Timeline: White Celebs and Black Hairstyles

Timeline: White Celebs and Black Hairstyles

05.21.21
Photo: Hollywood To You/Star Max/GC Images
05.21.21

Once again, the ongoing and dreadful conversation about celebrities sporting cultural appropriation hairstyles is back, and this time in full force. 

Justin Bieber posted a series of Instagram flicks in April with his hair in dreadlocks, followed by a selfie of the pop singer sporting his new look the next day. Of course, this booked a revisitation to the infamous debate of white celebrities – and white people in general – appropriating hairstyles outside of their race. 

However, the pop singer isn’t the first, nor unfortunately be the last, to be caught guilty in a controversial debate about wearing traditionally Black hairstyles. 

With this recent dispute, here is a timeline of only some moments where celebrities have worn controversial hairstyles. 

Juliette Lewis – 1992

The actress and singer Juliette Lewis wore her ‘rather striking’ cornrows, as the red carpet hosts called it, to the 1992 Oscars Ceremony. During this time, Juliette was complimented about her hairstyle for being “high fashion” and “gangsta.”

“Thrift store vintage dress and her gangsta braids. She looks amazing, such achievement and work ethic should be more appreciated by people,” commented user Anna L. Vajda under the Youtube video.

However, when Zendaya wore her dreadlocks to the Oscars, she was slammed by many, including Giuliana Rancic who said she smelled like “patchouli oil and weed” Double standard much?

Jared Leto – 2001

Juliette wasn’t the only one wearing cornrows to award shows as Jared Leto sported his during the 16th Annual IFP/West Independent Spirit Awards on March 24, 2001. And yet again, not many people had much negative to say about this actor’s hairstyle. 

Lady Gaga – 2013 

Lady Gaga is known for her over the top outfits, so it was only a matter of time before one of them became controversial. In 2013, she wore her bleached-white, long dreadlocks to the Capital FM Jingle Bell Ball in London which caught the attention of some yet in a more comedic manner rather than cancel culture. 

“I don’t remember there being much backlash for the Jingle Bell Ball look (first one) or the second, I’m pretty sure everyone was just gagged by how good she looked,” wrote a commenter on Gaga Daily while another wrote, “I think they look fine but also corny when it’s on someone who’s not in hip hop/reggae or Rastafari culture.”

Kendall Jenner 2014

The magazine, Marie Clarie, complimented Kendall Jenner on her “bold braids” through a tweet which didn’t sit well with many, causing a debate in the comment section.

“New? Ever heard of black people,” questioned @thecityofjules on Twitter. 

Once receiving backlash, the magazine apologized on Twitter saying “We didn’t mean to offend or imply that cornrows were new. Our tweet was poorly worded. We thought her hair looked great and recognize women have been styling their hair like this for ages.”

Kylie Jenner – 2015

It’s hard to count how many times Kylie Jenner has worn traditionally Black hairstyles. However, one of her most controversial moments was in July of 2015 when she took a picture of her wearing cornrows. 

Actress Amandla Stenberg called Kylie out saying “when [you] appropriate black features and culture but fail to use [your] position of power to help black Americans by directing attention towards ur wigs instead of police brutality or racism #whitegirlsdoitbetter.”

Ironically, Justin Bieber came to Kylie’s defence saying, “Guys leave her alone, [we’re] all trying to figure it out and she happens to be under a microscope! I’m the first to know this. But saying she’s being racist because she wants her hair in braids is ridiculous. Let’s focus on the bigger picture and instead of fighting over something stupid lets do something about equality, but it doesnt start here blasting a 17 year old kid for wearing braids smh (shaking my head).”

Miley Cyrus – 2015

Seemingly following Lady Gaga’s footsteps, Miley Cyrus also hops on the train of blonde dreadlocks during her red carpet appearance at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards. However, unlike Lady Gaga, Miley received way more backlash from this style.

Again, actress Amandla Stenberg had something to say: “Appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalizations or stereotypes where it originated, but is deemed as high fashion, cool, or funny when the privileged take it for themselves.”

Miley didn’t stop at the VMAs as she later went on to Saturday Night Live during its Season 41 premiere and still wore her infamous dreadlocks.

Marc Jacobs – 2017

During his spring 2017 runway show, Marc Jacobs had his models wearing rainbow dreadlocks. The American fashion designer has been in controversial situations before, however his responses have only made it worse. 

A month after his runaway show, Jacobs went on Instagram to say “and all who cry ‘cultural appropriation’ or whatever nonsense about any race or skin color…funny how you don’t criticise women of color for straightening their hair,” according to Refinery29.

After he deleted this post, he later posted again on Instagram apologizing: “Of course I do ‘see’ color but I DO NOT discriminate. THAT IS A FACT!”

Kim Kardashian – the list is endless

Last but definitely not least, Kim Kardashian has worn traditionally Black hairstyles in the past, the present, and most likely the future. In 2013, Kim was seen out wearing her Fulani braids yet she didn’t receive as much backlash then.  Later down the line, she was seen again wearing the same styled Fulani braids to the 2018 MTV Movie & TV Awards.

She wore the hairstyle because her daughter, North, wanted to wear braids and for her mother to wear them with her. Unsurprisingly, this sent Twitter and every other platform in an uproar as people recalled when Kim referred to Fulani braids by the wrong term, ‘Bo Derek braids,’ saying she was disrespecting the Black community.”

“I [do] remember the backlash when I had the blond hair and that I called them ‘Bo Derek braids.’ But I obviously know they’re called Fulani braids and I know the origin of where they came from and I’m totally respectful of that. I’m not tone deaf to where I don’t get it. I do get it,” she told Bustle. 

In the end, most people are ‘fed up’ with Kim and other celebrities appropriating Black hairstyles.

“For the thousandth time, what we’re mad at is that when Kim [or any white woman, for that matter] wears styles such as these…they get praised all the way around for it,’ wrote a Twitter user according to Glamour. “But when black women do it…we get told that it’s unprofessional, or that we look unkept. Or that we’re a distraction. Not to mention that fact that they don’t even consider giving credit where credit is due…It’s honestly a triple slap in the face. That’s what we’re mad about nothing more, nothing less.”