When a few Twitter users, such as @YeahBoutella, began posting screenshots on their accounts of young white women apparently attempting to pass as black online, a virtual storm erupted, resulting in others following suit. @WannasWorld and many social media users waded in, sharing images they had noticed online. In them we see a variety of white women appearing to pose as people of colour. The initial response was one of disbelief, then the scathing criticism began.
Some of the women exposed on Twitter go one step further than blackface. They wear dark makeup, false or altered hair, and use heavy filters in an attempt to appear flawlessly black, Asian or racially ambiguous.
The main problem that many people have with this trend is that offenders seem to be capitalising on the very features that black women have long been condemned for. They use dark skin, voluptuous lips, curvy bodies and lively hair to appear more attractive and gain attention, while still benefitting from the privileges of being white. Some have titled this trend "blackfishing" in an attempt to draw parallels with catfishing.
Model Emma Hallberg is one of the white women — and possibly the most notorious/famous case so far. Hallberg, an online influencer, has been scrutinised for capitalising on black aesthetic and amassing over 200,000 followers on Instagram in the process. Though she denies the accusation. "I get a deep tan naturally from the sun," the 19-year-old told BuzzFeed in an interview. But Hallberg has appeared on Instagram pages for black models, with no record of the model correcting these mistakes.
I created the account because I thought that there was really an alarming amount of white women posing as black women.
Twenty-one-year-old Odinaka created a Twitter account dedicated to collating all the reported cases, which was later suspended. "I created the account because I thought that there was really an alarming amount of white women posing as black women," she told The Cut. "It matters because it makes people in our community feel as though we’re not the best representation of our everyday selves… They’re gaining success by appearing to look like me while I work ten times as hard to get where I really want to be. It’s unfair."
Many Twitter users shared before and after shots. One Instagram user known as @Alica_ab appears considerably thicker, darker and dons large braids. Many commented on the double standard, highlighting that black women have are often criticised for being unprofessional or unkempt for their braided or 'untameable' hair. In a video shared on Facebook in August, 11-year-old Faith Fennidy, in Louisiana, is shown packing her belongings in tears after being told to leave her class because her braided hair violated school rules.
Kim Kardashian was criticised for wearing Fulani braids, a traditional black hairstyle, to the MTV Movie Awards earlier this year. Despite the fact that the mother of three says she was comforting her biracial child on her image, she captioned her Instagram photo with the hairstyle "BO WEST" referencing Bo Derek, a white actress who ran down the beach with braided hair in the movie 10 (1979).
There is a fine line between flattery and forgery and many of these women, whether intentional or not, appear to have crossed it.