Celebrities Accused of Cultural Appropriation: Katy Perry, Beyoncé, & More

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Celebrities Accused of Cultural Appropriation: Katy Perry, Beyoncé, & More

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Celebrities Accused of Cultural Appropriation: Katy Perry, Beyoncé, & More

Whenever white celebrities use imagery (or worse, stereotypes) of other cultures, tempers flare online. Often, the furor is justified. Such “artistic license” can be problematic, especially when the artists seem to be exploiting the identities and cultures of oppressed minorities for commercial gain.

The issue of cultural appropriation is especially relevant in the era of Rachel Dolezal, the black-identified former NAACP leader who was born to white parents. In this gallery, take a look at the  celebs who have incited similar controversy — including a poet who possibly translated the works of Maya Angelou and Tupac into French in order to pass them off as his own.

Celebrities Accused of Cultural Appropriation: Katy Perry, Beyoncé, & More
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Beyoncé & Coldplay

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Beyoncé & Coldplay

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In the video for “Hymn for the Weekend,” Beyoncé and Coldplay “continue a long, dubious tradition of depicting India as a backdrop for western fun and enlightenment,” writes The Guardian's Anthea Butler.

“‘Hymn for the Weekend’ mixes cultural and religious practices, commodifying them into a banal, but beautiful message of imagined solidarity.”

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Iggy Azalea

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Iggy Azalea

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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.”

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Chet Hanks

Chet Hanks

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White rapper Chet Hanks, the 26-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.”

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Avril Lavigne

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Avril Lavigne

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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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Eminem

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Eminem

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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.”

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Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez

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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.”

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Macklemore

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Macklemore

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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.”

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No Doubt

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No Doubt

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Gwen Stefani is obsessed with Japan’s Harajuku culture, but her pop-ska band also had an 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.”

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Shanina Shaik

Looking right for the festival ????✨???????? by @queenb_braids_ ✌????❤️

A post shared by SHANINA SHAIK (@shaninamshaik) on

Shanina Shaik

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This Australian model — who is of Lithuanian, Pakistani and Saudi Arabian descent — showed off her braided style ahead of this year’s Coachella fest.

And many fans took umbrage, as Daily Mail reports. “You look beautiful but this is cultural appropriation,” one commented. 

”Tired of seeing this shit. No,” another wrote.

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Katy Perry

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Katy Perry

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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.

Then, a year later, she wore cornrows in her “This Is How We Do” music video.

When she sat down with Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson for the June 13 episode of his Pod Save the People podcast, she apologized for her cultural appropriation.

“I’ve made several mistakes,” she said. 

“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.”

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Pierre DesRuisseaux

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Pierre DesRuisseaux

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The late Pierre DesRuisseaux, a French- Canadian poet and former poet laureate of Canada, is grabbing attention for similarities between his works and the works of others, in particular black American poet Maya Angelou and hip hop legend Tupac Shakur.

A recent article in The Guardian (via The Rootincludes some translations from French run through Google Translate to reveal striking similarities between one work and Maya Angelou's "And Still I Rise."

Another is unmistakably close to the lyrics to a poem Tupac wrote, entitled "Sometimes I Cry."

Pierre's works (run through Google Translate): 
When I’m Alone
Sometimes when I’m alone I cry
Because I’m alone.
The tears I cry are bitter and burning.
They flow with life, they do not need reason.

Tupac:
Sometimes when I’m alone
I cry because I’m on my own
The tears I cry are bitter and warm 
They flow with life but take no form.

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Whenever white celebrities use imagery (or worse, stereotypes) of other cultures, tempers flare online. Often, the furor is justified. Such “artistic license” can be problematic, especially when the artists seem to be exploiting the identities and cultures of oppressed minorities for commercial gain.

The issue of cultural appropriation is especially relevant in the era of Rachel Dolezal, the black-identified former NAACP leader who was born to white parents. In this gallery, take a look at the  celebs who have incited similar controversy — including a poet who possibly translated the works of Maya Angelou and Tupac into French in order to pass them off as his own.