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What is Blackfishing? How to find out if you’re a culture vulture

What is Blackfishing? If you don’t know, it’s time to read up on it.

It’s an old story– when white voices repeat what Black artists have been saying, their voices get amplified. This happens in all American cultures, but music has seen some of the most egregious examples.

Same old song..

Rock and Roll was pioneered by Black artists who were pushed out of the spotlight. Elvis Prestley’s early career saw him re-recording hits from Black artists, bringing accusations of theft and plagiarism.

But now that music-making has been inextricably tied with image, this imitation goes beyond the aural realm and into the physical. Some have argued that the recent body ideal of being “slim-thick” is an impossible standard that transplants Black features onto white bodies.

The sexuality of black women has always been a source of fascination in the music industry: consider the shock-based success of “WAP” or “Anaconda.”

Blackfishing hits the mainstream

Because black women have found such success using their bodies to bring more attention to their music, white artists are blackfishing, shifting their bodies to imitate those of Black women.

Though the lines are always blurry on matters of cultural appreciation versus appropriation, posing as another race for profit is egregious.

After collecting their paycheck, the white artist can shift back into their white persona whenever they like, sidestepping the daily racism that Black people cannot avoid.

With her single “I Am the Strip Club,” Iggy Azalea has faced accusations of blackfishing after appearing several shades darker than her natural skin tone.

Detractors also mentioned her brunette wig and her wearing a waist trainer, imitating the curvaceous body type more commonly seen in Black women.

She denied the allegations, saying on Twitter: “It’s the same makeup from every other part of the video just with a Smokey eye and different wig. Just ignore them. Who cares?”

Ariana Grande also comes to mind: though she is Italian American, in her single “7 Rings”, she sports a dark tan and fake hair, singing from a trap house about money and bitches.

All these things have ridiculed Black artists, but “7 Rings” turned out to be one of Grande’s biggest hits in recent years. Fans have also noted the gradual darkening of her skin throughout her career, though she appeared pale and freckled on the covers of magazines like Elle and Vogue.

How she’s spoken has also changed, with Grande adopting phrases and vocal mannerisms from the Black community. But Grande and Azalea are only two examples of a societal phenomenon spreading further and further.

Because of the proven marketability of Black aesthetics, many white influencers have subtly shifted their appearances into something more racially ambiguous to appeal to the widest possible audience.

Who gonna tell her?

Then, they leverage their larger audiences for more brand deals and sponsorships, and just like white musicians skimming off Black culture, make better profits than the vast majority of Black influencers.

This leads to a phenomenon some refer to as “Instagram face”: since most influencers are editing their photos to match the same idealized body type and face, there is an uncanny similarity from page to page.

Thick lips, big eyes, tan skin. An impossibly small waist is paired with a large ass. A strange amalgamation of ethnic features, carefully selected and placed onto white bodies.

When this is the standard that young white people see in their favorite musicians and on their social media, it can be hard to resist the urge to measure up.

Exhibit A… Jesy Nelson

jesy nelson blackfishing

You can stay up to date with all of Jesy Nelson’s blackfishing below via the Reddit thread.

Before trying on that waist trainer or getting a spray tan, consider how blackfishing impacts the Black community.


Instead of perpetuating the beauty standards that capitalize on Black features while ignoring actual Black people, try embracing your features unapologetically so that Black peers might do the same.

It’s easier said than done, however. Young people of all races feel the pressure to change themselves. It’s a capitalist endeavor to the core, exploiting insecurities from all kinds of people to sell products promising a transformation.

While Black people struggle to wrestle their ethnic features into something palatable for white society, white people are profiting off those features with none of the same struggles. 

Beyond being exploitative to Black culture, consider that these changes are often fruitless in the face of a constantly-shifting body ideal. We are all chasing after the mirage of an ideal body, an image that always seems to be changing.

Many are forecasting the return of 90s heroin-chic skinny and the end of the slim thick reign, and things seem to be moving in that direction, as celebrities are beginning to remove lip injections and butt implants.

When you think about, ‘What is Blackfishing?’ think of it this way. Your body isn’t like a shirt you can take off at the end of the day: it’s your permanent home and something you’ll never be able to change completely.

Black people know this better than anyone, and until racial profiling and discrimination have been alleviated, white people should stop adopting and abandoning ethnic features whenever they find it convenient.

The only way to win the blackfishing game is to stop playing.

By supporting the natural appearances of people from all races, we can move towards a reality where white people no longer profit off Black aesthetics, and all kinds of people receive equal amounts of exposure and opportunity in the cultural sphere.

Ariana Grande trolls Georgia by donating ATL concert money to Planned Parenthood

Ariana Grande, 25, may be a pop princess, habitual heart breaker and sometimes too fond of Black culture, but she ain’t no hoe.

