You wouldn’t have any language, any style, or any physical form apparently, without us. Let’s look at the things you’ve stolen from Black girls and claimed as your own this year.
By Adrie Rose
Black girls, especially Black girls in the hood, are up for grabs. Not so much physically, but creatively. Everything they do, and I don’t say we because it’s been a while since I lived there, is available for commodification. But only after they’ve been mocked, harassed, fired, and humiliated for their ingenuity, creativity, and general brilliance in the face of adversity. Does that sound dramatic? I don’t care. I find it difficult to care when our literal faces are picked apart and handed out piecemeal to white and non-Black people for sponsored posts and influencer cheques while we struggle to stay employed. You wouldn’t have any language, any style, or any physical form apparently, without us. Let’s look at the things you’ve stolen from Black girls and claimed as your own this year.
1. Bright Colourful Wigs
Having heard (and made) my fair share of jokes about “blue silk weave” and neon coloured wigs, I was completely blown away to see white women like Kylie Jenner, Katy Perry, and Kim Kardashian credited for “normalising” wigs and de-stigmatising them. Is it true that they’ve helped brightly coloured hairpieces go mainstream? Yes. Is it also true that they’ve all been stealing their entire aesthetics and personas from Black women, particularly the “ghetto” ones? Yes, because two things can be true at the same time.
2. Poverty, I guess.
First, y’all took the joy of thrift shopping away from me when you started flocking to consignment shops after brunch and pawing through the racks of castoffs. I get it, capitalism sucks. But I have to draw the line at selling $3,000 sweaters with holes and $900 worn-in sneakers and an entire line literally inspired by the homeless.
3. Braids. Again.
I don’t even understand how white people get their hair in braids without some serious distress to their scalps, but here we are in the year 2019 and white people are still slathering themselves in beeswax and goat blood to look absolutely ridiculous. And if we’re being honest, it’s not just white women. I’m looking at you Nikita Dragun. You look absolutely bonkers and you sound even worse with your *checks notes* Native, blood quantum, Ancestry & Me results.
4. Black & Brown Skin
5. Glitter Eyeshadow
Remember when Jackie Aina launched her palette with Anastasia Beverly Hills and everyone (white women) called her a copycat and all manner of creative thief before they even got their hands on it because the shades vaguely resemble those in another ABH palette? I do. And I remember Jackie defending the palette because she created it for people darker than a paper bag. How strange that Black women have to create products that work for their skin because brands have appropriated a style pioneered and perfected by the likes of Missy Elliot, Left Eye, and Pat McGrath without credit. And how perfectly odd that they have to defend wanting products that don’t make them look ashy or disappear on their skin.
6. Dramatic Acrylic Nails
I already have issues with people, in a general sense, wearing what we hookers have lovingly referred to as “dick grabbers” for as long as I can remember. But I”m willing to acknowledge the contributions of non-sex working Black and brown women to acrylic culture because I’m a generous sort of girl. I also just love hearing and seeing Black people click-clack their fingernails together in the most obnoxious way possible. Take up space Black people. We deserve that! But this thing where my Instagram explore feed is all white hands when Black women are derided and mocked for the same, better-executed creativity and style? Everything about it is ugly to me.
7. Dark Lip Liner
I rediscovered my love for makeup this year and also my frustration with makeup. I LOVE a solid pinky nude lip. It’s my base standard, absolute bare minimum for a soft glam kind of day. But if you’re darker than a cup of tea that’s more milk than tea, you know why I have about 6 different brown and mauve lip liners. It is an unfortunate fact that brown and Black girls have no choice but to line any shade that calls itself a nude or risk looking ashy and dehydrated. But like everything else, white women couldn’t stand the idea that something was just for us and so they gave us “beef lips.”
8. Silk Bonnets
I don’t have much to say about this except that some white woman tried to sell silk bonnets for $99 each and got the dragging she rightfully deserved. These bonnets have been $2-5 for as long as I can remember at the beauty supply, but if you’re feeling fancy, Target has cantu bonnets for $6-8.
8. Bamboo Earrings
If you’re old enough and grew up in the hood, you remember the “gold” earrings in the mall, stylised to look like bamboo, weighted with God knows what, and customised to say “baby girl” or your name in fancy script. You could find them in the beauty supply, the corner store, and on the table of that guy that sold jewelry downtown. Salt N Pepa, SWV, Queen Latifah, Regina King, Janet Jackson. I remember all of them in their giant, gold, dinner plate earrings. And I remember hearing how tacky, unprofessional, and ghetto they were. I also remember Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and serial culture vulture Kim Kardashian stepping out with them in their ears and being heralded as fashion icons.
9. Cowboy Culture & Aesthetics
I said what I said. Western and cowboy culture do not belong to white people. Country music does not belong to white people. When Bri Malandro coined the term “Yeehaw Agenda,” she didn’t intend to start a cultural revolution, just document the decades of culture we’ve already contributed to. The Black Cowboy Museum, the Black Invitational and the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeos, Beyonce’s iconic duet with the Dixie Chicks, and nods to iconic moments in Black yeehaw fashion. One in four cowboys was Black and the term “buckaroo” is a bastardisation of the word vaquero. But white people are absolutely flabbergasted at the idea of sharing the country music charts, and the aesthetic to match, with the likes of us.
Adrie, Sociology student, book hoarder, and mother to Oscar (5) and Misty (15). I believe in the power of the glitter accent nail, sex workers, and black people.