3 celebrities that have used a marginalised culture as a form of entertainment

‘Randomly plucking “popularised” images of a marginalised culture for entertainment without respect for or an understanding of the culture is culturally disrespectful’ (Indigenous Corporate Training, 2018).

Ziff & Rao (1997) define cultural appropriation as “the taking – from a culture that is not one’s own – of intellectual property, cultural expressions or artefacts, history and ways of knowledge”.

It seems it would be common sense to not take an existing cultural form from one social group and replay it in another, however clearly it’s not for some celebrities (Merry, 1998).

Here are 5 artists who couldn’t quiet wrap their heads around the idea:

  1. Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande’s recent ‘7 rings’ single is “inspired” or rather, ripped off from black artists. 2 Chains claims that the pink house in Grande’s music video is stolen from his trap house used to promote his album Pretty Girlz Like Trap Music in 2017. Writer, Wanna Thompson argues that by using this house in the music video, Grande is “Asserting her ‘coolness’ and becoming yet another white pop star clinging onto marketable imagery of the hood to push her ‘bad girl’ persona.”

Kornhaber, 2019 explains that some commentators have also complained about how her ‘blaccent’ and even her spray tan seemed part of an old story about white people profiting off of black aesthetics to project a sense of edge without feeling any of the associated struggle.

  1. Iggy Azalea 

Iggy Azalea is renowned for picking and choosing from black culture and ignoring bigger issues. She is referred to the Donald Trump of rap, as she is known for her racially insensitive comments and ugly rants. 

Pop star Azalea Banks has publicly expressed her anger many times over issues of Azalea’s lyrics. Banks explained that when Azalea referred to herself as a “runaway slave master” in her song ‘D.R.U.G.S’, she had exploited black identity. 

Iggy herself has announced that “I’m still going to make the same type of music and still be ridiculous and larger than life,” she said. “So I can’t be that f**king sorry about it.”

3. Miley Cyrus

Cyrus’ biggest critic is that she has used black hip hop culture as a means of profit when it suits her. Miley had a short stint in the hop hop world where she was constantly twerking and wearing braids, grills and chains. Only to state that she was going back to country music because rap is all about ‘Lamborghini, Rolex and girls on c*ck’ and thats just ‘not her’. 

After not selling enough albums on her ‘white music’ she has decided to now is return to hip hip, where she is posting pictures of her in a pool wearing millions of dollars worth of gold jewellery. 

Cyrus’ in and out stints in the hip hop world shows how much she truely values the genre and how she’s capitalising off black culture to make money and get where she needs to be without experiencing the discrimination of black people. 


Indigenous Corporate Training.,2018. [Blog] Why Cultural Appropriation is Disrespectful. Working Effectively with Indigenous Peoples.

<https://www.ictinc.ca/blog/why-cultural-appropriation-is-disrespectful> [Accessed 23 Aug. 2019].

Merry, S.E., 1998. Law, culture, and cultural appropriation. Yale JL & Human.10, p.575.

Ziff, B.H. and Rao, P.V. eds., 1997. Borrowed power: Essays on cultural appropriation. Rutgers University Press.

Kornhaber, S., 2019. [Blog] How Ariana Grande Fell Off the Cultural-Appropriation Tightrope. The Atlantic. 

<https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2019/01/ariana-grandes-7-rings-really-cultural-appropriation/580978/> [Accessed 23 Aug. 2019].

Words by Erin Waugh

Image by Sacrée Frangine

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