Over the years, cornrows have become one of society's most prominent—and prominently controversial—signs of cultural appropriation. So when Kim Kardashian West's freshly braided head overwhelmed news feeds everywhere Saturday night during the 2018 MTV Movie & TV Awards, a sharp, very audible intake of breath could be heard. This isn't the first time Kardashian West has worn the style (remember when she credited her bleached, beaded Fulani braids to the very much white '70s actress Bo Derek earlier this year?).
And honestly, we're sure it won't be the last. (She did caption the "Bo Derek" photos with "Hi, can I get zero fucks please, thanks.") Plus, hair aside, it's far from the first time the media mogul has undergone criticism for appropriating black culture—from the way she dresses to the way she chooses to raise her children to even the shape of her body.
Interestingly, amid the expected flurry of fury, disgust, and overall tiredness at Kardashian West's apparent lack of concern and what many view as ambivalence toward black culture and other entangled, highly relevant issues like mixed families, identity, and how she is (or how she isn't) styling 6-year-old North's hair, there have also been words in her defense. And in a recent interview with Bustle, Kardashian West sets the record straight.
"I actually did that look because North said she wanted braids and asked if I would do them with her. So we braided her hair and then we braided my hair. I [do] remember the backlash when I had the blonde hair and that I called them 'Bo Derek braids.' But I obviously know they're called Fulani braids and I know the origin of where they came from and I'm totally respectful of that. I'm not tone deaf to where I don't get it. I do get it.
"Maybe if I had come out and explained that from the beginning instead of calling them 'Bo Derek braids,' then it wouldn't have gotten such backlash. But in no way am I ever trying to disrespect anyone's culture by wearing braids. If anything, my daughter was so excited to see me get matching braids with her. [When] we did her hair in these braids, she was so excited."
So before we join the majority of the internet in bashing Kardashian West's cornrows, we thought we'd open up the conversation up to you, our readers. We already know what the majority of reports are calling, but what are you calling? To break the conversation open, we put calls out on our Twitter and Instagram accounts yesterday to get your thoughts, and, not surprisingly, we received an overwhelming response with over 500 (and counting) comments. We heard you—keep scrolling for a taste.
"I get it. She appreciates the black culture and has made it very clear. I just feel like at this point she should know better. Being a social media mogul, being involved in the beauty and fashion world, she should have more knowledge on public opinion on this subject (or at least have someone to tell her that she shouldn't be doing this). After all the times POC have made their thoughts clear she should be listening. I find her as a shining example of cultural appropriation. She is praised for her looks constantly and I feel like this look on her is going to be praised because it's her when we know it would historically not be loved on a POC.
I've loved Kim in the past but I'm a little disappointed." — @deedalencour
"She's bored with her life trying to incite outrage in black women by being 'controversial.' It's an old act that she does one way or another time and time again and while it's easy to choose to not pay attention to her, her large platform essentially normalizes cultural appropriation which is harmful in the long run." — @jennacurcio24
"It's a NO. Perpetual/professional culture vulture." — @judeajohnson
"I don't have problems with non-black people wearing braids, but I kind of hate it when 10 years ago wearing braids was considered 'ghetto' and black girls were made fun of. I think she's trying too hard to be black." — @coolgirlswearmugler
"It's definitely appropriative and indicative of a society that celebrates white women as 'edgy' for doing things that belong culturally to a marginalized group. Many black women can't wear these hairstyles that are actually meant for their hair and their culture because of backlash from employers etc. It's 2018 and Kim should know better, especially as the mother of black daughters." — @skin_andtonic
"Let her do what she wants to do. It's her hair. She can do what she wants with it." — @bluereally25
"I think if she feels comfortable then she should rock it. I don't feel that her personal style has bad intentions. As a minority myself, if a non-celebrity white woman walked around like that I wouldn't think twice about it as long as it's their personal style. Maybe she'll use her platform to open this conversation further." — @dnamag.co
"Live and let live, people. How is this honestly something worthy of being upset over? So many actual problems where people are intending real harm." — @carolinecwilder
"This subject is an unnecessary opportunity for negativity which our world needs a whole lot less of." — @ourmountainlife
"The people saying 'it's just hair' don't get it. Black women wear these styles to not only embrace their culture but to PROTECT OUR HAIR. She and other women not of color are praised for 'rebranding' these styles, but once it's put on a woman of color, people aren't as accepting. It's a problem, and Kim is not helping." — @anartcampbell
"I can't speak for all black people, but I will say that the issue isn't the braids. The issue is centered around her purposefully wearing African American styles and crediting it to white women. Why is it so hard for her just to say she is inspired by black women and African culture, is it not cool to say that are influenced by black culture? Justin T and Christina A. have operated in 'black spaces' and don't get criticized being they pay homage to the greats they are inspired by and have no shame in admitting it…hence why Christina A.
can wear braids and a fro… Let's flip it and say if I were to wear traditional Asian garb from Japan, China, Korea, Thailand, etc… and call my attire 'Nicki Minaj' inspired…how disrespectful would I be and culturally ignorant if not to call the eliminates of my clothes exactly what they are in reference to Asian cultures. People of color understand it because we have fought to eliminate this whitewashing technique that we all know too well! I mean from religion to education, to even beauty standards…and how dare she call them 'Bo Derek' braids…it's African braids…and she knows that…and it's a blatant disrespect to women of color." — @shopaholicaxo
"Why is it she sports more hairstyles like this but her daughter doesn't and instead sports heat-treated hairstyles???????" — @desireejasmin
"I really feel fine! She looks beautiful. Let her play with style, hair & makeup. That's her thing. All L❤️VE✌????" — @dipozimmermann
"I love the cornrows on her. I think Kim brings up great conversations with her looks we all need to be having, but overall I think it speaks to the diverse beauty portfolio we have globally and celebrating that. Creatively we would be stuck in a box if we were limited to beauty looks only our personal ancestors created. That's how progress is made." — @viennaaaaa
"Regarding the issue of Kim's hair, all I've seen are women tearing each other down, arguing and calling each other racially insensitive names. If we constantly dictate what races are allowed to wear what depending on what percentage of a certain race they are or are not…how does that serve the ultimate goal of equality? I can't stand the Kardashian family and wish they would disappear from pop culture and the news …but giving attention to them only makes them more famous. All the while creating a bigger divide between women, races and cultures.
Don't let small issues detract from the larger more important goal." — @kimurf85
"Just acknowledge the actual inspiration for the style and please, for the love of God, never call them boxer braids." — @missusatomba
"@byrdiebeauty the most interesting thing about this post is the comments. If you look at the majority of people who commented 'let her live,' or 'there are other issues that we should be concerned with' they all have one glaring thing in common. If you look at the majority of people who are offended and bring up cultural appropriation they, for the most part, have one major thing in common. Why have we been discussing non-black women culturally appropriating African hairstyles since Bo Derek? Because the people who are doing the appropriating love everything about African/black culture except the people and will appropriate as they see fit because there are no real consequences or accountability ????????" — @makeupinblackandwhite
"I mean, @kimkardashian's hair isn't black hair. That kind of hairstyle isn't designed for her hair. It's actually going to damage her hair. It's also cultural appropriation, because black women wear their hair like that to protect their hair. Whilst it is also often a fashion statement for some, it serves more than just that purpose. I vote no." — @jessica_panther
"Can't and shouldn't are two very different things. This issue has a much larger historical and political influence and is SO much more important than a celebrities cry for validation and attention." — @peaceloveandbreadsticks
"Because she has mixed-race children, she may do it more for them than for fashion sake. I just hope she backs it up with teaching them their history, both African and Armenian." — @beautyspavillion