Florence Pugh is trying hard to be part of the solution when it comes to systemic racism — and that means recognizing her own offenses.
As she wrote in a lengthy apology post on Friday, “we HAVE to look at ourselves and see how we were adding to this problem.” How was she adding to the problem? Cultural appropriation.
She says in her Instagram note:
“One part I have identified in my own actions is cultural appropriation, which came to my attention when a fan last year pointed out a picture of me I had posted back when I was 17.”
Back to that one later…
She goes on to explain how a photographer friend taught her about cultural appropriation when she was 18, shortly after that pic. She was showing off her new “corn rows” to her friend, proudly as they were all the rage at that time (around 2014):
“That summer, red carpets were full of famous, white women with either one side of their hair shaved or braided. I remember in every magazine, there was a ‘How To Do It Yourself!’ version.”
She remembers being surprised when her friend told her they were banned at her school, and why.
“She began to explain to me what cultural appropriation was, the history and heartbreak over how when Black girls do it they’re mocked and judged, but when white girls do it, it’s only then perceived as cool. It was true. I could see how Black culture was being so obviously exploited.”
However, she admits, she was very Karen-y about it at the time:
“I was defensive and confused, white fragility coming out plain and simple.”
She goes on to talk about her obsession with henna and other Indian fashion and culture, which a shopkeeper friend had happily shared with her when she was just 8 years old.
But when she saw this all pop up as a trend many years later it didn’t feel like a culture being shared — but rather one being stolen:
“Over the summer of 2017, Bindis and henna became a trend. Every top high street shop was selling their reimagined versions of this culture. I remember seeing large makeup brands selling an ‘Easy! Quick Dry!’ henna ink pen and stencil in large commercial pharmacies. Even the art of creating these intricate designs were getting a shortcut. No one cared about the origin, a culture was being abused for profit. I felt embarrassed. I felt sadness for the small family-run Indian shops all over the country, seeing their culture and religion cheapened everywhere.”
She then realized her own culpability:
“I thought because I was taught about it differently, I was an exception. And here’s the problem: I actually wasn’t being respectful in how I was using it. I wore this culture on my terms only, to parties, at dinner. I too was disrespecting the beauty of the religion that had been taught to me those years ago.”
Man, that is some serious self-awareness! It’s not easy to take such an unforgiving look at your behavior like that!
So back to that pic she got called out on…
Yep, that’s the future Oscar nominee at 17. She recalls:
“I braided my hair and painted a beanie with the Jamaican flag colours and went to a friend’s house; proud of my Rastafarian creation.”
Young Florence even posted the pic “with a caption that paraphrased the lyrics to Shaggy‘s song Boombastic.” The now-24-year-old says she is now “ashamed of so many things” about the incident:
“At the time I honestly did not think that I was doing anything wrong. Growing up as white and privileged allowed me to get that far and not know… Stupid doesn’t even cut it, I was uneducated. I was unread.”
She says growing up seeing celebs adopting cultures made her think it was OK. Now she’s someone who young people might look to for inspiration, and she realizes she needs to be more thoughtful. And for all those who don’t get exactly what cultural appropriation is or what’s wrong with it, here’s Florence’s take:
“Black, Indian, Native American and Asian cultures and religions are constantly used and abused every new shopping season. It’s not wrong to appreciate the beauty of a culture but rebranding them for the sake of a fashion trend and a $ most certainly is.”
She goes on to apologize again for her part in it, writing:
“I am truly sorry to all of you that were offended for years or even just recently. I cannot dismiss the I actions I bought into years ago, but I believe that we who were blind to such things must acknowledge them and recognize them as our faults, our ignorance and our white privilege and I apologise profusely that it took this long.”
What do YOU think of Florence’s self-examination and new stance on cultural appropriation??
Think we’ll hear anything similar from any of the Kardashian-Jenner family, who have made their millions off exploiting minority cultures?
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