All I keep thinking is that famously succinct, but potent statement that legendary comedian, Paul Mooney made once on the “Dave Chappelle Show,” “Everybody wanna be a n*gga, but nobody wants to be a n*gga.” Hina is a 23-year-old Japanese woman who works at a trendy Tokyo boutique called Baby Shoop (tagline: “Black For Life). Why do we know her? Because Dutch photographer, Desiré van den Berg has spent the past seven months traveling around Asia and while in Tokyo last year, she met Hina. And it was Hina’s loyalty to a Japanese trend called “B-Style–” this combination of the words “Black” and “lifestyle” refers to a subculture of young Japanese people who love American hip-hop culture so much that they do everything in their power to look as African American as possible.
Hina describes the products in her store as “a tribute to Black culture: the music, the fashion, and style of dance.” In an interview with Vice Magazine, Desiré van den Berg said that:
Hina, for example, visits a tanning salon every week to darken her skin. I was surprised these tanning salons even exist, because in Japan it is a classic beauty ideal to have your skin be as pale as possible.
Just to be clear: Hina is 100 percent Japanese and naturally has pale skin. She is only dark because of the sunbed and the use of really dark foundation. B-stylers also listen to hip-hop, and visit special African hair salons to get braids or curly hair. These salons are usually found in Tokyo’s ghettos and are run by small African communities. Hina wears colored contact lenses: they are a lighter shade of brown to make her eyes seem bigger.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…and annoyance. As a tastemaker, I’ve grown accustomed to influencing culture and having someone imitate me is flattering, but at the same time, I’m like, “It’s ok to have you own style…” I don’t look down on these B-Styler kids for wanting to be Black, however, it seems their appropriation of our culture is only surface level. They just want to look like us, but they don’t want to adopt our every disadvantage. Blacks have significantly lower income and wealth, higher levels of poverty and even shorter life spans, among many other disparities, compared to other races.
There’s a thin line between tribute and imitation, in this case especially. I’m not offended by the B-Stylers wanting to emulate our culture, I just don’t see what the purpose is. What do you beauties think?
Check out more B-Stylers:
Check Out This Gallery Of Culture Borrowing: