Iggy Azalea recently released a new track titled Team & I can’t help but wonder if it’s enough to win her audience back, but most importantly: can it make up for the hurt she’s supposedly caused?
After being called out for cultural appropriation, the controversial rapper carefully retracted herself from her newest video release & conceded the spotlight to diversified ethnic groups, strategically shining a light on black women, & men.
Some might consider cultural appropriation subsidiary, but it remains a reflection of very important & interesting social dynamics. Is it as shocking & urgent as cases of trans women being murdered on street corners? Probably not. But is it still worth our consideration? Absolutely.
While conflicts like institutional racism are much more problematic & likely to be highlighted, pop culture still speaks volumes about our realm of perception as a society & is not to be overlooked.
Except for Naomi Campbell, it is quite difficult to name a dark skinned woman who is celebrated in the media for her appearance. Even celebrities like Beyoncé, Rihanna & Nicki Minaj are very pale for people of color – & that’s not even considering the mostly white hairstyles they usually rock – & it is not a coincidence: black female artists know they must play the game & assimilate to a mass culture that is primarily white.
Yes, we’re looking at a popular culture that loves to praise black traits, but only on white women. Isn’t it shocking that a black waitress is sent home for wearing her natural hair, but Kylie Jenner, a white woman, is celebrated for wearing cornrows? Pop culture is a white culture that spends its time stealing elements from minorities without ever giving any recognition to these particular groups. Not only does this happen in terms of culture, but even features like big lips are now admired on white women, versus people of color who have always been taught not to find beauty in themselves for those same characteristics.
I’m not necessarily blaming a star like Miley Cyrus for appropriating twerking, but it is still interesting to analyse. Similarly to Vogue by Madonna, there is some harm underlying this kind of mass popularity.
What happens is that the majority of music consumers, which is white, will end up associating something like voguing, which was started by Black & Latino gay men & trans women, to Madonna, a white woman. Even though artists like Madonna & Miley incorporate people of color in their videos & are usually very inclusive in what they do, it still has this effect of erasing the history & depth behind a cultural & political movement. Queer people of color deserve proper recognition just like any other oppressed group throughout history, & not quasi-total erasure.
Unfortunately, that kind of exposure may seem like the only realistic option minorities can strive for. When bathing in a social construct dominated by white supremacy, the chances of a minority topping the Billboard Charts and being celebrated by every white Christian household are very slim. But on the long run, it may still be a good first step towards acceptance & recognition, depending on how you see it.
It is consequently interesting to acknowledge the way masses can mostly only hear & comprehend information when it is spread by white people. Just take a look around & you’ll realize just how much minorities are unheard. It is humankind at its peak: only truly listening to the ones with whom they can identify. Once you’re perceived as Black, Asian, Gay, Trans, etc., you become nothing but this label on a mainstream level, & most people can only listen to you through that lens.
On the other hand, it is riveting to see an artist like Beyoncé infiltrate pop culture by following the rules, only to break them & shamelessly bring her culture back to the forefront, therefore allowing representation for her community. If Queen B would have started celebrating black culture in her music at sixteen-years-old like she did in the video & lyrics for Formation, her career would have never taken off. But now that she has one of the biggest empires known to mankind – or should I say, womankind – she can afford to release a song & not expect it to chart at all, given that she has already built a strong image for herself & does not need to seek the public’s approval as much as she used to.
In a utopian world, a political & cultural movement would be led by a member of the concerned minority while people outside of that body, who are usually privileged in comparison, would contribute to the movement & spread awareness, all while avoiding whitesplaining, a concept this lovely skit by Franchesca Ramsey can merrily explain.
Accordingly, while I do applaud Iggy Azalea for partly acknowledging her mistakes & trying to do the right thing, I can understand why some people would still choose not to support her music. Although it remains debatable, I do think it is great to see her going from cultural appropriation to the use of her platform to showcase black excellence.
The point is not necessarily to go around policing every person’s aesthetic & artistry, but more to understand the way our society was built through the ages & to be sensitive to other people’s struggles.
To top it off, let me introduce you to two of Bob The Drag Queen’s brilliant performances in which she gives a voice to black culture, but in a strictly comedic way.
In this first one, she goes back and forth between Vogue by Madonna & a voguing tutorial given by a black gay man :
& In this next one, she alternates between Britney Spears’ I’m a Slave 4 U & comical speeches calling out racism. If you’re easily offended, please stick around :
Similarly, here is Kim Chi lip-syncing to the words of I love Chinese food, making fun of the way American culture perceives & portrays her Korean heritage :