Black fishing for compliments?

Former Little Mix popstar Jesy Nelson has hit the headlines this week, getting herself in to a spot of hot water following the release of her new solo single. She has been accused by former bandmates of “blackfishing” in her new music video featuring Nicki Minaj (pictured) 

So, what is blackfishing?

The ‘trend’ sees white women using makeup, darker fake tan, hairstyles or clothing in an attempt to imitate the appearance of black or mixed race women. Some argue that blackfishing allows that person to be choosy over the characteristics they wish to embody, in order to capitalise on them at the expense of black culture, without facing any of the negative side, including racism and discrimination.

 Emma Hallberg – the 19-year-old Swedish model and influencer who 
has also been accused of blackfishing

It has been suggested that white female influencers are adopting the more desirable side of the aesthetic and receiving endorsements from beauty and fashion brands, where black influencers are being overlooked.  

Adele in her Notting Hill Carnival attire 2020

Last year, Adele was called out for cultural appropriation after styling herself for Notting Hill Carnival wearing a Jamaican flag bikini and her hair in traditional top knots. Adele stated it was a mark of respect at an event which celebrated black and Caribbean culture. Others would argue that by not directly acknowledging the origins of the heritage, it is considered disrespectful. 

Appropriation or Appreciation?

In 2019, Gucci found themselves in the firing line after their launch of a new headwear line, closely resembling the Turban. The Turban (or dastaar) is  considered a sacred symbol in the Sikh faith and involves considerable time and assembly to be worn correctly. 

It was quickly removed from sale by leading fashion retailer Nordstrom, who also issued the Sikh community an apology. 

Gucci’s Fall 2018 collection got cancelled

So, is it ok to be influenced and inspired by other cultures?

The answer is yes! 

“If you’re genuinely interested in showing appreciation,

then do the work to understand it. If you don’t have the time to learn,

it’s likely that said ‘appreciation’ will probably not be appreciated.” 

Ruby Aryiku, cofounder of Black social marketing agency VAMP.