In the wake of Georgia passing it’s ‘Heartbeat‘ bill in May, which is one of the nation’s strictest anti-abortion bills, the “7 Rings” artist donated the proceeds of her Atlanta concert to Planned Parenthood after her sold-out June 8th show, showing solidarity for the women of Georgia and standing up to the lawmakers all in one gesture.

According to TMZ, the org will get $300,000, which will help resource the many facilities these clinics offer even beyond abortion.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Georgia’s now infamous law, it states that most abortions are outlawed once a doctor can detect a fetus’ “heartbeat.” The only problem is that usually happens about six weeks into a pregnancy — before many women know they’re pregnant.

Ariana’s move is not just sincere but shows just how big an issue this is and will be in the upcoming year, not only for the women in Georgia and other states, too.

Following Georgia’s aggressive abortion bill, other states have passed restrictions in recent months, with more than 20 anti-abortion measures passed in 12 states in 2019 alone, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

As of right now in Alabama, you’re not eligible to abort in any case, including rape and incest! In all these cases anti-abortion rights groups hope legal challenges to these bans will go all the way to the Supreme Court, which is now predominantly conservative after the swearing-in of Justice Brett Kavanaugh in October.

People tend to say they want politics separate from their sports and music but Ariana’s actions show success otherwise. You can’t put a price on how much more inspired the women attending that concert were or how the women living in states that are trying to control their bodies feel empowered to fight.

It’s the same vigor that’s caused some states to expand access. In response to these abortion bans, Illinois, New York, and others have announced legislation further protecting a woman’s right to have the procedure.

Specifically, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday signed into law the state’s Reproductive Health Act, making reproductive health care, including abortion, contraception, and maternity care, a fundamental right in the state, according to Guttmacher. The law protects access to abortion up to viability (which experts say is around 24 weeks’ gestation) and after that if deemed medically necessary by a doctor.

It’s a battle, a tug of war — one nobody thought they’d be fighting in 2019 but an important one nonetheless. So, in an era where women’s rights are under siege and our current administration is doing all in its power to defund Planned Parenthood, it’s hard to hate on Ariana for this one.

Shout out to her.

Solange is forced to pull out of Coachella after her band gets wild sick

Solange Knowles is officially out of the 2019 Coachella lineup.

You hate to see it, but according to TMZ, theWhen I Get Home artist was forced to bail out of this year’s Coachella Music and Arts Festival due to several band members falling ill.

According to sources close to the gossip site, production became an issue. Especially after realizing finding replacements for her bandmates would be too difficult.

“We’re told Solange tried out several different musicians, but it just didn’t work, the TMZ source claims. “Mainly because Solange and co. couldn’t figure out how to work in all the new pieces,” they continued.

The music festival’s official Twitter account first announced the news Sunday night.

“Due to major production delays, Solange will unfortunately no longer be performing at this year’s festival,” the tweet read. “She sends her sincerest apologies, and looks forward to performing at Coachella in the future.”

“We’re told Solange didn’t feel like she could deliver a great show for Coachella … and she ultimately decided to pull the plug. She told a bunch of people she didn’t want a half-assed show,” the TMZ source said.

Maybe her sister’s show was in the back of her head? Maybe she knew she didn’t have what it took to follow up?

Last year when Beyoncé turned Coachella into “Beychella” it didn’t take reflection for the millions watching to know they were possibly witnessing the greatest live performance of all-time. For starters, Beyoncé was the first Black woman to ever headline the festival.

Forbes’ named it one of the most defining moments in pop culture and Vogue Magazine called it one of the best moments in music in 2018.

There’s even a Netflix doc debuting called Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé, which gives an intimate behind-the-scenes look at the performance from conception to completion  — I’d pull out if my starters weren’t suiting up either.

We know, now, not to expect Beyoncé when we hear Solange and vice versa. Still, Mrs. Carter set a bar. Plus, we can’t be mad at sis for wanting to make sure she clears it.

Coachella scheduled Solange to perform alongside Kid Cudi, Weezer, Tame Impala, J Balvin and Aphex Twin. She was devastated that she had to cancel, allegedly. But the festival has also had hiccups with other big-name acts this year…

Kanye West was originally scheduled to perform but pulled out right before the New Year’s announcement because the festival allegedly denied his request to build a giant dome.

The festival replaced Kanye with Ariana Grande as the headlining performance. Still, Coachella invited Ye again, this time offering a ‘whole mountain’ for him to perform on.

He announced the news at his latest Sunday Service that he would bring his gospel-inspired performance to Coachella’s second weekend on April 21, Easter Sunday, at 9 a.m. West told last weekend’s Sunday Service attendees,

“We were out in Palm Springs and they took us to a little campground because we were thinking about a little performance in Palm Springs, just a little one. Then they had a mountain, he had a mountain waiting for us.”

Although it’s a bummer Solange isn’t performing, maybe it means she’s going to make it up in a real way. Until then, speedy recovery for her crew.