Kim Kardashian has been a cultural icon for the past two decades. Her family name is undeniably tied to American pop culture, and she represents the power that social media has on a person’s life. Her influence in the makeup and fashion industry is unmatched, and her fame propels her and her family’s every move on a national stage.
Unfortunately, her historical legacy includes Blackfishing, which is when a social media influencer passes as Black by altering their appearance. It is a form of cultural appropriation because it allows Kim Kardashian to choose the "interesting" or culturally relevant aspects of Black culture to further her brand without engaging with the broader experiences of being Black.
Kim Kardashian's history of Blackfishing is well-documented, and she has worn Fulani braids on multiple occasions, which is a protective hairstyle that originates from the Fulani people of West Africa. Kim Kardashian and her sisters have been called out numerous times for appropriating traditionally Black hairstyles.
By portraying them without giving credit to the originators of the hairstyles, it misattributes the source and sets the tone that the most popular version of something is the one that created it.
People on Twitter and Instagram were quick to respond to Kim’s recent appropriation of Black hair. One Twitter user said, “Put your hair up in a high pony and go to the fashion show like everyone else.” Twitter user @tevinauguste wrote, “WILL SHE EVER STOP??? YOU ARE NOT BLACK.” These comments show that she is not immune to criticism and people do recognize her wrongdoings, but they do not seem to make a difference in Kim Kardashian's worldview or actions.
As a celebrity, her decisions are broadcasted to a national stage, and the millions of people who follow her are impacted by her actions. When she appropriates Black culture in such an obvious way, it sends the message that you can simply take and remove parts of Black culture when it's convenient for you.
To wear traditionally Black hairstyles when you aren't Black shows the tone-deafness of the Kardashians and the lack of awareness of the cultures that they steal from.
Honoring culture is different from appropriation. When honoring, you inform your audience on the history and roots that you are basing your ideas or, in this case, fashion off of. If you implement different cultures in your life without giving credit, the meaning becomes lost and would be considered appropriation.
Unfortunately for Kim Kardashian and her family, this is not the first time they have been caught doing this. Khloé Kardashian posted a picture of herself wearing Bantu knots, which is a hairstyle commonly worn by women of African descent. Kylie Jenner posted a picture of herself for her 19th birthday in red cornrows on her Instagram.
This pattern shows a grander theme of the Kardashians sporting hairstyles worn by Black women in order to improve their brand name and popularity. They do not have to identify with Black women or the struggles they face with their hairstyles, nor do they have to deal with the civil rights lawsuits Black women file in order to wear their natural hair at work.
They can simply pick and choose when they wish to wear black hairstyles and revert to more Eurocentric features when they feel the need to.
I believe that Kim Kardashian’s platform is so large she has lost touch with most of society and cannot understand the repercussions of her actions. To occupy such a highly publicized place of society for so long makes you believe you are better than most people and sets a belief system that you can utilize part so different cultures to your liking.
Kim Kardashian does not see the problem because she cannot empathize with the originators of the styles that she steals from. The people in her circle are clearly not educated enough to inform her of her wrongdoings, and having an inner circle of people who perpetuate and validate her behavior only reinforces it.