Pharrell Williams has found himself in the hot seat again, this time for donning an imitation Native American headdress on the cover of Elle UK ‘s July 2014 issue.
Images from the cover shoot have caused quite a stir, with Natives voicing concern through the Twitter hashtag, #NotHappy .
@amystretten : “A Native American headdress is not a hat. Try again, @Pharrell. #NotHappy @ELLEMagUK @ELLEmagazine”
@aaliya786khan : “Ugh @Pharrell whyyyy!! I liked you so much! Cultural appropriation is never ok #NOThappy #notyourexotic”
@gindaanis : “Pharrell gets on the appropriation train. #NOThappy @ELLEmagazine”
@johnniejae : “ Hope @pharrell is #happy with his ignorance because Natives are #nothappy seeing those who earned their feathers being disrespected.”
The reactions caused Pharrell to issue an apology to his fans and to those who understand that Native headdresses are sacred — not fun accessories. Take a look at what he said below:
“I respect and honor every kind of race, background and culture. I am genuinely sorry.”
Although some fans have tried to defend the artist by referencing his Native heritage, IndianCountryTodayMediaNetwork.com points out why that argument falls flat:
“The headdress remains a sacred ceremonial item, to be worn on special occasions. There’s no tribute in wearing the headdress on the cover of Elle UK, flanked by “The Secret Life of Keira Knightley” and “All Natural Hair: 23 Products to Try Now.” This is a spiritual item; on the cover of Elle UK it becomes secularized, trivialized, accessorized. Those who hold the headdress sacred might well say this is the opposite of a tribute.”
Pharrell isn’t the first major figure to become a “teachable moment” for the use of the headpiece, and #NotHappy is just one of many efforts by First Nations peoples to reclaim ownership of their images.
In 2012, Gwen Stefani received backlash when she wore a similar piece in the music video for No Doubt ‘s song “Looking Hot,” which served as the official second single from their sixth studio album, Push and Shove .
Fashion brands Chanel , Victoria’s Secret and H&M have also been confronted for attempting to turn the American Indian headdress into a fashion statement.