There has been much speculation and confusion surrounding the ethnicity of pop star Ariana Grande. While she presents as ethnically ambiguous, Grande is actually Italian-American, with Sicilian and Abruzzese roots. However, her appearance and choices in fashion, makeup, and vernacular have led to accusations of cultural appropriation and blackfishing.
Blackfishing is a term used to describe the phenomenon of non-Black individuals who use makeup, tanning, and hairstyles to appear Black or mixed race. Grande has been accused of blackfishing due to her use of excessive tanning and adoption of African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) in her speech.
Grande’s alleged blackfishing can be seen in her performances and public appearances. In a 2016 MTV VMA performance with Nicki Minaj, Grande’s self-tanned skin appeared darker than Minaj’s, a Black woman. She has also been called out for sporting a ‘blaccent’ and emulating AAVE in her interviews.
It is important to note that Grande’s actions of blackfishing and cultural appropriation are not isolated incidents in the music industry. Other artists, such as Bebe Rexha, Bhad Bhabie, and Jesy Nelson, have also faced accusations of blackfishing and appropriating Black culture.
The issue of racebending and cultural appropriation stems from Eurocentric beauty standards and the desire to appear ‘exotic’ or ethnically ambiguous. White artists often imitate and profit from Black culture when it is deemed marketable and innovative. However, they can shed these identities and return to their white privilege at any time.
Grande’s ethnicity, while Italian-American, does not excuse her actions of cultural appropriation and blackfishing. It is important to hold artists accountable for their choices and educate ourselves on the harmful effects of cultural appropriation.