Someone once told me that imitation was the sincerest form of flattery. That was a long time ago, back when I was still wearing overalls and those clear sandals with the glitter on them, but it still rings true. Prime examples are when other cultures tan their skin, lock their hair, wear baggy garb and more. Over the past few decades, some of our favorite white celebrities and public figures have decided to do everything from rap, do black hair, wear grills and array of other very interesting things. A lot of these moments had us laughing more than we thought we would, and because of that, they deserve some recognition. Here’s a few white celebrities having some very “black” moments. And before you get your panties in a knot, these folks were having good, positive fun. Nothing offensive.
Before showcasing ballet skills as the black swan in Black Swan, SNL featured Natalie Portman, Harvard graduate and acclaimed actress, as a fiery and explicit rapper who took turned an innocent interview into a three minute opportunity to endorse drug and alcohol usage, threaten about a dozen people with bodily harm (and to go number two on their face), send love to Eazy-E and reject her fans. Done in good fun, the petite actress’ attempt at gangster (or “gangsta”?) was generally well-received.
Stumbling in Natalie Portman’s footsteps, Rachel Bilson took a shot at gangster rap, partially performing through her “Hart of Dixie” persona, Dr. Zoe Hart, in a Hulu exclusive music video, entitled, “Call Me Doctor.” Though not as well received as Portman’s rap debut, the song does have its own appeal, particularly a memorable line where she threatens to give someone a pap smear with an oven mitt.
Robert Downey, Jr.
Perhaps the most controversial of the “Black” moments is Robert Downey Jr.’s appearance within the film Tropic Thunder. The movie about making a movie, casts Downey as an actor (Kirk Lazarus) who goes through skin darkening treatments in order to play the role of Sgt. Lincoln Osiris in the secondary movie taking place within the woods. Lazarus uses method acting to “become” the sergeant, using “Black” English, and even assuming the “them” and “us” dynamic, suggesting that he was a real black man. Surprisingly, Downey was hilarious and found a way to play such a role without being offensive. That’s probably why he obtained a Golden Globe nomination for his work.
Twenty years ago, this past June, America’s first “Black” president (as some like to say), Bill Clinton, debuted his skills for everyone as a saxophonist. The title was given to him in part because of his performance on the late night talk show, “Arsenio Hall,” where he showed the audience how soulful he was. The former president blew out a playful rendition of the popular hit, “Heartbreak Hotel.” His appearance on the show helped him gain popularity among youth and minorities.
In the great tradition of unsuspecting white women rapping, Tina Fey joined the fold, performing an R-rated rap on a Childish Gambino (Danny Glover) mixtape this past July. Not as much a rap performance, as a profane quick monologue over a decent beat, Fey keeps her humor intact by stating that she won’t use the n-word because it doesn’t make her comfortable.
Move aside Paul Wall, you’re not the only famous white man with grills. Ryan Lochte, American Olympic swimmer, recently wore $25,000 grills which broadcasted star-and-stripe-shaped diamonds. Lochte wore his grills to the podium in an attempt to show his personality, but was prohibited from wearing it while accepting his gold medal. Apparently, the concern was that grills did not agree with the uniform policy.
Michael Phelps is another Olympian who admires Black culture, especially rap. Phelps has gone on the record saying that prior to big races, he loves to listen to his favorite rappers, Young Jeezy and Lil Wayne. Because of his public acknowledgement of the two rappers, he has since developed a Twitter relationship with the two men. After winning a big race, when asked if he had heard from the President or anyone big for his achievements, he gave big ups to Jeezy and Lil Wayne on camera, people the older, white interviewer clearly was confused by.
So, it’s no secret, Ryan Gosling and about ten other celebrities who were in the Mickey Mouse Club found fame outside of the clubhouse. But while still young, Ryan Gosling, Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez all performed the hit song “Cry For You” on stage while wearing matching loose and baggy clothing. Each give a pretty good performance of the song, attempting to capture all of Jodeci’s energy and soulfulness, but it’s Gosling’s singing that surprises us! And if that’s not enough, Gosling and his little sister also busted a pretty fierce move during a talent show to C+C Music Factory’s “Everybody Dance Now” when he was a kid. It was pretty awesome…
Featured in Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair, Jason Griggers was a winner of the world’s largest hair extravaganza, the Bronner Brothers International Hair Show. For years, Griggers has been doing black women’s hair, dispelling the idea that white men can’t do the hair of women of color by winning many contests for his distinct ability, stunning the competition. That’s probably why big names in hair like Derek J were calling him their biggest competition.
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