Instagram | @badgalriri

14+ Celebrities Who Have Been Accused Of Cultural Appropriation

Cultural appropriation is an increasingly prevalent issue in our society, and an unfortunate number of celebrities are at the forefront of it.

Appropriation is different from appreciation. According to writer Maisha Z. Johnson, "Cultural appropriation is when somebody adopts aspects of a culture that’s not their own."

She added: "A deeper understanding of cultural appropriation also refers to a particular power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group."

Got it? Good. Great. Let's dance.

These celebrities have been accused of appropriation, and trust me when I tell you that we're all about to be disappointed in them.

Gwen Stefani


I y'all remember Gwen's whole harajuku phase? That was straight-up, in-your-face appropriation, plain as day.

She had her backup dancers, named the Harajuku Girls, follow her wherever she went.

As writer Mihi Ahn put it in 2005, "She's taken Tokyo hipsters, sucked them dry of all their street cred, and turned them into China dolls."

Scott Disick

Instagram | @letthelordbewithyou

I mean...I feel like words aren't necessary with this one.

He captioned it, "Happy halloween! We getting Arab money tonight" which is just so many shades of offensive.

He posted the picture in 2014, and has kept it up despite the backlash.

Kim Kardashian

Instagram | @kimkardashian

Here's a brief list of all the times Kim Kardashian has culturally appropriated:

That time she named her shapewear brand "Kimono" with absolutely no reference to the traditional Japanese garment, the time she wore Fulani braids, that time she was accused of get the idea.

Selena Gomez


Selena Gomez took the 2013 MTV Awards by storm — for the wrong reason.

The bindi on her forehead (typically reserved for "married women at the site of the sixth chakra") grabbed all the attention. She even described the look as "glam tribal."


Selena Gomez: Part 2

The TalkTo

But wait! Even after all the backlash, think pieces, and op-eds, Selena still chose to make one hell of a choice later that year.

She wore a bindi to Coachella, where apparently all big appropriation mistakes are made. Here's hoping she's finally learned!

Khloé Kardashian

Instagram | @khloekardashian

While visiting Dubai, Khloé saw fit to don a niqab, take a picture of herself in it, and post it online with the caption, "Habibi love."

The problem? There was no reason for her to be wearing it, as Dubai doesn't require women to do so. So...she basically just did it for the 'gram. Classy.

Kylie Jenner

Instagram | @kyliejenner

See also: Kim Kardashian.

It goes deeper than that, though. After Kylie was named as the youngest self-made billionaire by Forbes, people were quick to point out that much of her company was built on appropriation.

"You can get on the cover of Forbes + be a young billionaire by selling the very features, style and swag that Black Women have always possessed but got called ghetto for it," activist Brittany Packnett wrote.

Karlie Kloss

Getty Images | Randy Brooke

While walking at the Victoria's Secret Fashion show in 2012, Karlie Kloss donned a Native American war bonnet.

The response was fierce. Karlie later tweeted: "I am deeply sorry if what I wore during the VS Show offended anyone. I support VS's decision to remove the outfit from the broadcast."

Adam Levine

Instagram | @adamlevine

Adam Levine was accused of cultural appropriation after getting cornrows.

He didn't stop there, though. He shaved the sides of his head and declared the style a "cornhawk," which tbh just sounds like a really weird bird.

Alessandra Ambrosio

Instagram | @alessandraambrosio

Model Alessandra Ambrosio decided to get "inspired" for Coachella by trying on this Native American headdress.

Considering the backlash that has surrounded Coachella and the appropriation of Native American elements for "fashion," Alessandra definitely should have known better.

Miley Cyrus

Nicki Minaj herself called Miley out for appropriating black culture in particular at the 2015 MTV VMAs.

"You’re in videos with black men, and you’re bringing out black women on your stages, but you don’t want to know how black women feel about something that’s so important?"

Miley has since dismissed her interest in hip-hop, calling the same genre she profited from, "vulgar."

Nikita Dragun

Instagram | @nikitadragun

YouTuber and Instagram star Nikita Dragun has landed herself in hot water a number of times over the years in regards to appropriation.

In this instance, she chose to wear a wig of pink dreadlocks while on vacation in Japan.


Instagram | @badgalriri

Many people are guilty of this one: Rihanna used the term, "spirit animal," in an Instagram caption.

A spirit animal is a spirit guide, and comes from Native American and Indigenous cultures. It's really not for the rest of us to use.

Plus, the word "patronus" is right there.

