“Blackfishing” Instagram models causing ongoing controversy

Photos from left: Aga Brzostowska, Emma Hallberg. 

Catfishing, pretending to be a different identity online than in real life has become a common issue. Blackfishing, however, is the “new catfishing,” and may be an even worse practice.

Blackfishing has been demonstrated by models on Instagram who purposely darken their skin and accentuate their features, like hair texture and facial features, to appear as a black female or part of the African-American community.

Blackfishing was recognized after 19-year-old Swedish Instagram model Emma Hallberg, was accused of pretending to be black on Instagram this past November. Pictures surfaced of Hallberg from months before with much lighter skin and naturally straight hair. The initial tweet of these photos gained 23,000 retweets and mixed opinions from users of varying ethnicities, according to Independent, a UK news media.

One twitter user commented, “She clearly was trying to pose as black.”

Others supported Hallberg by commenting “Pretty Model, don’t look like she’s pretending to be anything.”

Hallberg responded to the backlash on GMA, saying, “The things I’ve been accused of and the things people are mad about are the things that are natural on me, like my lips and my nose and I’ve never claimed to be black or biracial or anything other than white.”  

Hallberg was not the only one accused of blackfishing.

Aga Brzostowska, a 20 year old Instagram model from Poland has also been accused of blackfishing. Brzostowska admitted to using makeup to make her skin look darker.

Brzostowska talked about the controversy on BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat, saying, “I don’t feel like I need to stop doing something because . . . why would I stop doing something that’s benefiting me or that I enjoy doing?”

Despite these models beliefs on the issue, there is a difference between tanning and trying to identify with a whole culture or race. Blackfishing could be taken as the new form of blackface, the act of non-black performers using makeup to create a black persona. Blackfishing has the capacity to take away opportunities for actual women of color.

According to CNN, this scenario has happened. Lauren Dolezal, a white woman accused of darkening her skin to pose as a black woman, attended Historically Black College University and was a leader for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Women of color have experienced discrimination against their race, hair, and culture for a long time. It is completely inappropriate for a caucasian woman to pose as another race, even in a dramatic fashion. All races are beautiful in their own ways and reflect their own culture. It is important for each person to have a self-identity and be proud of one’s culture, instead of appropriating another for likes.

The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost

Adelle Engmann

“Blackfishing” Instagram models causing ongoing controversy

by Adelle Engmann time to read: 2 min