Recently Kylie Jenner, half-sister to Kim Kardashian, was spotted on Instagram with darker skin. She captioned the image, “What I wish I looked like all the time.” While some people have claimed that she looked more like an avatar with metallic looking skin, I interpreted the picture as a wanting to be black. When I think of Kylie, I cannot help but to think she is disrespecting and appropriating black culture and black bodies.
Her Instagram is a mix of images, ranging from a normal Kylie to a Kylie full of enhancements. Though she is still quite young, nobody’s body changes that drastically overnight. She has gone from having thin lips and a flat butt in pictures to having curves that could rival any 17-year-old black girl. Her chest has also doubled in size, something that is impossible to do overnight without the help of surgeries or digital enhancements. Her lips are now extremely plump, causing a trend of “Kylie Jenner lips.”
In March, the online magazine Styleite published an article titled “Beyonce Tries Kylie Jenner Lips”. Although the site acknowledges the criticism they have received over this post and have posted several articles since that highlight the hypocrisy of the photo, I cannot help but continually roll my eyes at the article. I can see where Beyoncé overdrew her lips in the picture, yes, but it is not about the makeup here. It is about stealing from a black body and only loving it after a white person has done it. It is racially insensitive considering the considerable inequalitiy in the fashion world and it’s standard of beauty. Beyonce does not need to overdraw her lips the way the Kylie does. Kylie’s oversized lips mimic those of Black women. By saying that Beyonce has Kylie’s lips is ridiculous since Beyonce is already a Black woman. She doesn’t need to alter herself to look like one.
Black women have had these features forever, but when white women have them, it is a fashion statement. In turn, this means that something is only beautiful if a white woman does it despite black women looking that way much before white women. Black women are beautiful. Black people are beautiful. Yet, society tells us the exact opposite. Ironically enough, our looks are mimicked by the same people who sell us hair relaxers and skin lightening cream. Everybody wants to be black, until the fun time is over. Black people never get to remove their skin and have a day off.
This is not all Kylie has done. Despite the rumor that she is dating 25-year-old rapper Tyga, Kylie uses the black body as something to draw inspiration from constantly. She, like many others, has indulged in a culture simply because someone she dates identifies with that culture. Altering her body to turn into a black woman is offensive. She is clearly trying to be someone she’s not just because of who she is dating, turning these aesthetics into a fashion statement as mentioned above.
Not only is a white person having dreadlocks cultural appropriation, but it carries a negative or outlandish connotation. People were in awe and considered her a rebel in the family by shaking things up. This is even more offensive because it is always black women who get comments saying that their natural hair is ugly and should fit more to the European standard of beauty. It is hypocritical to praise black features but criticize the people who have them naturally. Many people have tried to talk me out of getting my dreadlocks as they wrongly believe the style is dirty or unkempt, but when white people have them, they are interesting or a rebel, and that is frustrating.
Dreadlocks are a natural hairstyle for the Black community. The hairstyle goes back before Rastafarianism (where many people think it started) to the horn of Africa. In different cultures, they hold special meanings due to the role of some of the people with locks including shamans and warriors, and in Nigeria when babies are born with naturally locked hair, they are called “Dada.” Because of this history, it is disrespectful when white people lock their hair since it is tied to the roots of Africa and their type of hair does not naturally lock.
However, later in the same month, Zendaya, who is mostly known for being a former Disney Channel child star and a singer, is ousted for having dreadlocks, a hairstyle that is appropriate when it comes to her race. On the Fashion Police’s Academy Awards special, Guiliana Rancic said since Zendaya had dreadlocks, she must smell of patchouli oil or weed. Since then, Zendaya has written a powerful defense of her hair and Rancic has gone on to apologize as well as claim that she did not write the joke about Zendaya’s hair. But there was never an attack on Kylie for the same style of hair. A Black woman with a natural hair style is seen as dirty where a white woman with an unnatural hair style is seen as edgy and rebellious. Those do not add up.
Society is all about policing black bodies to conform to the European centered standard of beauty, but whenever a white person has seemingly black features, they are praised. However, the copycat is never the original and it will never be as beautiful. The Black body is not a commodity and should not be treated as such.