread exposing white women "cosplaying as Black girls," which has since garnered nearly 50k likes and over 30k retweets.
In 2015 at the time of Dolezal's outing by her white parents, she was employed by Eastern Washington University within their Africana Studies department and served as President of her local NAACP chapter. Despite taking away opportunities for people of color, why was Dolezal's controversy surrounding her racial identity such a big deal?
To put it plainly, Rachel Dolezal was much less palatable. Today's younger, curvier, more stylish Instagram models often erase their European features and trade them for more "fashionable" ones. They overline their lips, inject their hips and backsides, and undergo many other cosmetic procedures and treatments to achieve this. That's right; they put on the same features and skin colors that BIPOC are regularly demonized for. These features are now fetishized and appropriated by brands like Fashion Nova, who financially support these celebrities and Instagram models to emulate Black culture. All for an endorsement of their products, which are often stolen from Black designers and, frankly, from the hood.
To make matters worse, traditional Black hairstyles like box braids, dreadlocks, baby hairs, cornrows, and Fulani braids are grounds for punishment in many schools. This action further perpetuates European beauty standards and punishes Black kids for their natural hair and protective hairstyles.
There are numerous layers to cultural appropriation. Many of them circle back to doing little to nothing to uplift the communities that posers borrow from while profiting from that culture. It is simply unacceptable.
I've compiled a list of the best know blackfishers in Hollywood and on Instagram today for you to familiarize yourself with:
Rita Ora: Rita Ora was born to white Albanian parents in Kosovo and raised in London. In 2016, Wendy Williams addressed her confusion about Rita's racial background on her show. Just recently, photos of Rita from 2015 wearing an afro wig and box braids have re-circulated, alluding that Rita used racial ambiguity to her advantage on her way to celebrity stardom.
Kim Kardashian-West: Most of the Kardashian/Jenner family has been accused of blackfishing at some point throughout their careers. Kim Kardashian is half Armenian, half white. Earlier this year, while promoting her makeup line, Kim captioned an Instagram story with, "don't judge me for my pale hand," getting tons of backlash from fans who begged the question, "shouldn't your foundation match your skin color?" Kim has also inappropriately adorned Fulani braids and other Black hairstyles, while accusations circulated that she fetishizes Black culture and mixed-race children.
Bhad Bhabie: Known most commonly as the "Catch Me Outside" girl from the Dr. Phil show, Danielle Peskowitz Bregoli now goes by her "rap" name, Bhad Bhabie. This past April, she went further than her usual cultural appropriating blaccent and appeared to have a much darker complexion in one of her Instagram photos. Instead of admitting her mistakes, Bregoli replied, "Millions of people sick, thousand dying every day, and y'all worried about me getting my makeup done for a photoshoot? I'm usually the wild one, but y'all need to chill and focus on what's important right now."
Ariana Grande: At the beginning of Ariana Grande's career, she appeared white. Her tan has gotten progressively darker, her blaccent has gotten heavier, and she uses Asian culture to accessorize her life, including a tattoo she put on her hand to say "7 rings." In Japanese, that tattoo translated to "bbq grill."
Iggy Azalea: Otherwise known by her birth name, Amethyst Amelia Kelly, Iggy Azalea is an Australian-born "rapper." The Daily Beast reported that while her appropriation is a bit different than other cases, she's able to "profit off of her white appeal while simultaneously selling a Black sound."
Molly Mae Hague: Love Island 2019's runner up, Molly Mae Hague, has been accused of blackfishing after a makeup tutorial she released in November showed her wearing foundation shades meant for Black women. Tweets of hers, using the n-word to describe former President Barack Obama, resurfaced as well, continuing to stir the pot.
Jessi: Jessica Ho, who goes by Jessi, is an American musical artist who lives in South Korea. Jessi sings K-rap, R&B, and hip hop and dons a super dark tan and blaccent, despite denying all cultural appropriation claims.
