Pharrell Is the Latest Celebrity to Offer a Shitty Apology After Doing A Stupid, Racist Thing

Don't do this. Don't ever, ever do this.
Don’t do this. Don’t ever, ever do this.

Of all the potential places to do stupid things in public—Twitter, Instagram, talk shows—it would seem that the least likely place to pull a boneheaded error would be on the cover of a high profile magazine. After all, the reason that social media is so easy to fuck up on is that it’s immediate, and also because so many celebrities engage without a filter. But the cover of a magazine? Do you know how much work goes into a cover and how many people look it over before it gets released into the world? So much! So many! It would seem to be one of the more foolproof places for a celebrity, one of the rare arenas in which dumb mistakes can’t be made. But, as it turns out, that is not the case. Not at all.

Following in the illustrious footsteps of Michelle Williams, Pharrell Williams (no relation) appropriates Native American garb on this month’s cover of Elle UK. Pharrell does his best “idiot at Coachella” impression in the shot, abandoning his beloved Mountie-esque hat, and wears a traditional Native American headdress. The reaction to this image by Native American advocacy groups has been swift and condemnatory, with many “tweeting their disgust on Twitter using the hashtag#NOThappy—a reference to Pharrell’s mega-hit ‘Happy.'”

Via BuzzfeedPharrell has offered an apology, albeit a rather simplistic one, stating: “I respect and honor every kind of race, background and culture. I am genuinely sorry.” Which, probably he is sorry, but this really isn’t the kind of mistake that should be made anymore. Do people—especially people whose every move is constantly scrutinized—not understand how offensive this type of cultural appropriation is? And if they don’t, don’t the people around them get it? It’s really not that hard to not appropriate another group’s culture. Give it a try sometime, folks. I think you’ll find it feels unexpectedly good.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen


  1. I don’t see where the mistake or the racism is? I just see a human being with feathers on the head on a magazine cover. Can you better explain?


  2. “Do people [ . . .] not understand how offensive this type of cultural appropriation is?”—I don’t. And nowhere in your article do you mention why wearing the headdress is stupid, racist, or offensive to Native Americans.

    I know I’m supposed to be offended, or at least offended on behalf of Native Americans and outraged and so on, but what I’m curious is *why* I should feel that outrage. I don’t care for Pharrell–can’t stand him– but what’s the problem here? He’s wearing a feathered headdress, which happens to be the historic attire of Native Americans. And? People wear kilts, sarongs, Nehru Jackets, scarves, Three-piece suits, afghan shemaghs, etc—almost all items of clothing have some cultural history and significance.

    Sure, wearing another culture’s historical garb constitutes appropriation, but so what? There’s nothing inherently negative about wearing some group’s favored mode of dress–it is more often than not an homage or a sign of appreciation. What is racist about Pharrell’s headdress? Racism is the act of making automatic judgments about an individual based on their race. Where is there any indication of such a judgment in Pharrell’s cover? I’ve not read the magazine so I can’t say with certainty, but I doubt that any article about Pharrell within the magazine even mentions Native Americans.

    And finally, why is this racist and stupid, but when Pharrell wears the Canadian Mountie hat it’s ok? By the author’s own standard, isn’t that a racist/stupid appropriation of somebody else’s culture?

  3. I’m offended by the village people. Pretending to be something they aren’t. ban Halloween ! There might be a guy wearing an American Indian outfit. Everyone wants to be treated the same but they go out of their way to tell you their different. If you’re mugged you won’t be able to describe the offender because it might be construed as a racial slur, black, white it wouldn’t matter.

  4. Its just a guy wearing a hat. Lets stick to obvious ($*% you mentality to Native Americans like the owners of the Redskins not changing its name.

  5. I guess I am not seeing the offense. But then again I grew up with the Village people. LOL. I also loved and fantasized about the romantice parts of Native American History. They were my heroes growing up.

  6. It’s inappropriate because it’s representative of those who had to EARN the headdress such as a Warrior from the plains tribes. Pharrell did not earn it, appropriated it for whatever image or context he wants to make, and looks like a fool for doing so. Worse yet, his apology was bland albeit concise.

  7. so we can agree it was in poor taste but not a racist act by pharrell? i also dont see the offense in this esoecially when anyone passing through indian reservations in the midwest or native american gift shops located in various national parks can buy indian headdresses.

  8. This is the most ridiculous article I’ve read in a while. Not only is it horrifically written, the anger towards this is so petty. What about Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs? Every single press shot of his is with an Indian Headress on and no one complains. What about every single fancy dress event/store? Should they all be ridiculed in the same way? Grow up.

  9. Liberals trying desperately to find a reason to be offended. Honestly, if you all would stop worrying about it so much, “racism” would go away very quickly. Perhaps that’s exactly what you DON’T want though. Perhaps you savor having something to feign outrage over. “That’s not your culture..that’s mine… if you wear that Chinese coolee hat, you are offending my asian heritage!!” or something. GROW UP!

  10. This is appreciation, not appropriation. People really go too far with this now, and these types of articles don’t help. Numerous American Indian’s have stated that this does NOT offend them, as long as it is not a mockery. people need too worry about the real racism and real issues in this country.


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