Lizzo Is The Latest Celebrity Accused of Cultural Appropriation

Lizzo had a monster year in 2019 and looks to be moving into 2020 with the same level of success. Aside from performing the opening act at the Grammy Awards and taking home several awards, Lizzo also graced the pages of Rolling Stone and was even featured on the cover. The “Truth Hurts” singer is all about positivity and body acceptance, messages that are important in our increasingly digital world. While the majority of Lizzo fans praised the cover and the subsequent spread inside the magazine, several people have pointed out that Lizzo might be guilty of cultural appropriation.

Lizzo’s Rolling Stone spread is creating controversy

Lizzo’s Rolling Stone spread is undoubtedly the high point of her career thus far. Being offered the cover is the way many musicians know they’ve “made it” in the musical world, but the cover of Rolling Stone and the photo spread within its pages is not without controversy. Lizzo is being accused of cultural appropriation because several of the images used in the magazine show the songstress wearing a traditional headdress.

In one photo, Lizzo is wearing a headdress that looks like a Chada (also known as a Mongkut or Mokot) and little else. The traditional headdress is tied to several Asian countries, including Cambodia and Thailand. Other photos in the spread seem to have Asian-inspired themes, as well, which has led some followers to accuse the songstress of cultural appropriation. Lizzo also received backlash for working with Good American, the company founded by Emma Grede and Khloe Kardashian. The Kardashian family has been accused of cultural appropriation in the past, too, according to Teen Vogue.

Instagram users are weighing in on the controversy

Instagram users flooded Lizzo’s page after she posted several shots from her Rolling Stone photoshoot. While the majority of comments were from fans looking to support the Grammy winner, several followers pointed out that the use of the headdress really was not okay with them. One user noted, “I just don’t understand why people think it’s okay to use the cultural dress of others and wear it this way. Like I love Lizzo and her positivity and her music is amazing and that she is paving her own way. This is just the second time within the last few weeks that I’ve seen Asian dress used in this way and it is NOT okay.”

Arguments broke out in the comment section of the post, with several fans suggesting Lizzo’s shoot was more about appreciation than appropriation.  That did little to squash the controversy, though. One commenter noted that Asian culture is largely fetishized and claims of cultural appropriation are often brushed off. David LaChappelle, the photographer responsible for the photos, is known for pulling inspiration from art history. He also regularly uses religious imagery in his photos, notes Rolling Stone.

Katy Perry was called out for appropriating Asian culture in 2013

Lizzo is not the first celebrity who has been swiftly criticized for the decision to appropriate Asian culture. In 2013, Katy Perry took the stage at the American Music Awards to perform her song “Unconditionally.” Perry’s costume choice was met with backlash. Dressed as a geisha,  her performance drew the ire of women who felt she was further perpetuating the stereotype of submissive Asian women.

The Atlantic points out that Gwen Stefani received similar criticism in 2005 for her use of “Harajuku Girls” in her videos. In a scathing opinion piece for Salon, Mihi Ahn notes that Stefani took a cultural phenomenon she didn’t fully understand and boiled it down into the tired trope of giggling, submissive Asian women. Ahn isn’t the only one who has pointed out the issue. Several internet users have suggested Stefani’s behavior is troubling on several levels, namely, she is accused of using people as “living props.”