Nikita Dragun: Nikita is a Youtube beauty star turned model with a makeup brand called Dragun beauty. When she announced she'd be walking in Milan fashion week, however, Dragun's news was overshadowed by her complexion and do-rag in the Instagram video, which was alarmingly appropriative.
Emma Hallberg: Probably the most notorious blackfisher on the internet is Emma Hallberg. The 20-year-old Swedish model has social media contracts with Fashion Nova, BooHoo, Pretty Little Thing, and more, despite denying all allegations of blackfishing.
Mika Bryony: The influencer who once went by Mika Francis announced last week that she is no longer using her Instagram for monetized advertising. She shared that she no longer tans or uses bronzers and admits that her lips are "manufactured."
Hannah Winifred Tittensor: In 2019, Hannah and her boyfriend, Ben Dunlap, both from Ireland, began using tanning injections alongside tanning beds to achieve their unnatural complexion. The injections are called "Melanotan. According to The Sun, they contain synthetic hormones which alter the melanin levels in the skin and allows people to go darker when using sunbeds."
Rendall Coleby: A U.K. influencer with a ridiculous tan who has amassed over 522k followers and counting.
Aga "Alicja" Brzostowska: Polish-born, London-based Alicja has agreed to stop styling her hair in braids following numerous complaints and death threats. But, she claims there is nothing she can do about her natural lips and butt implants.
Here's the bottom line, when you base your entire career on being well-liked, you should probably do what you say and say what you mean, unless what you say is mean or racist!
The following celebrities used their platform in cruel, irresponsible ways and paid the celebrity price:
Roseanne Barr: In 2018, in a Twitter rant directed at former Obama administration senior advisor, Valerie Jarrett, Barr suggested Jarrett was the offspring of the "Muslim Brotherhood and Planet of the Apes." ABC canceled Roseanne's first season reboot following her racist statements. Unfortunately, that tweet was not the first time Barr made a controversial statement. Following the cancellation, a letter she wrote calling the Boston Marathon bombings a "false-flag terror attack" resurfaced. When Barr apologized, she claimed she was "Ambien tweeting" at 2 am, and the maker, Sanofi, clapped back, saying "racism is not a known side effect of the drug."
Paula Deen: In 2013, Deen's racist actions came to light in court. A former employee at her Georgia restaurant, Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House, claimed Deen used the n-word, which she admitted to, and claimed she wanted Black employees to dress up as slaves for a wedding she was planning. Following these court claims, after 14 years on the air, Food Network decided not to renew Paula's Home Cooking. In 2014, Paula Deen shut the doors on her Georgia restaurant as well.
Mel Gibson: The world went nuts in 2006 when a recording of Gibson ranting anti-Semitic statements during his drunk driving arrest went viral. Following that rant, a recording of a conversation between him and his first child's mother, Oksana Grigorieva, where he made racist and sexist remarks surfaced.
Michael Richards: While desperately looking for giggles at a failed Laugh Factory LA set, Seinfeld's Michael Richards went on an angry, racist rant where he used the n-word repeatedly at audience members who mocked him. The event became so associated with his career that Richards guest-starred on Curb Your Enthusiasm with a similar bit, making fun of himself. He mused, "if only there were a horrible name that I could call you that would make you as angry as I am."
Stassi Schroeder: In June, Bravo let go of original Vanderpump Rules cast members Stassi Schroeder and Kristen Doute along with their recent castmates Max Boyens and Brett Caprioni, over racist tweets.
Abby Lee Miller: After fighting cancer and jail time, Dance Moms' Abby Lee Miller still found a reason to complain. The mother of Season 8 cast member, 7-year-old Kamryn, spoke out after alleging the only reason she was there was because they needed "a sprinkle of color," Entertainment Weekly reported.
Do you know any other celebrities who threw their careers away in favor of racism? We see such a confusing message coming from Hollywood and our new world of online influencers. It's a message that says Black culture is only acceptable when used as a fashion accessory or when it is being degraded and disrespected.
When we give celebrities the ability to influence us as strongly as they do, we should first make sure their message is pure and unbiased.