Actress Awkwafina is going viral for all the wrong reasons. It’s no secret that she has relied on Black culture to help leverage her career. Her “blaccent” was not only present during her rap career, but also when she starred in Crazy, Rich Asians.
After making history by becoming the first Asian-American to win a Golden Globe, there was much conversation about her use of cultural appropriation and how she used it to help launch her career. In 2020, MADAMENOIRE wrote:
While the thought of an Asian American being honored in this way was something quite a few people celebrated, there were plenty of folks who took issue with the fact that it seemed Awkwafina spent a majority of her career lampooning Black women with her accent, in her attire and general demeanor in many of the roles which she attached herself.
In fact, her name alone, a play on the water brand Aquafina, many interpret as a way people criticize Black women’s names for being “made up,” “nonsensical” “misspelled” “extravagant” and “ghetto.”
So it’s no surprise she is getting called out for her appropriation yet again. A 2020 interview with VICE has been circulating where the Queens, New York, native said she would never do an Asian accent because she didn’t want to offend her own people. This is a hypocritical point since she used African American Vernacular English with no regard for offending Black people.
“I refuse to do accents,” she said. “I’m not OK with someone writing the Asian experience for an Asian character. I make it very clear, I don’t ever go out for auditions where I feel like I’m making a minstrel out of our people.”
Her use of the word minstrel is interesting as well, since the minstrel show was a form of entertainment used to stereotype and degrade Black people in the 19th and 20th century.
Being a habitual cultural appropriator has worked in her favor. Besides her Golden Globes win, she secured a role in the Marvel flick Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Her show, Nora From Queens, is also in its second season.
Awkafina isn’t the first and won’t be the last to benefit from stealing from our culture. Here’s six other moments Black women were appropriated.
The Kardashian/Jenner Clan
The Kardashian family is notorious for borrowing from Black culture and then acting oblivious about it. The box braids, cornrows, emulation of our bodies through surgery and darkening of their complexion (aka blackfishing) are usually their crimes of cultural appropriation. Kim and Khloe also have an insatiable appetite for Black men, but that’s another story.
When actress Bo Derek entered the scene in 1979, she donned cornrows. Wearing the style was her husband John Derek’s idea while she filmed the movie 10. Back then, she wasn’t criticized but things have changed. In an interview with Us Magazine, she said she gets bashed for wearing the tribal braids.
I get in trouble for it now,” she told the publication. “I get a lot of criticism for being a culture vulture, that I’m being insulting and even worse, hurtful to African American women that I copied their hairstyle.”
Rachel Dolezal became infamous after she was outed for being a white woman posing as a Black woman while teaching African studies at Eastern Washington University. While posing as a Black woman, she raised Black children, wore Black hairstyles, turned her pale white skin to a darker shade and even had a fake Black dad. Her world tumbled down shortly after this. She lost her job at Eastern Washington University and was forced to resign from being the president of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the NAACP.
Miley Cyrus & That Twerk
In 2013, Miley Cyrus reinvented herself by injecting her career with hip-hop culture. From start to finish, she unapologetically used Black culture to boost her career. She wore gold teeth in her videos, collaborated with prominent Black producers and even sported some awful faux locks. Her 2013 Video Music Awards performance was a height of her appropriation. She “twerked” on Robin Thicke but also used Black woman as props for her performance.
During a Marc Jacobs spring 2017 fashion show, the models who were showing off his then collection were sporting some atrocious faux locs that stirred major controversy. It started conversations on social media about how when Black people wear locs and dreads, they are discriminated against and criticized but when white people wear them it becomes trendy and edgy. Marc Jacobs defended this poor decision totally misunderstood why this was offensive, a form of appropriation and out of line.
“All who cry ‘cultural appropriation’ or whatever nonsense about any race or skin color wearing their hair in any particular style or manner — funny how you don’t criticize women of color for straightening their hair. I respect and am inspired by people and how they look. I don’t see color or race — I see people.”
Blackfishing on Social Media
In 2018, a viral tweet exposed white influencers who were “Blackfishing,” defined as when a white person changes their appearance with make-up and hair products to appear Black. This led to different Instagram influencers being pointed out for “cosplaying” Blackness for their benefit, like Swedish influencer Emma Hallberg (seen above), Aga Brzostowska from Poland and Jaiden Gumbayan. Kim and Khloe Kardashian are serial blackfishing culprits as well