Cultural (mis)appropriation differs from acculturation, assimilation, or cultural exchange in that this (mis)appropriation is a form of colonialism: cultural elements are copied from a minority culture by members of a dominant culture, and these elements are used outside of their original cultural context—sometimes even against the expressly stated wishes of members of the originating culture.
The latest firestorm of cultural appropriation exposed by Forbes contributor Declan Eytan, also a writer for L’Uomo Vogue and Vogue Japan, is about Italian cosmetics company “Wycon Cosmetics”. Wycon created a nail polish series and branded its black nail gel “Thick as A Nigga” supposedly based upon rapper DBangz’s hip hop track “Thick Nigga”. Forbes writer Declan Eytan posted an article today about the controversy.
Declan Eytan for Forbes.com:
Following the controversy surrounding fast-fashion retailer H&M’s decision to style a black child model in a “Coolest Monkey in the World” hoodie, Wycon Cosmetics is the latest multinational firm facing social media scrutiny after naming a black nail polish Thick as A Nigga.
The company which is present in the form of 200 monobrand store locations across Italy, remaining parts of Europe and Asia, recently launched a collection of semi-permanent nail polishes available in 30 different shades. With names ranging from Dirty Talk to Lap Girl, the darkest shade inside the collection was named Thick as A Nigga.
Italian beauty vlogger Loretta Grace, was amongst the first to point out the racially-charged language used by the company to market its black nail polish. Her social media post fueled a firestorm of critique coming from Wycon’s Italy-based following underneath the company’s January 17 Instagram post, which advertises its recently launched line of Gel On nail polishes.
In response to one Instagram follower expressing her dismay with regards to the company’s choice of branding, Wycon Cosmetics defended its move by answering, “They’re made-up names that are a bit crazy.” As negative comments on Instagram continued to pour in, the company released a statement in its comment section which in English translates into, “We’re sorry that this post has triggered these types of reactions: every color from our Gel On collection is inspired, with a cheerful attitude and a pinch of naivety, by famous song titles, many of which derive from the landscape of hip hop. For example “Drop it like it’s hot” by Snoop Dogg, “Bootilicious” (sic) by Beyoncé (sic), “Candy Shop” by 50 Cent, Lollipop, Lady Marmalade etc… The reference here is “Thick Nigga” (sic) by DBangz. Wycon is the brand for everybody #nobodyexcluded is our motto and we didn’t mean to offend anybody!”
Wycon’s affair is the latest addition to the ongoing conversation regarding the need for (ethnic) diversity inside corporations. Despite not issuing an apology for using a racial slur as a branding tool, the company has removed all song title references from its website and numbered each shade inside the nail polish collection instead.
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