Cover Photo: “My eyes are not a trend,” by Chungi Yoo, an illustrator based in Frankfurt, Germany. @chungiyoo Credit: https://www.cnn.com/style/article/fox-eye-trend-asian-cultural-appropriation-trnd/index.html
Social Media has been on fire lately with the revival of racist beauty trends.
Many of you have heard of the “fox eye trend” which is an eye look used to enhance one’s eye shape with makeup. Eyeshadow and eyeliner are applied to the eyes in an upward angular fashion to implement a more almond shape. Many also trim the end of their eyebrows to enhance this shape and are seen with the “migraine” pose in order to raise the sides of their forehead. This look is “foxy” both in the way the makeup mimics the eyes of a fox as well as it being seen as sexy.
One can only predict that this could be a result of the sudden demand in Asian culture over the past few years. With the rise of K-pop music and influences taken from the Korean skincare routine, one can assume that these trends are an ode to bringing Asian culture into the western world. What was once berated with racial slurs such as “chinky” is now seen as cool.
Interestingly, Eurocentric beauty has been spread all over the world and has affected the way people everywhere view themselves. Due to the rooting of systemic colorism and racism, both “internalized” and “externalized”, many people of color have suffered from feeling anything but beautiful in their own skin. People of color have been shamed, mocked, and subjected to hatred solely due to their skin color or facial features. For centuries, white beauty standards have been the epitome of elitism so it is no secret that white people have always dominated the worlds that minorities live in–now even appropriating facets of marginalized cultures and claiming them as their own.
So what caused this shift in beauty trends?
Appropriation has always been an issue all across the board with multiple cultures. However, no race has exploited the ideas of others as much as the white populations. The sole purpose has always been for white people to take the parts of minority cultures that they deem as profitable and then adopt them as their “own” for benefit. It is not necessarily that the Eurocentric beauty standards have been knocked down from being #1, but a new prototypical standard being set, which includes the assimilation of white features mixed with other minority features—a concept emerging as a mark of appreciation, yet disliked by many.
Aside from white people perpetrating the standards of skin color, body features such as a big bust, a big butt, full lips, and thick thighs have all been mimicked by famous people. In the past, critics have expressed distaste towards celebrities like Kim Kardashian saying that she would not have become as famous without altering her body. In conjunction, the spotlight on celebrities for being attractive creates another type of stigma towards those who are originally born with those features. Recently, there was a brown girl on TikTok who received hateful reactions for trying to copy Kylie Jenner. In retaliation, the girl addressed the haters as well as Kylie’s fans by saying although she acknowledges Kylie to be a beautiful woman, she, herself, should not have to feel bad or apologize for being born with those same facial features while “Kylie bought her face”. This video went viral across the different social media platforms and has evoked much discussion.
Celebrities can be labeled as one of the most problematic when it comes to these trends. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, after all. Fans can be seen wanting to imitate the actions of those they deem as role models in the media.
In the entertainment industry, white celebrities have been known to dawn these looks to come off as more exotic or alluring like their darker counterparts. Case in point: Ariana Grande. People have been criticizing the famous singer for her change in skin color over the years. Having first started out as an actress on Nickelodeon’s “Victorious”, the singer was visible with pale skin and strawberry-dyed hair. Yet, through the years of her growing fame, she progressively became more and more tan. Due to her last name and her darker skin, she is now often mistaken for being of Hispanic/Latin American descent. This does not translate well towards those originally from those cultures and is problematic to those with naturally darker skin. Grande’s actions have been deemed as controversial and the star has also been accused of appropriating Black culture or even “Blackface”.
In the above video, Tarek Ali points out the difference between appropriation and appreciation– appropriation having to do with the misuse of something taken from a minority culture by a person of higher power.
Speaking of which, Black people have always been robbed of the credit that is due to them. Black content creators have complained that they do not receive the exposure nor the profit from their businesses, products, and creativity as everyone else. TikTok especially is taking a hit with content creators abusing their power by creating videos imitating the gestures and culture of others in ways that come off as offensive, whether or not it is intentional. There have been instances where songs have been used to portray non-Blacks as more “Black passing” whether it is through the usage of Black slang and dance moves or even with the utterance of the taboo “N” word. The app has not done much to counter these actions and has yet to regulate guidelines that would address these issues.
This does not come as much of a surprise since appropriation of Black culture is nothing new. The admiration of the American rap, hip hop, and r&b scene in music has always led to the imitation of Black language, hairstyles and fashion. Many counter this by stating that these kinds of actions are only due to an overall appreciation of Black culture while others oppose this stance. Furthermore, Asian fashion has also been mocked several times. White people have taken South Asian fabrics and fashion and have re-labeled them as a trend under the category of “Bohemian” style clothing. Shalwar Kameez tops have been sold on websites under white brands as “vintage Boho dresses” and the appropriation of this cultural fashion staple still persists.
This is not the only Asian culture whose clothes are notoriously mimicked. Chinese cultural attire has been appropriated several times in the past. However, a fresh look into current Chinese street fashion has people buzzing all over social media. Slow motion clips of models, influencers, and regular citizens flaunting top styles in Shanghai and Beijing went viral on TikTok. This has also sparked fans to try and copy these styles portrayed in those videos–something considered more along the lines of appreciation.
Not to be mistaken for appropriation, appreciation is when aspects of minority cultures are admired, when attempts are made to understand aspects of those cultures, and when people connect ideals to those aspects while giving the proper credit. When it comes to celebrities and the majority of famous people and their blunders with these trends, it is safe to assume that many times they are working at the will of the media and the industries they represent. It is up to the general public whether that is seen as an acceptable excuse for appropriation and whether to further push dialogue for change.
As for the average person, what do you think is the main issue when it comes to appreciation versus appropriation? How come these two are irrevocably mistaken for each other and where should the line be drawn when it comes to admiring and appreciating the works, ideas, and creations of other races, cultures, and creators?