Noted celebrity Kim Kardashian once again finds herself at the center of the issue of cultural appropriation. The controversy all started over a hairstyle. The curvy other half of Kanye West was seen out in public wearing cornrows, a hairstyle normally attributed to black women.
On the celebrity spotting, The Root reports that MTV UK renamed the hairstyle “boxer braids” and provided a set of instructions on how to do them. No acknowledgement was given to the fact that they were derived from another cultural heritage, and this is where all of the ire began.
Both black social media and black media have blown up over the offense. According to The Grio, the hairstyle is more properly known as “cornrows,” and has been known as cornrows for as long as black women have been doing them.
Bossip also notes that the style has been worn, to the same degree of appropriation, by Hailey Baldwin and Kim’s half-sister, Kylie Jenner.
— Aron Prince (@aronprince67) February 21, 2016
Wikipedia itself defines cornrows as a traditional African grooming method where the hair is braided tightly to the scalp. It is produced by using a combination of underhand and downward motions to create a continuous braided row across the scalp that sometimes is even manipulated into patterns.
This style is chosen by black women many times for its easy and low maintenance. It can be left in for weeks at a time and maintained through careful cleansing of the hair and oiling of the scalp. Cornrows can be worn by either men or women and depending on the geographical area it is sometimes worn by both.
The fashion of cornrows has previously been looked down on by mainstream employers as being inappropriate for the workplace, too ethnic, and too extreme. In this new incarnation of the Kardashian Boxer Braids, the style is being hailed by the fashion world as a look that is beautiful, elegant, and highly sought after by A-listers.
This is not the first time that Kardashian has been spotted out and about in cornrows. The last sighting was in December of last year when she attended a social function hosted by her mother, but at that time no one in the media attempted to redefine what they were, assign them a new name, or even claim that she made the style popular.
Opponents of appropriation for this style are strongly voicing their opinions on social media, going so far as to say that it is considered “ghetto” when a black woman wears them but “trendy” on a white woman.
— EBWPR (@Emmabwpr) February 17, 2016
Kim Kardashian is the wife of noted entertainer Kanye West and shot to fame in 2007 when a sex tape that she made in 2003 with her then-boyfriend, movie star Ray J, while still married to music producer Damon Thomas was leaked to the public. Kardashian married West in 2014, and their wedding festivities were a source of worldwide media interest. She was previously known through her close friendship with Paris Hilton. Later, she and various members of her family starred in reality shows, such as Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kourtney and Kim Take New York, and Kourtney and Kim Take Miami. Kim’s media team gives her credit for “breaking the Internet” in 2014 when she posed nude in Paper magazine in a rear camera shot with her buttocks oiled up.
It has been rumored that Kardashian is the highest-paid reality television personality in the United States with earnings that exceed $53 million.
Kim is also the stepdaughter of Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner, the 1976 Summer Olympics athlete who recently underwent the transition from male to female. Her birth father, Robert Kardashian, an attorney, represented O.J. Simpson during his murder trial. Simpson is also Kim’s godfather.
Kardashian has two children by her current husband – a daughter, North, and a son, Saint.
[Photo by John Misa/AP Images]