12 celebrities who have been accused of blackfishing

12-celebrities-who-have-been-accused-of-blackfishing
  • Blackfishing is a term used when a white person tries to make themselves look Black.
  • It usually involves dark spray tans, makeup, and different hairstyles synonymous with Black culture.
  • Numerous stars, like Bebe Rexha and Rita Ora, have been accused of promoting racially ambiguous images.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

After finding out that Rita Ora has white parents, people said she led fans to believe she was Black or mixed-race

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Rita Ora attends Capital’s Jingle Bell Ball on December 7, 2019.

Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images


After learning of Ora’s Albanian parentage in 2020, fans called the singer out for choosing styles and hairdos that they said fed into the belief that she was mixed-race or Black.  

Ora’s family is originally from Kosovo, a self-declared independent country located in the Balkan Peninsula, and identifies as Albanian. Her parents, both of whom are white, moved to London with Ora when she was 1 year old. 

Though the singer has spoken about her Albanian roots in numerous interviews, she’s worn her hair in cornrows, box braids, and an afro — all of which are integral to Black culture.

One Twitter user shared a photo of Ora with her parents, along with pictures of the performer wearing an afro and braids. The since-deleted tweet was liked by more than 100,000 users and retweeted by over 22,000 accounts.

The topic has come up before. During a 2017 interview on “The Wendy Williams Show,” Wendy Williams said she thought Ora was mixed-race or Black before learning she was Albanian.

“Everybody usually does,” Ora responded, adding, “I might as well be.”

Kylie Jenner has been accused of blackfishing several times

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Kylie Jenner stars on “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”

Karwai Tang/Getty Images


As Kylie Jenner’s style has evolved over the years, she’s sported cornrows, twists, and do-rags — all styles associated with Black culture — in photos she’s shared with her massive follower base. 

Because the reality star is white, people have claimed that she’s appropriating Black culture in an effort to be trendy and fashion-forward. She’s also been accused of failing to credit the Black designers behind some of her clothes, however Jenner made a point to say that the decision wasn’t intentional

—Kylie Jenner (@KylieJenner) July 7, 2020

Jenner has most recently come under fire in January 2020 for posing with her hair twisted into small strands in a photo taken by Luca and Alessandro Morelli, who regularly photograph the Kardashian-Jenner family.

After fans criticized her for wearing the hairstyle, which many Black women use to protect their hair from heat or damage, Jenner deleted the photo. 

Kim Kardashian West has been criticized for wearing cornrows and appearing to darken her skin tone

Kim Kardashian braids

Kim Kardashian West has worn cornrows to events several times.


Christopher Polk/Getty Images



Despite repeatedly receiving backlash for appropriating Black culture, Kim Kardashian West has been accused of blackfishing numerous times. 

For example, the reality star posed nude with a glass balancing on her butt in a 2014 cover shoot for Paper magazine. It turns out that Kardashian West’s photo, which was taken by Jean-Paul Goude, was a recreation of his 1976 work, titled “Carolina Beaumont.”

“Blacks are the premise of my work,” the photographer told People in 1979, adding that he “had jungle fever.” 

Not only is Kardashian West white, but Goude’s work has been criticized for oversexualizing Black women’s bodies. The reality star may not have had creative license during the shoot, but she’s also been accused of blackfishing based on her personal choices. 

In 2017, she dressed up as the late American singer Aaliyah for Halloween. People immediately criticized her for posing as a Black woman. 

She issued a response on her website, writing, “I saw online that some people thought my costume was in poor taste and I am truly sorry if that offended anyone, but I wasn’t dressing up as a race or culture but rather as a woman whom I admire.”

The reality star has also spurred backlash for wearing cornrows, a style she began sporting as early as 2016. She even showed up in cornrows to the 2018 MTV Movie & TV awards and shared a closeup of the hairdo on Twitter the following day. 

—Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) June 17, 2018

To make matters worse, she proceeded to call her braids “Bo Derek Braids,” a reference to the white actress’ hairstyle in the 1979 movie, “10.” Many people took issue with her words and pointed out that she failed to attribute braids to Black culture. 

The following year, Kardashian West found herself in the midst of blackfishing accusations once again after posing for the cover of 7 Hollywood magazine.

While some of her friends commented their praise for the photo, others noted that she resembled Black actress Diahann Carroll. 

Her sister Khloe Kardashian has also been accused of blackfishing

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Khloe Kardashian attends a Good American event in September 2019.