Taylor Swift

YouTube | Taylor Swift

The release of Taylor's "Shake it Off" video was not without controversy.

The video only showed women of color when they were dressed a certain way — aka, stereotypical hip hop style. The prim and proper ballerinas? All white.

While this may seem minor, it's an example of a microaggression.

Gigi Hadid

Instagram | @carlynecerfdedudzeele

I can see the problem here.

Gigi has practiced cultural appropriation so many times that there are entire articles dedicated to documenting them.

If you're thinking, "Surely it can't be that bad," I'm here to tell you that yeah, it is. In fact, it's worse!

Iggy Azalea

Instagram | @thenewclassic

According to Halsey (who is biracial), Iggy Azalea's career wasn't built on good faith. Would she have her guest on her own album?

"Iggy Azalea: absolutely not. She had a complete disregard for black culture."

Many have accused Iggy of building her entire image on black culture, from her look to the way she speaks.

Post Malone

Post Malone came up in the rap genre, but insists that he is "different" from contemporary black rappers.

In a nutshell: He profited from a black-dominated industry, then distanced himself from it.


Instagram | @beyonce

People were quick to accuse Beyoncé of appropriation when she posted this picture of herself.

However, as many were quick to point out: she was in India, performing at an Indian wedding.

As one tweet said: "This is Cultural Appreciation not Appropriation."

Katy Perry

Instagram | @katyperry

Katy Perry has been accused of appropriating just about everything.

The biggest act of appropriation occurred in her song, "This Is How We Do," where she sang the lyric "Gettin' our nails did all Japanese-y."

Avril Lavigne

YouTube | Avril Lavigne

In 2013, Avril caused cringes everywhere when she released her single, "Hello Kitty."

The accompanying video was a pop-filled, pink, cliche-ridden production that had fans in uproar. While Avril denied it being racist, Vevo eventually removed the video entirely.

Ariana Grande

Ariana has been used a textbook example of blackfishing.

"Regardless of her intentions, she’s profiting from this racial ambiguity she’s created and yeah, this makes her a blackfish," wrote Diyora Shadijanova.

Ariana is "tanned" when she needs to be, and white when she wants to be. That's what blackfishing, aka modern blackface, is all about.

Julianne Hough

Is this appropriation, or just straight-up racism?

Julianne Hough donned full-on blackface in order to dress up as Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren from Orange is the New Black. She even attempted some very questionable bantu knots in her hair.



Instagram | @madonna

One of Madonna's most recent looks caused a lot of uproar. At the 2018 VMAs, she donned the traditional garb (and horns) of the Amazigh culture of North Africa.

On top of wearing pieces only intended for the female warriors of their culture, many people were so unfamiliar with the look that they began to make fun of it.

Michelle Williams


Michelle Williams and magazine anOther chose to make this whole look happen during her promotional tour for Oz the Great and Powerful.

Michelle did not apologize for wearing an obviously Native American-inspired look.

Zac Efron

Instagram | @zacefron

"Just for fun [peace sign emoji]," Zac Efron captioned his white guy dreads.

As we've learned from the sources in this article, wearing another culture isn't really a thing you should do "for fun."

Also, those are sad looking dreads.

Lady Gaga

YouTube | ODE

Lady Gaga opened Philip Treacy’s London Fashion week in 2012 wearing a neon pink burka.

The queen of pop always walks the line with her fashion choices, but wearing a see-through burka was one step too far.

Vanessa Hudgens

Snapchat | Vanessa Hudgens

We can't have an appropriation article without the queen of festival-inspired cultural appropriation, Vanessa Hudgens.

There's these box braids she posted to Snapchat. There's the Native American headdress she casually wore at Coachella.

The bindis. The white face paint. It goes on.

Gordon Ramsay

Eater London

Even famed chef Gordon Ramsay has been accused of cultural appropriation, and it looks like it was pretty serious.

He opened a "vibrant Asian eating house" with a white head chef at the helm, and failed to impress critic Angela Hui.

"Japanese? Chinese? It's all Asian who cares," she captioned an Instagram story.


Another day, another use of Native American cultural items.

Pharrell appeared on the cover of Elle UK wearing a Native American headdress, which was not received well.

"I respect and honor every kind of race, background and culture," he said. ""I am genuinely sorry."

Ariana Grande, Part 2

Instagram | @arianagrande

We could not finish this article without mentioning the mother of all appropriation acts: Ariana's tattoo.

She decided to get "7 rings" tattooed in Japanese on her hand. However, life punished Ariana before the internet could — rather than say "7 rings," the tattoo read, "bbq grill."