Justin Bieber Gets Cornrows

Calm Down: Justin Bieber Insults Himself For Getting Cornrows So You Don’t Have To

It’s only day five of 2016, and poor Justin Bieber is already calling himself names because he let his more or less recently-declared girlfriend, model Hailey Baldwin, convince him to get cornrows while on holiday in the Caribbean.

In. The. Caribbean. Never mind that white people (and other races) wearing cornrows or other hairstyles during tropical vacations has been a no-drama thing that adult holidaymakers and their kids have done since forever. And, sure, let’s all ignore the reality that tourists making use of local artisans and vendors provides vital income for those locals.

Because it’s Justin Bieber in cornrows, rather than say (view photos under links:) Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Jared Leto, J Lo, Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani, David Beckham, Ke$ha, Kristen Stewart, and Fergie, to name just a few, a cultural appropriation brouhaha kicked off on social media on Monday.

Some also misunderstood the Canadian singer’s hastily-posted caption explanation alongside the photo he shared on Instagram of him wearing the braided style. He did so after first uploading a selfie over at his Shots account.

“Hailey made me get corn rows like an absolute d****e bag, these will be off tomorrow trust me Danny,” Bieber wrote on Instagram, clearly aware of the some of the Internet reaction his Shots snap set off.

The photo shows the “Sorry” singer standing head bowed, while a somewhat skeptical-looking Hailey, 19, (who is seen in looser braids) touches his new ‘do and — we’re presuming — the local braid stylist smiles beside them.

To wit, for the stragglers at the back: Bieber was obviously describing his decision to let his boo persuade him to get cornrows as the “d****e bag” act — not the actual cornrows. As such, he clearly isn’t insulting the style, but was being self-deprecating.

The Biebs is known for being adventurous with his hair, most recently he’s been rocking a man bun, and people often try local things when they are going with the flow on holiday. While ringing in the New Year in Anguilla and St. Barts with Bieber’s family and pals, Justin, and Hailey ignited the rumormill by sharing romantic-looking videos and snaps over several days.

That culminated on Sunday, with a full-on “Jailey” kiss pic.

Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin kiss on New Year’s Vacation [Image via Instagram]
E! News reports sources said Justin and Hailey (who are longtime pals), “have a romantic connection” but “don’t have a label” for that connection. Regardless, the two certainly ramped up the dating conversation by being seen in intimate photos and — for now — are acting like boyfriend and girlfriend.

Honestly? What girlfriend hasn’t played “dress-up-my-boyfriend-day,” especially when a couple is in their honeymoon stage and guys are happy to let us mess with them? That’s exactly what Hailey did when she persuaded Justin to get cornrows, and this storm in a teacup should be viewed in that context, along with the following.

Cultural appropriation is defined in numerous, yet similar, ways. Amandla Sternberg’s “Don’t Cash Crop On My Cornrows” addressed the topic last year after Kylie Jenner wore cornrows and shared a selfie on Instagram. Essentially, it occurs when a person, group, or organization from a dominant culture adopts aspects of an oppressed culture that is not their own.

However, there is a crucial exception. There is no reason to level an accusation of cultural appropriation when the credit for the use of that culture’s custom, style, or art is openly credited to the original, native culture.

In the case of Bieber’s cornrows, which he states on Instagram “will be off tomorrow trust me Danny,” the stylist who braided the heartthrob’s hair is standing right next to him. All the credit for her work is de facto attributed to her, and she couldn’t look happier about it.

Bieber’s photo-op with the local braider means he isn’t appropriating her Afro-Caribbean culture. It’s no surprise that the singer — with his briefly racially insensitive video moments from age 15 often thrown in his face when race comes up — was obviously keen not to get tangled in a cultural appropriation debate, which would undoubtedly become circular and personalized.

Given the much larger context of brutal, often frequently fatal, treatment of black people at the hands of multiple state sanctioned law enforcement units, and ongoing inequalities and injustices in the systems and institutions underpinning the American way of life and dominant culture, these issues are never far from any conversations about race.

But it’s a sad and farcical state of affairs when a 21-year-old feels he has to publicly inflict a derogatory insult on himself, simply because he wore a local hairstyle to please his girlfriend on holiday.

And let’s not get started on the reality that millions of (mostly) female blacks, whites, and other races buy and wear human hair extensions and wigs which impoverished Indians, Latinas, Russians, and Asian girls and women sell to earn a pittance in the highly lucrative, multi-billion currency hair industry, to either fix insecurities, indulge their vanity, or fit into a warped notion of the norm.

Bottom line? The Biebs won’t be getting cornrows again any time soon, and that’s no bad thing. But, how about — for once — we refrain from the collective pastime of bashing him, and instead give him a break for calling himself out with self-awareness?

Justin Timberlake
“I’m on spring break in Jamaica so I might as well get my hair braided look,” said Justin Timberlake in 2000 [Image via Trapper/Frank/Corbis]

Timberlake, justified?

Xtina looked pretty different back in the day [Image via AKM-GSI]

The rainbow years.

Selena Gomez
[Image via AKM-GSI]

Go-mez too far?

David Beckham
Beckham in 2003 [Image via AKM-GSI]

Don’t braid it like Beckham.

Selena Gomez
Gomez rocking a Bindi at the 2013 MTV Music Awards [Image via Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]

Bindi there, done it.

Bo Derek
Bo Derek in the 1979 movie ’10’ [Image via Alan Band/Keystone/Getty Images]

[Image via Instagram]