Vv Magazine’s Azra Hirji asks if Kylie Jenner’s fashion sense amounts to cultural appropriation, and if so, why is she celebrated for it?
My friends and colleagues can vouch for me when I say I am absolutely obsessed with the Kardashian/Jenner Klan. Whether you like it or not, this family single-handedly broke the internet. They headline the cover of every other magazine, set the next big trends in beauty and style, and make a shitload of money while doing so. To be honest, when was the last time we weren’t talking about the Kardashians?
But there’s one Kardashian in particular that baffles me. Her name: Kylie Jenner, who once was #basic with her hurr not did, neither her nails, nor her ‘white girl’ lips. Today, her lips are bigger than my face, her nails longer than my legs, and her weave more ratchet than my hair pre-2005.
All of this is absolutely fine—who am I to tell anyone how to dress, do their makeup or their hair.
What’s not fine is when society considers her weave high fashion, but they call my neighbour’s weave ghetto and ratchet. Not cool. Two girls—one white, the other black—with the same hair, described by polar opposite adjectives. Sounds like cultural appropriation. You know, when a member of one group adopts elements from another cultural group, often without fully understanding the meaning behind them. That.
My personal issue with this is that when I was growing up, I went from having friends of colour in my elementary school to having absolutely no friends of colour in middle school. In elementary school, my friends didn’t make fun of my non-identifying skin colour because they were all on the same boat as me.
Come middle school, I was the only Indo-African with some seriously funky hair and not-so-stereotypical features. Pre-straightener life, my hair was wavy and frizzy with a mind of its own. It was and still is uncontrollable. My friends would always comment on how crazy and almost fro-like it was. So, to try and fit in with my friends, I invested in a hair straightener in efforts to get that coveted ‘white girl’ hair. It was never as straight as theirs, but I tried. To this day, I still straighten my hair every few days so that I fit in with societal norms of looking ‘presentable.’
What pisses me off is that when a girl like Kylie uses my natural waves as her next new weave she gets named a trendsetter, whereas I’m told to get a better straightener.
Let’s also talk about that tan of hers that keeps getting darker and darker. I’m not black, nor am I white. Both my parents and grandparents were born and raised in Tanzania and Kenya and have Indian ancestors, so I don’t often fit into the Indian stereotype of having an Indian-appropriate skin tone or silky smooth Indian hair. Instead, as a child I was told to always wear sunscreen so I wouldn’t get darker, or to never sit cross-legged on the ground because my butt would get bigger.
My curves, my skin colour, my hair—everything—was always a problem to someone. I was always being told to change my appearance. I had to hide my curves under baggy clothes so I wasn’t seen as being too seductive. I had to straighten my unruly hair. I had to keep my skin colour fairer than Snow White’s — the works.
Yet Kylie Jenner is doing everything I was told not to and she gets praised. Her butt gets hashtagged #SquatGoals, while mine gets told to cover up; her tan, which now resembles my skin colour, looks ‘golden,’ while mine gets slathered in SPF60 sunscreen.
Her braided-up cornrows get the stamp of approval from Hollywood and fashion heavyweights; a black girl with the same braided-up cornrows might become a target for racial profiling. Meanwhile, Kylie’s look just makes her the target of hot NYFW fashion shows. (Kylie Jenner isn’t alone in having sported controversial cornrows; celebrities from Gwen Stefani, to Lena Dunham, to Kim K. herself have also adopted the style.)
What’s the deal? Why isn’t Kylie Jenner being called ratchet? Why is she allowed to steal a culture that’s been persecuted for they way the look, and she gets a standing ovation for breaking boundaries?
It’s not my culture she’s stealing, but if I feel this way, I wonder how black women who’ve been oppressed for the way they look for generations must feel.
Why can she have my olive tanned skin colour and I can’t?!
Your turn to weigh in. What are your thoughts on Kylie Jenner? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below, or tweet us @ViewtheVibe.