George Pimentel/Getty Images


Khloe Kardashian hasn’t been exempt from the criticism her sisters have received for their personal style choices. 

Over the years, the white reality star has worn her hair in tight braids several times, a decision that many people considered cultural appropriation.

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Khloe Kardashian has worn her hair in cornrows numerous times.

Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images


Others have noticed that the Good American founder’s skin tone has appeared darker over the years and claimed that she and her sisters are blackfishing. 

Kendall Jenner’s November 2018 Vogue cover sparked controversy

Fifteen years and 150 finalists later, the @CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund prize has created global stars, local heroes, a must-watch New York Fashion Week, and, most important, a true sense of community among designers of all ages and backgrounds—all with differing aesthetic and commercial aspirations—who communicate, collaborate, and essentially care for one another through the fun and not-so-fun times. Laura Vassar Brock—one of the founders of 2016 #CVFF winner Brock Collection—says, “We spoke to a few friends who had gone through it, and they all said the same thing: that the Fashion Fund is a life-changing experience. And indeed it was!” Tap the link in our bio to learn more. Photographed by @mikaeljansson, styled by @tonnegood, Vogue, November 2018

A post shared by Vogue (@voguemagazine) on Oct 19, 2018 at 1:29pm PDT

On the cover of Vogue’s November 2018 issue, Kendall Jenner had her hair styled in what many people considered to be an afro, a hairdo that rose to prominence in Black communities in the 1960s, according to Ebony

Though some argued that the afro was linked to the 1970s and said Jenner’s hair merely looked teased, others called out the magazine for appropriating Black culture, suggesting that they should’ve hired a Black model for the shoot instead. 

Vogue responded to the controversy in a statement to E! News

“The image is meant to be an update of the romantic Edwardian/Gibson Girl hair which suits the period feel of the Brock Collection, and also the big hair of the ’60s and the early ’70s, that puffed-out, teased-out look of those eras. We apologize if it came across differently than intended, and we certainly did not mean to offend anyone by it,” the statement read.

Fans have accused Addison Rae of wearing makeup that makes her look racially ambiguous

Addison Rae

Addison Rae became famous on TikTok.


Todd Williamson/E! Entertainment / Getty Images



Addison Rae, an influencer and popular TikTok star, raised eyebrows after she shared a video of herself getting her makeup done via Snapchat in July 2020.

People online noticed that the 20-year-old, who is white, appeared to have a noticeably darker skin tone in the video. Rae didn’t respond to the accusations.

Ariana Grande has been accused of promoting an image of racial ambiguity

Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande is a singer.

David Crotty / Contributor/Getty Images


As the Italian-American singer’s career has progressed from starring on Nickelodeon to making hit solo albums, some people online have noticed that Grande’s skin has appeared darker over time. She’s also been accused of adopting traits from multiple cultures when convenient — appearing bronzed and brunette in her music videos and white and blonde on many magazine covers.

Grande hasn’t provided details on how she’s achieved her skin tone, but her go-to spray tan artist Kristyn Pradas often shares Instagram photos of the star, who appears to be one of her main clients.

The star has seemingly promoted racial ambiguity by publicly joking about her quinceañera as a non-Latinx individual. She’s also been accused of appropriating Black culture in her “7 Rings” video.

Grande’s ex-fiancé Pete Davidson also called her out in his Netflix special. He joked that Grande “spray-painted” herself to look “brown” to appear on the August 2019 cover of Vogue, which also received backlash from fans at the time of its release.

Bhad Bhabie was called out for blackfishing, and many people found her response offensive 

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Bhad Bhabie has been accused of darkening her skin.

Matthew Eisman / Getty Images; Cooper Neill / Getty Images


Danielle Bregoli gained fame for her viral “cash me outside” line on an episode of “Dr. Phil” when she was 13. Now, the white 18-year-old has segued into making rap music under the name “Bhad Bhabie.”

Bregoli has previously been accused of appropriating Black culture and in April 2020, she posted an Instagram video in which her skin looked noticeably darker. 

“What in the blackfish is Bhad Bhabie doing???” one person wrote on Twitter, sharing a side-by-side comparison of Bregoli on a red carpet versus in her video. 

Bregoli responded to the accusations via her Instagram story.

“Millions of people sick, thousand dying every day and y’all worried about me getting my makeup done for a photoshoot? I’m usually the wild one but y’all need to chill and focus on what’s important right now,” she wrote, according to Complex

The rapper also went on Instagram Live to address the claims, first saying that the lighting in the room made her sking tone appear more “dramatic” than it really was. 

