***Kim Kardashian Controvesey ***
In many respects, Kim Kardashian West has already won the Halloween game this year with her series of costumes that paid tribute to musical icons. On Friday, the star stepped out with best friend Jonathan Cheban in coordinated Sonny and Cher outfits that referred to the looks the pair wore for the 1973 Oscars, while the next evening, she joined sister Kourtney for matching Michael Jackson and Madonna looks based on what the king and queen of pop wore to the 1991 Academy Awards. The previous costumes garnered praise throughout, though the most debated Kardashian costume was the one the star donned Saturday afternoon as the late Aaliyah.
While many gasped at how Kardashian West recreated the R&B singer’s Try Again music video, accusations of cultural appropriation soon followed on social media. Some Twitter users wondered whether Kardashian West, who is half-Armenian, has the right to copy the style of a black icon, while others pointed out that this seems particularly insensitive considering that Aaliyah passed away in a tragic plane accident in 2001. This isn’t the first time the Kardashian-clan has been criticized for cultural appropriation, but, judging by this incident, how much of it is fair?
Conversations around cultural appropriation often flare up around Halloween–which costumes are appropriate to wear for whom, and which cultures one can borrow from–and rightly so. Especially considering the growing popularity of the holiday, it can strike as insensitive, to say the least, for some to see parts of their culture being sold and worn as an ornament or a joke. Above all, which culture can borrow from which has always been determined by underlying power structures–blackface and yellowface stemmed from systematic oppression of people of color. Yet, it would be a stretch to say that Kardashian West’s impersonation of the musical icon fell into this pattern: not only did the star make it clear that her costume was part of a series of tributes (that included both black and white artists), we should also make a clear distinction between mimicking racial characteristics–by painting blackface, or wearing an afro, for example–and using fashion to pay homage to one of the most defining looks of the early naughties.
Of course, as one of the most visible people in pop culture, Kardashian West carries a bigger responsibility and burden in crafting the message she portrays. But while the bigger conversation about how white industries are benefiting from black art is a worthwhile one to have, our we would be taking our national obsession with identity politics too far if one could only tribute artists from one’s own race. During these times, we might be better off spending our time on more urgent matters and simply trust Kardashian West’s message: one where she is recognizing that Aaliyah’s influence was as big as Madonna’s and Cher’s. No matter what Twitter users might say, Kardashian West has succeeded in that respect already: this Halloween, Aaliyah is the one trending on the social media platform