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Cultural Appropriation and Katy Perry

Within the creative and performing arts industry it is encouraged to acknowledge and celebrate different ideas and practises. It creates an effective flow of communication and connection between artist’s, but sometimes forms of appreciation can be done incorrectly and in an offensive way. Within hip-hop and pop music, appropriation is a reoccurring issue that is also commonly overlooked. Han (2019, p. 9) expresses that “when people within a dominant culture use objects from another culture without thorough research, and remain ignorant of the cultural context, cultural appropriation takes place”.

Artists explore different cultures, due to being inspired by their innovative and authentic trends. But instead of praising or acknowledging the culture, they try to hybridise and alter these trends to their own benefit. This kind of unnecessary acts have been pointed out throughout singer Katy Perry’s career. She has appropriated different cultures within her music videos and live performances.

One of Katy’s music videos titled ‘This is how we do’ stirred a lot of controversy with her attempt to integrate black culture into the video. She has cartoon desserts twerking in the background and even makes a visual shout-out to Aretha Franklin, a famous singer and an international icon for black females. Although, these particular references aren’t necessarily what stirred anger, more just confusion. The offensive and unnecessary reference to black culture was Katy’s outfit. With the song itself being upbeat it suggests that her references to black culture are also done for comedic or entertainment reasons. Rodriquez (2006, p. 649) explains that individuals like Katy Perry who pick up on African American styles and music do not necessarily want to be black; they seek to acquire the characteristics of blackness associated with being cool. Appropriation is an issue because it doesn’t create acceptance of the people in the culture or their history, just their innovative practices. Amandla Stenberg (Hype Hair Magazine 2015) expresses this concern as well by quoting “What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?”. This can be correlated back to Katy’s outfit in the ‘This is how we do’ video where the majority of the time she has her hair in cornrows.

(Hype Hair Magazine 2015)

Stenberg(Hype Hair Magazine 2015) again explains that cornrows are a way to keep black hair un-knotted and neat. They are used for functional and identity purposes, but white artists use them for entertainment and popularity. This form of appropriation disregards the history and the importance of hair upkeep for black males and females.

Katy Perry has made several other references to different cultures, such as her geisha inspired live performance in 2013 and her Egyptian styled music video titled ‘Dark Horse‘. Both were visually spectacular performances but demonstrate her fascination of other cultural trends for the purpose of her music. In her attempt to follow a trend that is wildly explored in the media, she instead has appropriated and insulted many viewers. Although she has repeatedly apologised in regards to these mistakes, these mistakes demonstrate the damage that cultural appropriation can make in society.


Han, H.C 2019, ‘Moving From Cultural Appropriation to Cultural Appreciation’, Art Education, vol. 72, no. 2, pp. 8-13.

Hype Hair Magazine 2015, Amandla Stenberg: Don’t Cash Crop On My Cornrows, online video, 15 April, Hype Hair Magazine, viewed 19 August 2019, <;.

Rodriquez, J 2006, ‘Color-Blind Ideology and the Cultural Appropriation of Hip-Hop’, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, vol. 35, no. 6, pp. 645-668.


Published by Kirstywordpress

University student - Graphic design

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