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 Buzzfeed, Pharrell 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