In light of current Black Lives Matter protests and conversations happening worldwide, Florence Pugh has used social media to demand justice for Breonna Taylor and push for the inclusion of Black History in British school curriculums. Now, Pugh is reflecting on her own actions and taking responsibility for several instances of cultural appropriation — including a time she wore cornrows and donned a beanie painted in the colours of the Jamaican flag.
“Stupid doesn’t even cut it,” Pugh wrote on Saturday. “I was uneducated. I was unread...I grew up watching my high profile pop culture icons adopting cultures in similar ways, so I didn’t think wrong of doing it too. I now need to be aware that people are looking up to me and I must address my own poor actions.”
In a lengthy Instagram post, Pugh explained that a fan called her out for sharing a photo of herself appropriating Rastafarian culture and captioning it with a Shaggy lyric. Pugh was 17 at the time.
She went on to write that she didn’t learn about cultural appropriation until a year later. Pugh remembered showing off her cornrows to a friend at a photo shoot, and feeling “defensive and confused” when her friend explained “the history and heartbreak” of white women exploiting Black culture. Pugh describes her reaction at the time as “white fragility coming out plain and simple.”
She also recalled wearing henna as a child after learning about the art form and its origins from an Indian shop owner in Oxford. In 2017, when henna and Bindis became a trend popularised at events like Coachella, Pugh began to question her own past usage and respect for Indian culture. “I remember seeing large makeup brands selling an ‘Easy! Quick dry!’ henna ink pen and stencil...No one cared about the origin,” she wrote. “I thought because I was taught about it differently, I was an exception. And here’s the problem: I actually wasn’t being respectful in how I was using it. I wore this culture on my terms only, to parties, at dinner.”
Pugh closed her statement by condemning the ways in which cultures and religions are “used and abused” for the sake of trends, and apologising for not addressing her past behaviour sooner. “To see change I must be part of the change,” she captioned the post.