After about four years, Kesha made a huge comeback with her new song and music video: “Praying”. Don’t get me wrong I absolutely love Kesha, but it’s time we call out her cultural appropriation. For those who are unfamiliar with the term or are unclear of its meaning, cultural appropriation is, “the adoption or use of the elements of one culture by members of another culture. Cultural appropriation, often framed as cultural misappropriation, is sometimes portrayed as harmful and is claimed to be a violation of the collective intellectual property rights of the originating culture.” Kesha has appropriated Native American culture, African American culture, and Indian culture numerous times in her music videos, has been called out dozens of times before, but simply has not learned from her mistakes.
Native American Culture
All of Kesha’s cultural appropriation began in 2010 with her music video for “Your Love Is My Drug”. In this video, Kesha uses traditional Native American dress such as a headdress, feathers, warpaint, an excessive amount of Native jewelry and traditional paint to convey the state of a psychedelic groupie crazily in love. The severe issue with this is that she’s incorrectly portraying that all Native Americans are crazed psychedelic groupies desperately searching for love. Also, not all Native Americans dress as traditionally as she presents in the video. A Native American forum discussing Native American cultural appropriation (nativeappropriation.com) seems to agree in this matter that Kesha incorrectly portrayed their culture without being an authority. They provide their input on non-Natives wearing headdresses…
The image of a warbonnet and warpaint wearing Indian is one that has been created and perpetuated by Hollywood and only bears minimal resemblance to traditional regalia of Plains tribes. It furthers the stereotype that Native peoples are one monolithic culture, when in fact there are 500+ distinct tribes with their own cultures. It also places Native people in the historic past, as something that cannot exist in modern society. We don’t walk around in ceremonial attire everyday, but we still exist and are still Native.
- Headdresses, feathers, and warbonnets have deep spiritual significance.
The wearing of feathers and warbonnets in Native communities is not a fashion choice. Eagle feathers are presented as symbols of honor and respect and have to be earned. Some communities give them to children when they become adults through special ceremonies, others present the feathers as a way of commemorating an act or event of deep significance. Warbonnets especially are reserved for respected figures of power. The other issue is that warbonnets are reserved for men in Native communities, and nearly all of these pictures show women sporting the headdresses. I can’t read it as an act of feminism or subvert the patriarchal society, it’s an act of utter disrespect for the origins of the practice.
- It’s just like wearing blackface.
“Playing Indian” has a long history in the United States, all the way back to those original tea partiers in Boston, and in no way is it better than minstrel shows or dressing up in blackface. You are pretending to be a race that you are not, and are drawing upon stereotypes to do so. Like my first point said, you’re collapsing distinct cultures, and in doing so, you’re asserting your power over them.
- There is a history of genocide and colonialism involved that continues today.
By the sheer fact that you live in the United States you are benefiting from the history of genocide and continued colonialism of Native peoples. That land you’re standing on? Indian land. Taken illegally so your ancestor who came to the US could buy it and live off it, gaining valuable capital (both monetary and cultural) that passed down through the generations to you…By dismissing and minimizing the continued subordination and oppression of Natives in the US by donning your headdress, you are contributing to the culture of power that continues the cycle today.
These are some stills from Kesha’s Your Love Is My Drug video.
Images via KeshaVEVO on YouTube
African American Culture
Kesha’s appropriation of African American culture was in 2013 with her music video for Crazy Kids. As I’m not an authority on this subject my friend and fellow writer Rihanna Martin, an authority on this subject, provided her opinion on Kesha’s appropriation of African American culture.
“Kesha has continued to profit off of her music videos at the expense of people of color. She has appropriated black culture multiple times in the past, like in her Crazy Kids music video, similar to Katy Perry’s portrayal of black culture in This Is How We Do.”
“Meanwhile black women continue to be demonized by white people for the same attire. Misogynoir is constantly being perpetuated by white women who contribute to double standards in society”
This is one of the outfits Kesha wore in the music video
Images via Huffington Post and Gigwise
My final point is Kesha’s appropriation of Indian culture in her latest video for “Praying”. Kesha incorrectly mixes Native American culture with the written form of Hindi, which has angered many people on Twitter and other social media sites. After being called out years before this video by Native American forums, Kesha again refuses to learn from her mistakes. In this video, Kesha incorrectly uses Native American dress and incorrectly combines it with Hindi handwriting to resemble ” a peaceful” “I love yoga” “Namaste” type of person. Many people don’t consider to be an issue, but it’s a serious problem in society. As we all know, white people have mistreated and/or enslaved all of the cultures mentioned in this article. For a white artist like Kesha to steal from cultures in which she’s not an authority on, portray them as classic stereotypes, and profit off of false depictions is wrong and disturbing.
These are stills from Kesha’s new video Praying
Images via KeshaVEVO on YouTube
Image via The Fader