Cornrows: a traditional African style of braiding and plaiting the hair in narrow strips to form geometric patterns on the scalp. Men and women have styled their hair in such a way to allow further growth and upkeep, while expressing culture and identity.
By 2010, the hairstyle had made its way to the entertainment industry, where African American Hip Hop and R&B artists continued to expressed themselves with these traditional hairstyles. White entertainers soon started to sport the traditional hairstyle themselves.
This is only one example of the many times actors, singers and other stars have taken cultures other than their own and exploited it to seem “different.” Cultural appropriation can be seen throughout entertainment. There are many examples, including recent controversy regarding Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift.
Upset at being snubbed for a Music Video of the Year award, Nicki Minaj began tweeting about the injustices in the entertainment industry. At first, she goes on about celebrating black women and compares them to the “slim bodies” that were nominated.
“I’m not always confident. Just tired. Black women influence pop culture so much but are rarely rewarded for it,” tweets Minaj regarding the VMA nominations.
Often times, many people who demonstrate aspects of their personal culture are criticized, while people who are not of that ethnicity or race will take pieces of it if they consider it “different,” “cool,” and “stylish.”
Sonoma State University students were asked their opinion on cultural appropriation in the entertainment industry.
“[Minaj] is a very creative person, and people see that and are shocked by her. If it’s Katy Perry or Taylor Swift doing something, they are praised. I am not sure if it is because of race, but it is overlooked because it is Nicki Minaj who is out there and she may make people uncomfortable. Taylor Swift is more relatable as a country girl who is seen as innocent.”
“I dont think that is what [the feud] is about. Beyonce is a strong African American feminist who wins awards. I am not a huge fan of Nicki Minaj and I know that cultural appropriation is not right, but it is also not the bias for an award. Miley may have went a bit overboard. I can see Nicki’s frustration.”
“I don’t think the styles and actions that some people are using should be considered ‘stolen’ from black pop-culture. If we are accusatory of cultures exchanging ideas then our society may be even more unable to move past remaining racism. If Miley Cyrus is not allowed to do anything considered ‘black’ then what about Nicki Minaj doing anything considered ‘white?’ Like Kylie Jenner’s cornrows, everyone should be allowed to do everything- you can’t coin a hairstyle. The more outlandish you make it, the more it draws attention. I definitely think there is a line, but as long as these cultural ideas are not used in a negative way, it should be fine.”
“I definitely notice this with the examples of twerking, Nicki is seen as ‘ratchet’ when she twerks and when other girls like Miley and Taylor do it, it is funny because the white girls are doing it.”