On Sunday’s episode of Watch What Happens Live, Bravo TV personality Andy Cohen took his snarky behavior to a new level when he named 16-year-old Amandla Stenberg “Jackhole of the Day.”
Cohen may be known for his candidness, but this time, his shocking comments were questionable.
The host directed a question to his two guests, Orange is the New Black’s Laverne Cox and Vogue‘s Editor-at-Large Andre Leon Talley.
“Today’s Jackhole goes to the Instagram feud between Kylie Jenner and Hunger Games star/Jaden Smith’s prom date Amandla Stenberg who criticized Kylie for her cornrows, calling it cultural appropriation. White girls in cornrows… is it OK or nay, Laverne or Andre?” Cohen asked.
Stenberg is known for her stellar acting performance in the movie The Hunger Games, but her willingness to speak out on cultural appropriation distinguishes her from the rest of young Hollywood. Earlier in the week, Stenberg called out the youngest sister of the Kardashian Klan on Instagram after she wore cornrows and captioned the picture, “I woke up like disss.”
words by me pic.twitter.com/g0HapkvfAt
— Amandla Stenberg (@amandlastenberg) July 13, 2015
That wasn’t the first time Stenberg jumped to confront Black exploitation.
Earlier this year, she released a video titled “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows,” in which she eloquently dove into the discourse on Black history, music, and aesthetics, and didn’t hesitate to list White musicians and celebrities who used symbols of Black culture in their style and performances. Stenberg’s audacity was valid and Cohen isn’t getting much slack for his name-calling.
Beyond the inappropriateness of speaking down to a child, the comment challenges the blasé sentiment towards appropriation and its wide effect on popular culture. Cox and Talley, both notable and outspoken figures in entertainment, didn’t seem to care much at all about Cohen’s question or comment.
“To me it’s fine,” Talley said.
“Umm… Bo Derek,” Cox continued, referencing the white 1970s actress who wore cornrows.
After much backlash, transgender activist Cox took to her own Tumblr to share her thoughts on appropriation and clear up any misunderstandings about her cavalier response to Cohen’s questions.
When in answer to Andy Cohen’s question on “Watch What Happens Live” on July 12, “White girls and cornrows, yay or nay? “I said what I said in an attempt to not get involved in what I understood at the time to be an Instagram feud between someone with whom I was not familiar and Kylie Jenner on the topic of cultural appropriation. I have never been interested in getting involved in any celebrity feuds.
In that moment, I also felt that the topic of cultural appropriation needs way more than the 10 seconds or less I had to respond at the end of the show to fully unpack. I said as much to Andre Leon Tally after the cameras stopped rolling. So on camera with seconds left in a live broadcast I said, “Bo Derek” the first iconic example of a white woman wearing cornrows I could think of. To be clear I understood when I said, “Bo Derek” that her rocking of cornrows with beads in the 1979 film “10” and that look on her subsequently becoming a cultural phenomenon when the black folks who had been rocking cornrows for decades before her had not similarly become a sensation is an example of the ways in which what bell hooks calls imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchal systems privilege certain bodies’ performances of cultural traditions over others. This is when cultural appropriation can tend to erase the marginalized people from whom the culture emerges.
Many are taking me to task for not defending Amandla Stenberg who I now know is a 16 year old black actress known for her work in the “Hunger Games” who has spoken out quite eloquently on the topic of cultural appropriation. In researching Amandla’s work and words, I was very impressed with a video I saw from her on cultural appropriation where she chronicled a recent history of cultural appropriation and black hair specifically.
Perhaps some people had mistakenly great expectations for these two Black tastemakers to come to the defense of Stenberg, even if they didn’t mind Jenner’s cornrows. In a time where Black girls, Black women, Black boys, and Black men are constantly facing erasure and cultural smudging by the media, it would seem innate for at least one of them to show up for Stenberg.
We’re glad Cox righted those wrongs.