Could the cultural appropriation critics’ recent gripes about a possibly photoshopped Instagram caption be getting under Kylie Jenner’s skin? The reality TV star has found herself in trouble once again after being accused yet again of cultural appropriation. This newest scandal is just the latest in a long line of other similar accusations that almost every member of the Kardashian/Jenner family has faced over the years.
Kylie’s ‘Brown-Eyed Girl’ Controversy
A recent Instagram post by the make up mogul caused a stir online. Jenner posted a series of photos of herself modeling a black and white bodysuit with the caption, “brown-eyed girl.” Shortly afterward, an alleged screenshot of Jenner’s supposedly original caption began circulating online. This so-called “original” caption read, “brown-skinned girl” instead.
Instagram users quickly began accusing Jenner of editing her original caption after appropriating the term “brown-skinned girl” from women of color. This was yet another example of the Kardashians, and Jenner in particular, playing dress up as black women or other women of color, critics scolded.
Jenner’s team quickly denied the allegations, telling TMZ that the caption had never been edited and that Jenner hadn’t referred to herself in the post as a “brown-skinned girl.” Someone had clearly altered the caption, perhaps using photoshop, in order to troll the Kylie Skin creator, Jenner’s camp insisted.
What Is Cultural Appropriation Anyway?
Cultural appropriation is the adoption of one aspect of a culture by a member of a different culture. When a member of the dominant culture adopts an aspect of a disadvantaged or minority culture, this can cause controversy. An example would be the controversial dreadlocked wigs worn by Marc Jacobs models in 2016. Critics called the designer out for using a hairstyle often attributed to Black and African peoples as an artistic flair while the people of color who wear the hairstyle in their regular life often face discrimination. Similarly, people have often accused the Kardashian/Jenner family of cultural appropriation for wearing hairstyles, clothes, and even getting cosmetic surgery to mimic the hairstyles, clothing, and facial and body features most associated with black women. The fact that many women in the family have dated black men, and some have biracial children, is also used as evidence that the Kardashians, and specifically Kylie Jenner, are using their proximity to blackness as a way to make themselves look edgy and relevant.
This behavior, where a white influencer heavily tans their skin, curls their hair, and make their lips fuller and more prominent is an example of “blackfishing,” another term often used to describe the Kardashian/Jenner family. The word is a play on the term “catfishing,” in which a person portrays themselves online as someone other than who they really are. The Kardashians, particularly Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian, have been accused of “blackfishing” for wearing their hair in cornrows to wearing a foundation that was much darker than their skin color. Kardashian has pointed to her Armenian heritage to explain her darker skin tone in the past, specifically when she was accused of darkening her skin for her photoshoot with 7Hollywood Magazine.
Kylie Jenner’s Past Instances Of “Cultural Appropriation”
The “Beyonce” Post
This wasn’t the first time Kylie Jenner had been accused of putting on figurative, or literal, brown face. In early March, Jenner posted two photos of herself to Twitter, where users instantly were reminded of another superstar: Beyonce. Jenner, wearing a long, wavy brown wig, looking very tan, and rocking a bright green, leopard print jumpsuit complete with a hood, looked very much like the Queen Bey herself. The photos were used as proof that the Keeping Up With The Kardashians star was trying to make herself look black, or at least look like one of the most famous black performers of all time.
Give Beyoncé back her wig right now— ?????? (@utoocool4me) March 6, 2020
Never Forget. pic.twitter.com/EUfdSWJz4F— KADENCEOKC™ ? (@KadenceOKC) March 6, 2020
She Got Called Out For A Quarantine Look
Even when Jenner displays her more natural appearance, there’s often blowback towards the reality star online. For instance, Jenner was photographed visiting a friend in April and some commenters claimed they could barely recognize her. Jenner was distinctly dressed down and wearing a set of tie-dye sweats and walking around barefoot. The makeup mogul was noticeably make up free, which made Jenner appear several shades paler than she typically looks in her Instagram photos. Once again, Jenner was called out for drastically altering her appearance in what some called an attempt to make herself look more “exotic” than she really was.
Even photos Jenner takes with her young daughter, Stormi, are subject to criticism. Before she fell out with her longtime friend, Jordan Woods, Jenner posted a photo of the two of them posing with baby Stormi in matching green swimsuits. Eagle-eyed commenters noticed that Jenner and Woods, who are white and Black respectively, had nearly identical skin tones. In fact, all three, including Jenner’s biracial daughter, were said to have similar skin tones, which critics said was proof that Jenner was darkening her skin, either with tanning or by darkening her skin tone via Photoshop.
Okay but why is Kylie the same complexion? Something ain’t right— #blacklivesmatter #acab (@ethotbitchx) January 19, 2019
Of course, since this is the internet, there are plenty of people who disagree. Jenner was simply tan on a vacation to a tropical location, which makes all the sense in the world to her defenders. The only thing that didn’t make sense to them was all the hate Jenner received for posting her photos.
Imagine actually spending your time & energy being mad at the fact that kylie jenner has a tan ??— ✨?4:44?✨ (@lilkurly_) January 19, 2019
So here lies the question: is Kylie Jenner trying to “blackfish” or otherwise appropriate black culture in an effort to be hip and edgy, or is she simply following the trend of the moment? Both are true, to a certain extent. The Kardashian/Jenner family has many longtime friends who are black and likely spent a lot of time growing up around black culture. It’s entirely possible that the family simply feels very comfortable and at home with the culture, proving the Kardashians’ defenders correct.
Critics also have a point, however, when they point out that black people have been negatively stereotyped for years for engaging in the same sort of behavior and modeling the same styles that the Kardashians are celebrated for. A bit of sensitivity on their part would make a world of difference in how the family is perceived on this topic. Then again, the family seems to be criticized for everything they do, no matter how insignificant the offense. In that case, the family might as well continue the way they have, since they’re likely to face harsh criticism either way.