Vanessa Hudgens' Box Braids Ignite Another Cultural Appropriation Convo

Photo by Stefanie Keenan
This isn't the first time we've had to address the missteps of celebrities walking the very thin line between what is and isn't offensive.

Earlier this week, actress Vanessa Hudgens posted a Snapchat photo of her newest hairstyle. Under normal circumstances, this would be an exciting update for fans, who are already familiar with the High School Musical alum's signature loose waves.

Instead, the Internet had a mostly negative reaction to what appears to be a lacefront braided wig: 

Unsurprisingly, all positive feedback about Hudgens' hairstyle have been overshadowed by a barrage of commentators labeling her a cultural appropriator. 

This isn't the first (and probably not the last) time we've had to address the missteps of celebrities walking the very thin line between  what is and isn't offensive. In fact, Hudgens has been in hot water before over her beauty choices, most notably wearing Native American headdresses while perusing the music festival scene. 

These type of instances happen so much that I've had to check myself for being desensitized to them. At first glance, I didn't want to feed into the hoopla around Vanessa's wig. For starters, she presented the Snap with zero context. We have no idea where she is and why she's wearing a wig in the first place. Is she on a movie set or just playing dress up? The circumstance seemed innocent enough. 

After perusing the countless comments posted throughout social media, I was reminded of the one thing this cultural appropriation conversation needs more of: understanding. Regardless of whose side you take, we should all be able to define what it actually is so we can achieve progress that is truly proactive. 

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For those who need a refresher, cultural appropriation is when a person or group of people borrow the element(s) of a culture that doesn't belong to them without highlighting its significance or origin. 

This explains why Vanessa wearing box braids, a style frequently accredited to the black community, is offensive to some. And it's especially damning when you consider the countless times black women are punished for wearing their natural texture at school and work.

Beyond notable events like the Pretoria protest in South Africa, there is also legislation that seems to paint our texture as unacceptable. Just last month, an appeals court dismissed a lawsuit against a company that refused to hire a woman because she wouldn't cut her locs. 

Ultimately, there are countless ways to take beauty risks without disrepecting an entire group of people. Let's try to do more of that.

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