New York Fashion Week is an event anticipated by most who have any sort of appreciation for high-end fashion or just enjoy seeing their favorite celebrities walking the runways or attending the shows. As years have gone by, more and more online personalities have begun to attend these shows and this year is no different. Nikita Dragun, a transgender make-up artist on Youtube who has accumulated 2.59 million subscribers on that platform alone, was also in attendance during this week. This is a time where many influencers get to express their fashion and beauty sense in ways they haven’t before with extravagant looks.
But what made Nikita stand out this year in particular was that on one of the days, she adorned a box braid wig. For those who don’t know, box braids are a form of protective styling that was created and worn by primarily Africans and those of African descent. What makes it different from most braided hairstyles is its uniformity in size and neatness in parting.
After the photos of her wearing the style began to circulate on the internet, everyone was in an uproar. Cultural appropriation, the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society (source 1), has been the phrase used to describe Nikita’s actions. It’s a very sensitive subject as the line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation has been blurred and people become offended easily if they see their culture displayed by someone who isn’t part of their community.
After receiving so much backlash, Nikita took to Instagram Live to explain why she decided to wear the hairstyle. Nikita explained the whole ordeal surrounding those who take things from other cultures and “[try] to rename a style or something that has such a deep-rooted culture,” and how it creates a double standard in society because many black people are discriminated against for the way they wear their hair and they can’t “wear this style to work or [have] people sent home from school.”
Nikita continues to emphasize the fact that she didn’t mean to offend anybody and even acknowledges the history behind the style (source 2). Her reaction to the backlash was very appropriate and mature compared to those who have been accused of cultural appropriation in the past. Many tend to either ignore what others are saying or pretend to not know the historical context of the style they are emulating. This is why I believe it was okay for Nikita Dragun to wear box braids. Even though she has had a history of many scandals, she handled this one well and expected the reaction she got and proceeded accordingly.
The action of constantly calling out those who wear parts of other cultures is actually very damaging and in a way reverses our efforts in creating a society that is more accepting of one another and our differences. If we want others to accept us for who we are, how are we going to let them be comfortable around us if we won’t let them get near what makes us all unique and society more exciting? We have to be willing to share the richness of our cultures but this doesn’t mean we have to share every little thing and let everyone do, say, and wear whatever they please, but rather use it as an opportunity to educate one other about ourselves. It can get tiring, of course, having to explain every little thing, but if we’re more open, it’ll decrease the awkwardness of it all and we can begin to coexist with one another.