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Celebrities Accused of Cultural Appropriation — Iggy, Katy, and More

Iggy Azalea

As a white, Australian rapper (and a successful one at that), Iggy has gotten a lot of flak for appropriating hip hop culture, particularly from social media rival Azealia Banks. “That Iggy Azalea s—t isn’t better than any f—king black girl that’s rapping today,” Azealia observed on Hot 97. Meanwhile, The Daily Beast notes that “the larger issue here is the fact that a white woman can co-opt blackness for her career, and yet feel no stake at all in the pressing issues faced by the culture that she is appropriating.”

Katy Perry

For her performance of her song “Unconditionally” at the 2013 American Music Awards, Katy went full-tilt Japanese with a wig, a kimono, a parasol, cherry blossoms, and paper lanterns. In a Jimmy Kimmel appearance around the same time, the singer said that her Japan fixation came from when her family hosted Japanese exchange students. “[I was like,] ‘I’m so obsessed with you, I wanna skin you and wear you like Versace!’” she said, per

Chet Hanks

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White rapper Chet Hanks, the 24-year-old son of Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, controversially used the n-word in reference to his friend Chill on Instagram. "Look, I know the majority of y’all are not going to get this because the history is still so fresh in our country. But hip-hop isn’t about race — it’s about the culture you identify with,” he claimed in a subsequent Instagram video. “Can’t no one tell me what I can’t say.”

Avril Lavigne

The Canadian pop-punk singer defended her Japan-themed “Hello Kitty” music video in the face of widespread criticism — Billboard, for example, called it “Japanese fetishization” — by tweeting a statement that didn’t quite help: “RACIST??? LOLOLOL!!! I love Japanese culture and I spend half of my time in Japan. I flew to Tokyo to shoot this video…”


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Though no one is questioning Eminem’s rags-to-riches backstory and dedication to the underground Detroit hip hop scene, he himself acknowledges getting critiqued for occasionally using the n-word as a white person. “Then you’d wanna f—k me up for saying the word [n-word],” he raps on the track “Criminal” — before noting that his “morals went thump when the president got oral.”

Selena Gomez

In Selena’s “Come and Get It”-era — a song she described as having a “Hindu, tribal feel” — she performed many a Bollywood-ish dance and wore many a bindi. In a statement to WENN (per E! News), Universal Society of Hinduism leader Rajan Zed said, “The bindi on the forehead is an ancient tradition in Hinduism and has religious significance…. It's not meant to be thrown around loosely for seductive effects or as a fashion accessory aiming at mercantile greed.”


The much-maligned rapper is at least aware and willing to talk about being so successful as a white person in the hip hop world, telling Billboard, “This is a culture that came from pain, it came from oppression, it came from white oppression… you cannot disregard where this culture came from and our place in it as white people … I do believe that I need to know my place, and that comes from me listening.”

No Doubt

Gwen Stefani is obsessed with Japan’s Harajuku culture, but her pop-ska band also had a appropriation flap. The world barely got a chance to see (and be offended by) the No Doubt‘s music video for “Looking Hot” and its Native American stereotypes before it was yanked offline. “Our intention with our new video was never to offend, hurt or trivialize Native American people, their culture, or their history," the band later stated, per Vulture. “We sincerely apologize to the Native American community and anyone else offended by this video. Being hurtful to anyone is simply not who we are.”

Sources: E! News, Us Weekly,, Vulture, Hot 97, The Daily Beast, Billboard

06.18.2015 / 03:38 PM EDT by Dan Clarendon
Related: Celebrity, Features, Katy Perry, Selena Gomez, Gwen Stefani

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