YouTuber defends herself after cultural appropriation accusation over braids

Francesca Specter
Yahoo Style UK deputy editor
Nikita Dragun pictured at New York Fashion Week, at Vivienne Hu show (right) and at Chromat. [Photo: Getty]

A woman has been accused of cultural appropriation after sporting box braids at New York Fashion Week.

Nikita Dragun is an American YouTuber, make-up artist and model who boasts 2.5 million subscribers on her channel.

The 23-year-old, who came out as transgender to her followers in 2015, has been pictured sitting front row at the Vivienne Hu and Chromat Spring/Summer 2020 shows on Friday and Saturday.

However, her new hairstyle – a box braid wig – has been met with accusations of cultural appropriation, which is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as: “A term used to describe the taking over of creative or artistic forms, themes, or practices by one cultural group from another. It is in general used to describe Western appropriations of non‐Western or non‐white forms, and carries connotations of exploitation and dominance.”

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Yesterday, Dragun posted a picture of her look on Instagram to her 5.4 million followers.

In the post’s caption, she wrote she was “inspired” to wear the wig because she finds the look “beautiful” and wanted “to show appreciation for all the gorgeous black women in my life”.

Yet Instagram users are unconvinced by Dragun’s long caption aimed at justifying her braids, accusing her of cultural appropriation in the comments section below the post.

‘Um how is wearing a wig showing awareness to a problem?? This is still cultural appropriation, whether you’re trying to “make a difference” or not,” one person wrote.

Other comments include: “Hun... it’s still cultural appropriation....” and “Cultural Appreciation at its finest”.

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Some, however, seemed to accept Dragun’s reasoning. One person wrote, “Thank you, credit is all we want,” while another added, “Why tf is everyone so mad she is appreciating the culture and since when did hair style determine a race.”

Dragun has since defended herself in a now-expired Instagram Story, as reported by the BBC.

"This is a protective hairstyle used to protect the hair," she wrote, “I would never want to offend anybody.”

"Being part Native American, we also have braids and stuff like that,” she added.

But the response has not proved satisfactory for some, with yet another backlash emerging, this time on Twitter.

Dragun is by no means the first to be accused of cultural appropriation after sporting a certain hairstyle.

READ MORE: Gucci's £600 turban sparks cultural appropriation row

Kim Kardashian faced substantial backlash for her “Bo Derek” braids back in 2018, while her sister Kendall Jenner was slated for sporting what some deemed an “afro” hairstyle on the cover of US Vogue.