5 Hollywood celebs accused of Indian cultural approrpiation
Let me begin this piece by trying to explain to you what the highly-debated phenomenon, cultural appropriation, really is. Dictionaries across the world explain the term to be the inappropriate adoption of ideas from a culture that’s not one’s own, especially a minority group’s, in an unacknowledged and ignorant manner by a more dominant community. Cultural appropriation is different from its assimilation and exchange, wherein the process takes place mutually or is not carried out in order to stand out but rather fit in amongst a group of people.
Now, let’s take a look at the five times Indians raised a flag against international celebrities for appropriating Indian culture by putting on ‘costumes’ inspired by the country.
Selena Gomez: In 2013, Selena’s lead single Come and Get It from her debut album, Stars Dance, as a solo artiste, came out. The award show performances to promote the same were accused of cultural misappropriation by Indians for the fact that Selena wore a bindi, a cultural symbol of the Hindus, on her forehead and her Bollywood-inspired moves added fuel to the fire. She later had to drop the bindi in the official music video.
Around a year later of the entire controversy, she Instagrammed another photo of her wearing a sari, and captioned it, “Sari, not sari” referencing to the phrase ‘sorry, I’m not sorry.’
Gwen Stefani: No Doubt lead vocalist Gwen Stefani, in the ’90s, also used to stick on bindis and has been also called out time and again for appropriating south Asian culture.
Beyonce: Coldplay released their music video for Hymn for the Weekend featuring Beyonce and also, a short cameo by Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga actress Sonam Kapoor. Queen B, however, was accused of misappropriating Indian culture for wearing heavy Indian jewellery, henna tattoos and attire.
Miley Cyrus: In 2017, Miley Cyrus received backlash from netizens for wearing multi-coloured bindis at the Gay Pride celebration in Washington DC.
Image Credits: Miley Cyrus’ Instagram
Vanessa Hudgens: Miley’s fellow Disney star Vanessa Hudgens from High School Musical had put on multiple bindis above her eyebrows at Coachella music festival. The Queen of Coachella was called the ‘Queen of Cultural Appropriation’ by an international fashion site while citing the one time she wore a sari and a mathapatti along with her friends to a party.
Heidi Klum: The retired Victoria’s Secret Angel wore the most outrageous Halloween outfit ever as she chose to go as Hindu Goddess Kali to Halloween in 2008. Hindu leaders were left fuming and also demanded a never-received-to-date apology from America’s Got Talent judge. Instead, she evoked the controversy by sharing the photos again as many as 9 years later on Twitter.
Other celebs who have been slammed for ruffling religious feathers by appropriating Indian culture include Iggy Azalea, Madonna, Katy Perry among others. Looks like they need to learn how to appreciate, honour and embrace cultures and NOT appropriate, exotify or fetishize them with insensitivity.