Shah Rukh Khan recently came under fire for a photograph that his wife Gauri Khan had posted where the superstar is seen, along with their son AbRam, wearing Native American war bonnets. Khan was accused of cultural appropriation, and a Twitter user reminded Khan that since the feathers on the headgear needed to be earned as per Native American cultural, Khan should not be wearing them.
From magazine covers to award shows and music videos, celebs, in their bid to create a buzz, have appropriated aspects of cultures which are not theirs, without understanding the context, and often the fact that what they are doing could be offensive to the culture in question.
We take a look at all the times that Indian and global celebrities have been accused of appropriating other cultures.
If looks could kill… #SaraAliKhan is an absolute stunner in this new still from our latest cover shoot.
Watch this space for more exclusive pictures from the shoot. pic.twitter.com/HezQdrRuqA
— Filmfare (@filmfare) 26 February 2019
Sara Ali Khan: The actor stirred a hornet’s nest when she made her debut on a Sahara themed Filmfare magazine cover. In the picture, Sara poses in a crochet embroidered dress, while a seemingly photoshopped Maasai man is seen jumping up and down behind her. Social media users trolled both Sara and the magazine for promoting cultural appropriation, with one user saying, writing “@filmfare #SaraAliKhan I reserve judgment cuz I’d like to believe u r “woke” enough to know that Africans in their traditional attire are not props for ur photoshoots! This article better have content on the people & culture u have photographed, if not, this is highly offensive (sic)!!”
Filmfare released a post showing the making of the photoshoot to suggest that it was not a photoshopped picture. However, neither the magazine nor Sara addressed the issue of appropriation.
— Cosmopolitan (@Cosmopolitan) January 30, 2018
Kim Kardashian: The reality star and Kardashian sister has constantly been in the news for appropriating other cultures. Kim Kardashian faced immense fire when she debuted her new hairstyle during a Keeping with the Kardashians episode, calling it her ‘Bo Derek’ braids, inspired from Bo Derek who wore the braids in the 1979 film, 10. Kardashian was slammed for appropriating the traditional African style of braiding the hair and for attributing it to the film when, in reality, it originates from the Fulani tribe of West Africa. Not one to be fazed, though, Kardashian did it again when she wore her hair in cornrows during the MTV Movie & TV Awards 2018.
Ariana Grande: In her new single music video, ‘7 Rings’, Grande has been accused of both copying and cultural appropriation. In her song, Grande starts off with a sort of homage to the song ‘Raindrops on Roses,’ from The Sound of Music, before getting into a hip-hop routine with uncredited inspirations from Soulja Boy and Princess Nokia. Both artists have accused Grande of copying from their songs and she has also faced a wider accusation of appropriating black culture to further her music.
The singer also appears to be largely influenced by Japanese culture, a country she has performed in many times. She recently got a ‘7 Rings’ tattoo in Japanese characters, which, as her fans pointed out, was misspelt. The sale of some merchandise with Japanese characters on it have further led to the accusation of appropriation. Grande, on her part, has justified saying that it is not cultural appropriation but appreciation. The merchandise with Japanese characters has also been taken down from her site.
Shraddha Kapoor: The actress faced a backlash from her followers, earlier this year, when she put up a picture on Instagram, wearing a Native American headdress for Daboo Ratnani’s 2019 calendar. Many accused Shraddha Kapoor of being disrespectful to the Native American culture, as it disapproves of non-natives wearing the headdress as a costume or a fashion statement.
— Filmfare (@filmfare) December 9, 2018
Beyoncé: Both Coldplay and Beyonce were accused of appropriating India culture for their 2016 album ‘Hymn for the Weekend’, which was shot in Mumbai with sadhus, ruins, the kaali peeli taxis, and little children covered with Holi colours. The son also featured an uncredited cameo by Beyoncé dressed like a Bollywood actress, hands covered in henna.
More recently, the ‘Lemonade’ singer faced flak when she performed at Isha Ambani’s wedding wearing traditional Indian clothes. Some Twitter users pointed out that no one cared about the appropriation because it was Beyoncé. While the singer did not address the issue, some of her fans came out in her defence and argued that the singer had been invited by an Indian family and hence was paying homage to the country with the India-inspired costume.
Katy Perry: Another singer to land up in a row over cornrows is singer Katy Perry who wore her hair in the traditional African hairdo for her 2014 album ‘This is How we Do.’ The Roar singer had also courted controversy when she dressed as a geisha during her performance at the 2013 American Music Awards. Perry, on a podcast hosted by activist Deray McKesson, acknowledged her mistake and 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…I didn’t know that I did it wrong until I heard people saying I did it wrong. And, sometimes that’s what it takes. It takes someone to say, out of compassion and out of love, ‘Hey, this is what the origin is.'”
Selena Gomez: Selena Gomez has repeatedly committed the offence of appropriating cultures. At the 2013 MTV Awards Selena performed her hit song ‘Come & Get It’ sporting a bindi and wearing a red dress. While she called her look, ‘glam-tribal,’ various Twitter users and Hindu statesman, Rajan Zed, criticized her. Zed demanded an apology from her, saying that the bindi on the forehead is an ancient tradition in Hinduism and has religious significance. He added that it was not meant to be thrown around loosely for seductive effects or ‘as a fashion accessory aiming at mercantile greed.’
Heidi Klum once went as Kali 🙂 https://t.co/iDoNxJA1gU
— (((Dominique))) (@AbbakkaHypatia) October 31, 2018
Heidi Klum: The model, who is often in the news for her over-the-top outfits and costumes, caused major controversy when, in 2008, she threw her annual Halloween party, dressed up as the Hindu Goddess Kali. A number of Hindu leaders, including Zed, called the costume denigrating to Hindu beliefs and demanded an apology. Her reply to a question on why she wore such a costume, was even more offensive. She answered, “I loved it because she’s so mean and killed all these different people and [had] fingers hanging off [her] and little shrunken heads everywhere.”