She later added, “Y’all say that I try to be black, because I — maybe a reason of me trying to be Black is that I grew up in the hood. Tarzan, right, he — the story of Tarzan.”

She then faced further backlash for feeding into racist characterizations of Black people by comparing an upbringing in “the hood” to being raised by apes like Tarzan was in the 1999 Disney movie of the same name.

Selena Gomez’s spring 2020 Interview cover evoked criticism

When Gomez, a white singer of Mexican-American descent, appeared on the spring 2020 cover of Interview magazine, people accused the singer of blackfishing.

Some people defended Gomez, saying her tan and laid edges could have been a tribute to her Latinx heritage, but others argued that the styles seemed to be drawn from Black culture.

It’s worth noting that Gomez was participating in a photo shoot, in which it’s unclear how much input she gave in the creative choices behind her outfit and makeup. 

Iggy Azalea has been accused of ‘pretending to be black’

Iggy Azalea

Iggy Azalea announced that she has a son.

Gary Gershoff / Getty Images


Since Azalea, a white rapper from Australia, released her debut mixtape “Ignorant Art” in 2011, she’s been accused of capitalizing off of Black culture. 

From her sound, which fellow rapper Jean Grae referred to as “verbal blackface,” to her deepening tan, people have claimed that Azalea has been “pretending to be Black.”

In the aftermath of Eric Garner’s death, Azealia Banks called out the Australian musician for adopting Black culture to benefit her career while staying silent about issues facing Black communities. 

“its funny to see people Like Igloo Australia silent when these things happen… Black Culture is cool, but black issues sure aren’t huh?” Banks tweeted, according to Billboard

Banks added, “LOL… IM PETTY, but its so true, ugh, that wannabe black girl s— makes me wanna throw a jar of my piss at her LMFAOOOO.”

Azalea’s “I Am The Stripclub” music video kickstarted a new round of blackfishing accusations in July 2021, as the rapper sported a dark wig and deep tan. She denied any wrongdoing, however, writing: “I don’t care… F— those ppl babe lol.”

—IGGY AZALEA (@IGGYAZALEA) July 2, 2021

Gigi Hadid’s skin was so dark on the May 2018 Vogue Italia cover that she looked unrecognizable

The fashion magazine chose Hadid, a white supermodel of Dutch and Palestinian descent, to appear on the cover of its May 2018 issue.

However, people noticed Hadid’s skin appeared to have been darkened and promptly accused the magazine of putting the model in blackface, a racist practice that was prominent in 1830s minstrel shows.

Critics also drew attention to the fact that the magazine dressed the model in colorful afros in a 2015 spread and said Vogue Italia should’ve hired a Black model if it wanted to style the photo shoot accordingly. 

Hadid responded to the backlash, some of which was directed at her for participating in the shoot, with a photo of herself returning from the shoot on her Instagram story. 

“You can see the level I had been bronzed to on set that day,” she wrote, explaining that her control over creative decisions and editing is “non-existent.”

Hadid continued, “The concerns that have been brought up are valid. I want to address this for those who were offended by the editing/retouching/coloring of the cover. Please know that things would have been different if my control of the situation was different.”

She added, “I want to apologize because my intention is never to diminish those concerns or take opportunities away from anyone else, and I hope this can be an example to other magazines and teams in the future. There are real issues regarding representation in fashion — it’s our responsibility to acknowledge those issues and communicate through them to work towards a more diverse industry.”

Fans were confused when Bebe Rexha, a white woman, had a darker skin tone than Doja Cat, who is biracial, at the 2020 AMAs

bebe rexha

Bebe Rexha is a singer.

Rich Polk/E! Entertainment/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images


Bebe Rexha and Doja Cat shared the stage for their performance of “Baby, I’m Jealous” at the 2020 American Music Awards. 

Fans were confused, however, when they noticed that Rexha, who has Albanian parents and has referred to herself as a “white girl” on Twitter, appeared to have the same skin tone as her collaborator, a biracial woman with a Black father and a white mother. 

bebe rexha doja cat amas

Bebe Rexha and Doja Cat performed at the 2020 AMAs.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images for dcp


Seeing Doja Cat next to Rexha on stage led many people to accuse the “Meant To Be” singer of blackfishing. Others defended the musician and claimed that the lighting on stage contributed to their similar skin tones.

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