On November 6th, freelance writer Wanna Thompson went on Twitter and called out the specific, sick “trend” of young white women who pretend to be Black online. It seems the privileges and advantages that come with being a white person—from Eurocentric beauty standards, to an economic upper hand, to representation in politics—aren’t quite enough for some white Instagram influencers.
The funny thing about Eurocentric beauty standards is that they’ve shifted; they are now coupled with—or actually dominated by—Blackness. The exact physical features that white people have historically crucified us for are now desirable to them: pouty lips, brown sun kissed skin, voluminous curly hair, and curvy bodies. White women thirst for the look but don’t want the marginalized lifestyle or racism that accompanies Black womanhood. So they turn to darker makeup, plastic surgery, and Instagram filters that alter their skin tone.
Make no mistake about it, plastic surgery and makeup are not inherently evil—but they are when used to deceive people into thinking that you’re Black.
Wanna got tired of watching influencers capitalize off of the Black experience while real Black content creators face ignorance and racism.
So she started a thread about some of the guilty parties, and what ensued was a lengthy discussion about blackface, race, denial, and what white women can gain by trying to look Black. (One of the exposed influencers, Emma Hallberg, has since told BuzzFeed News that she does not use self-tanner and has never “claimed or tried to be Black or anything else.” She contends that she’s “deep tan naturally from the sun.”)
“N***erfishing [a term that has been used on Twitter to describe this deception] isn’t a new concept. It’s been around since I was old enough to process race,” Wanna says. “I’ve noticed this odd trend on social media for a few years now, and I wanted to shine a light on this startling epidemic. I think people have a right to know if the people they are supporting aren’t who they say they are.”
I asked Wanna about starting this conversation. “It feels great to be recognized and acknowledged by various people and notable publications, but there is a lot of work to be done,” she says. “This topic shouldn’t stop online. There needs to be more room offline to discuss these matters as well. I want to represent every Black girl who feels like they’re not being heard. I want to shift the narrative and make people aware of what’s truly going on.”
I spoke to Wanna about her viral thread and why this form of blackface is so insidious. You can read our chat below.
HelloGiggles (HG): What made you want to create this thread?
Wanna Thompson (WT): I start a lot of important conversations on social media, and after viewing one tweet by [@yeahaboutella], I thought to myself: “This is the perfect time to call out other white women who are currently ‘cosplaying’ as black women on social media.” I just wanted to let others know that these women are getting by online by emulating our likeness without facing any backlash—and that needed to change.
HG: What are some of the reasons why white female influencers do blackface?
WT: Well, that’s fairly simple. White women want the benefits of being Black without dealing with the responsibilities that come with it. They see the features that Black women are blessed to have, and they literally do anything to obtain it. This form of blackface is even more offensive because they’re not even trying to hide it.”
HG: How do you plan to push forward the discourse surrounding this problem?
WT: I want people to turn their actual attention to Black women and make an effort to connect with influencers and content creators who are producing amazing work. Black women have created numerous trends and have led prominent discussions on social media, and they haven’t been credited for it. It’s clear that a lot of Black women are being overlooked for white women, but I believe that narrative will change because I refuse to stay silent on the matter. If I have to be the one to push this topic and make sure that I’m being heard, I’m willing to do that. Give Black women their things!