It’s that time of the year again: New York Fashion Week. Meaning, celebrities and designers will congregate and watch models storm the runway in looks that my poor ass will never be able to afford. Nicki Minaj, never one to mince words, decided to use her platform and her privilege to combat cultural appropriation.
This past Sunday, toward the end of her performance at Philipp Plein's NYFW show after-party, The Cut reports that Nicki thanked Plein for his work as well as supporting diversity through his label. She continued on to put other unnamed designers on blast for not only exploiting black culture, but also refusing to include black people in their shows.
"Thank you, Philipp Plein, for including our culture," she told the crowd. "Designers get really big and really rich off of our culture, and then you don’t see a motherfucker that look anything like us in the front row half the time. So let’s make some noise for Philipp Plein tonight."
Nicki is no stranger to calling out fuckshit; whether she is venting her frustrations with sexism, or the infamous “Miley, What’s Good?” moment. Though having been accused and guilty of her own cultural appropriations, she is still correct. (Yes, you can be guilty of doing something and still call out a wrongdoing.)
The cultural appropriation versus cultural appreciation conversation is getting old and draining as marginalized people continue to not have ownership of the little that they do have, while still combating racial exclusions in the form for political bans. It’s draining and extremely violent to have to explain why things that are yours by birthright are not up for consumption. It’s simple. If it is not yours, leave it alone.
Earlier this year, Noisey reported on the cultural significance of Dapper Dan and why Gucci suing him out of existence ruined the creator of the '80-'90 rap/drug dealer look. But then, to add insult to injury, Gucci copied Dapper Dan’s original creations for a collection, as a not so subtle “fuck you” under the disguise of homage.
On a surface level, calling out the fashion industry and cultural appropriation appears to just be petty declarations over superficial things. But that sentiment is reductive and void, because the fashion industry is a multi-million dollar industry, and ripping of people of color’s identity for monetary means while excluding them becomes another institution of racism.
There are far too many instances of people of color being denied ownership to their identities, and then it being flipped and declared as avant garde or haute couture. It isn’t considered high art/expression or worthy of acknowledgement when the people that own these things by birthright have them, until white counterparts possess them. It basically says, "We like your things, but we don’t like it when you’re in it." It’s violent and bare minimum, irritating.
On a real ass level: cultural appropriation is parasitic.
The racial overtone of black people existing solely under the gaze and entertainment of the elite, rich, and most often white, is still present. In no other instances would Nicki Minaj, Rae Sremmurd, or 21 Savage be in the same vicinity of these “influencers." So why not cater and include people that look and sound like them as well?
The fashion industry is not just this vapid place that doesn’t affect entire world. You cannot just adorn the rich in the “Ghetto Fab” fashions as an aesthetic and just be done with it the next year for a new collection. Ideally, more people of color in positions of power would speak out to further combat these issues. However that includes, not just calling it out, but refusing to work with or even wear these brands.
But who really is about that life?
Photo Credit: Still Nicki Minaj "No Frauds"
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Bry'onna Mention is a digital editor at BUST and a wavvy womanist who is always ready to square up against misogynoir and respectability. She can usually be found running through the burbs with her ‘fro. Catch her on the internet at @radsadblackbry or email@example.com.