Blackfishing is a term used to describe when a public figure or an influencer attempting to achieve racial vagueness to appear black for the sake of profit, instead of actually celebrating the culture. Since the very beginning, many A-list celebrities have been accused of profiting out of their ‘racial ambiguity’ by excessively tanning their skin, wearing certain hairstyles, or sporting clothing trends and aesthetics that have been pioneered by People of Color.
For example, Australian-born rapper Iggy Azalea has drawn criticism for her look in a new music video for “I Am The Strip Club,” where she’s seen having a darker appearance. In addition to Azalea, these are nine other examples from former Little Mix member Jesy Nelson to Selena Gomez.
10 Iggy Azalea
Iggy Azalea, whose real name Amethyst Amelia Kelly, has sparked a heated debate online over her new look in the video. She went to defend herself on Twitter, saying that she’s been “the same color as I always am, just in a dimly lit room with red lights.”
“It’s the same makeup from every other part of the video just with a Smokey eye and different wig. Just ignore them, who cares?” she continued.
9 Jesy Nelson
Earlier this year, British singer Jesy Nelson was called out for blackfishing not too long after departing the girl band that catapulted her name, Little Mix. While UK fans have always known Nelson as a white woman due to her earlier appearances in The X Factor, wider worldwide audiences were always struck with ambiguity due to her drastically-changed appearance on social media. In some pictures, she even looks darker than her former bandmates who are women of color, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Jade Thirlwall.
8 Kylie Jenner
Kylie Jenner is no stranger to blackfishing and cultural appropriation controversies. On one of the occasions in 2015, Jenner, who mostly sported a blonde look, debuted her own dreadlocks on Instagram to polarizing receptions from the fans. She made no comments about her legacy of appropriation controversies, and it wasn’t her first or last time.
7 Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande, who has Italian roots, has a long history of excessive use of fake tan. Many fans who have followed her career since she was on Victorious may have recognized how her public appearance gradually darkened over the years, especially during the thank u, next album era. Back in 2019, she was accused of appropriating black aesthetics to create her looks for the Sweetener World Tour, and it didn’t stop there.
6 Bhad Bhabie
Last year, Bhad Bhabie, whose real name is Danielle Bregoli, sported a darker look than usual, and many accused her of blackfishing.
“Millions of people sick, thousands dying every day and y’all worried about me getting make up done for a photoshoot?” the “Gucci Flip Flops” rapper addressed the issue on her Instagram story. “I’m usually the wild one but y’all need to chill and focus on what’s important right now.”
5 Rita Ora
Although Rita Ora is white, many people have incorrectly assumed she’s Black or mixed due to the fact that she often sports cornrows and laid edges. The British singer’s family came from Kosovo, a Balkan country with an Albanian and Serbian population.
“I thought you were half-Black and half-white, or something like that,” Wendy Williams asked the singer on another occasion.
She replied: “Everybody usually does. I might as well be. But no, I’m Albanian.”
4 Kim Kardashian
Another one from the Kardashian-Jenner clan, Kim Kardashian has been seen sporting cornrows on many occasions and has received backlash for appropriating the culture. On one of these occasions, she dressed up as the late singer Aaliyah for the 2017 Halloween, with many criticizing her for posing as a Black woman.
“I saw online that some people thought my costume was in poor taste and I am truly sorry if that offended anyone, but I wasn’t dressing up as a race or culture but rather as a woman whom I admire,” she defended herself in a statement.
3 Addison Rae
Last year, TikTok star Addison Rae has been accused of blackfishing for getting her makeup done with a shade that is a lot darker than her natural skin tone and posting it on Snapchat. After fans quickly called her out, she immediately took down the post.
That wasn’t the first time fans thrown her under the bus. Just days before, on a live Instagram session, she was chatting with fellow social media persona Kio Cyr and whispering, “Say the N-word.”
2 Selena Gomez
Last year, Selena Gomez faced the same controversy due to her controversial photoshoot for Interview magazine’s Spring 2020 issue. She sat down with comedian Amy Schumer for a quick chat about her life and her upcoming Rare Beauty makeup collection, but that’s not what shocked the fans. She looked remarkably darker than she usually does, sporting long braids with baby hairs on her forehead.
1 Gigi Hadid
Another photoshoot controversy, Gigi Hadid looked almost unrecognizable on her 2018 Vogue Italia cover, leading many to accuse her of blackfishing.
“The concerns that have been brought up are valid,” the supermodel addressed the issue. “I want to address this for those who were offended by the editing/retouching/coloring of the cover. Please know that things would have been different if my control of the situation was different.”
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