Anna Sheffer
July 10, 2019 10:11 am

Just weeks after Kim Kardashian came under fire for naming her shapewear line “Kimono,” another celebrity is facing criticism for potential cultural appropriation. This time, the target is Rihanna, whose August 2019 cover for Harper’s Bazaar China left Twitter users divided.

The magazine shared pictures from the cover shoot on Instagram on July 8th. In the cover photo, Rihanna wears a blue gown with bell-shaped sleeves, and her hair is piled high with mini folding fans stuck in it. In another photo from the shoot, she sports long nails decked out with butterflies and flowers, and one photo even features a shih tzu. Throughout the series of pictures, her look borrows elements of Chinese cultural dress.

The magazine tagged photographer Chen Man, as well as its fashion chief editor Wei Tian and editor-in-chief Simona Sha.

The cover shoot left many unsettled, however. On Twitter, some users argued that because Rihanna is not Chinese, she should not dress in a way that emulates Chinese culture.

But other users felt that the cover was not a case of cultural appropriation because a Chinese editorial team had planned Rihanna’s outfit.

Some refuted the idea that the approval of a Chinese team made the outfit okay.

Rihanna isn’t the first celebrity to face backlash for dressing in traditional clothing for a magazine shoot. In March 2018, Vogue India faced backlash for featuring Kardashian on its cover—and for pictures of her in a traditional garment called a lehenga.

It can be tricky to determine if something is cultural appropriation or if it’s a genuine instance of cultural exchange, and not every person from the same culture will share the same perception. Above all, we need to be mindful of this issue and listen to marginalized groups when they tell us we’re being insensitive.

Advertisement