All Eyes On KimKim Kardashian West has done it again, commanding attention with her controversial tribal braided hair or Fulani Braids as she walked the carpet at The Movie and MTV Awards last week. Some questioned Kim's reasoning for rocking the braided look instead of a sleek pony or her dirty blonde blunt cut after the wave of IG trolling she received awhile back. For those that do not recall, Kim faced massive backlash months ago for rocking blonde and black braids on her Instagram with the caption "Bo West" to mirror actress "Bo Jackson" whom she claimed was her inspiration for daunting the braided style. Now, let's dive into the argument that has swept social media surrounding Kim Kardashian's controversial braids.
Kim Kardashian West Makes Everything StylishI can attest to the fact that Kim Kardashian has a way of selling her looks that makes everyone want to try their hand at two-piece sets, trench coats and Instagram modeling; an attribute that has gained her more than a few nasty comments and eye rolls.
Or Does She?It's no secret that braids, especially cornrows, or elaborate braiding designs have their roots in African culture. Different braiding designs signifies tribe connections, different designs worn at weddings and births, and the overall world of braiding has deep cultural roots and significance. Additionally, braids were used to add a bit of flare in professional settings where afro's and bushes rejected. Later, twists have had a widespread attachment to African American culture, where braids are used to protect the natural hair.
Where Did The Braids Get Their 'Claim To Fame'?The issue begins with the reasoning behind Kim wanting to wear the braids. She credited actress Bo Jackson, for making the twists popular and inspiring her to get the braids herself. Countless people of color took to Instagram to express their distaste of her giving Bo credit, stating that Kim could have used this time to shed light on some of the histories behind braided hair or at least, spotlighted an African American woman for wearing the style. The second time Kim stepped out in the braids, at the Movie and MTV Awards, she credited wearing braids to her beautiful and biracial daughter North, stating that the five-year-old wanted matching hair with her Mom. A sweet sentiment!
Fashionably Appropriate or Cultural Appropriation?Instagrammers and blog readers alike called Kim out on cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation means taking from another culture in a derogatory way, passing off traditions, habits or styles of another culture as your own or blatantly 'white-washing' an aspect of another's culture. Whether she purposely meant to appropriate culture or not; many feel that she contributes to the stigma that braids, afro's or voluptuous bodies are not fabulous unless not showcased on black or brown individuals. Defenders of Kim Kardashian have argued that 'it's just hair,' and, 'Kim has a right to name a style 'Bo Jackson Braids,' just as some call braids, box braids, individuals, and poetics, by a multitude of names, it is just a name. Others argue that Kim cannot be responsible for the comparisons and descriptions made by the media regarding her style. However, other women that have sported the braids, that are African American have gotten negative replies. Women such as Nicki Minaj have been told they look like 'jailhouse braids,' or Gabrielle Union, being told that she is too old for beads in her hair, while Kim has received praise for being edgy, youthful and unique has sparked outrage and has fueled the evidence for cultural appropriation and bias. The problem, for many, is not directly with Kim wearing braids, whether because of North or Bo Jackson, but because of the adverse reactions when the same styles wore by women her same age, and women of color who have worn the styles literally for centuries, and made the wigs for Kim herself.
Culture Vulture or Style Icon?Alright, to be fair I have to put out a disclaimer that I love watching the Kardashians, I think their show is funny and real. Kim is a woman who has built an empire (despite how it got started), and has propelled herself and family into millions of dollars, appearances and business opportunities. She has mastered the art of 'influencing,' and has millions of women, regardless of the color of their skin, copying her looks from clothes, to hair to her actual face structure. As a black woman, I cannot overlook the places where people feel that Kim has utilized the "exotic" or black look as far as hips, lips, and hair to get ahead in her career. Is it possible that Kim can be a little of both? Kim has a love for neat things, and I must say that black people originate the coolest stuff, while she cannot be held responsible for how others decide to comment on her looks, she can be held accountable for what does with her platform and where she lays tribute for inspiration and ideas. No culture gobbled for pleasing consumers is acceptable.
Where Is The Line?It may be hard to decipher what's cultural appropriation and what's not. Can black people, who share some cultural ties with people of Jamaican descent able to wear dreadlocks? Are people that are not of color able to rock tribal braids? If I am not apart of Indian culture is it okay to wear Bindis? Is Nicki Minaj infringing on Asian culture by calling herself Chun-Li or it is considered cosplay and appropriate? When I dance around in straw skirts am I perpetuating the notion that all people of South Pacific Descent dance at luaus and wear lay? Or are we as a people only contributing to stereotypes and participating in cultural appropriation when it is clear that we have no regard for the history, people or meaning behind traditions and garments?
To Braid Or Not To BraidComment with your ideas: Do you agree? A) Kim Kardashian should not wear the braids because the style is offensive on her. B) Kim Kardashian West, if she chooses to participate in things universally recognized as a 'black thing,' should give credit where due and not attempt to get all the praise for things. She should step up and defend those that are attacked by the media, especially for the same activities that involve her brand. C) It's just hair, don't be a hater. Go 'Bo West'! In my honest opinion, it is up to all of us to make a decision when it comes to being respectful of our culture as well as others. Additionally, we should be held responsible for the things we do that may offend others and go out of our way to inform yourself and the audience of the importance of avoiding cultural appropriation. Maybe next time Kim could give at least give a nod to Janet Jackson for a braided style and she could avoid the hot seat.
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