What do people in Japan think of the star’s controversial new look? 

After mistakenly getting “Japanese BBQ grill” instead of “7 Rings” tattooed on her hand in kanji two years ago, American singer and songwriter Ariana Grande has found herself in yet another unfortunate situation, this time being accused of “Asian Fishing” online.

“Asian Fishing” is the term used when a non-Asian styles themselves to look Asian, particularly East Asian, through the use of clothes, makeup or photo editing. And that’s what a number of people picked up on when Grande posted a series of photos of herself on social media on 1 December.

▼ Grande is barely recognisable in the photos she posted online.

Having previously been accused of Black Fishing for things like her accent, lingo, and overly tanned skin, fans overseas were quick to pick up on Grande’s unusual look in these new photos. Her straight brows, thin-winged eyeliner, no-lid eyelid look and lighter-than-usual foundation were all called out as Asian hallmarks, while others took issue with her demure pose, saying it was a stereotype that fed into the fetishisation of Asian culture.

▼ Grande’s makeup looks surprisingly similar to this.

However, on the other hand, a number of fans, including Asians themselves, didn’t seem to be bothered by Grande’s new look at all.

In a bid to avoid controversy, Grande ended up deleting the photos from her social media accounts soon after accusations of Asian Fishing appeared online.

▼ This video from 7 December, however, shows Grande is still enamoured with her new look.

So what do people in Japan think about Grande’s appearance? Well, for starters, not many had heard of the phrase “Asian Fishing” before, but once they found out about it, this is what they had to say:

“So she’s no longer the Queen of cultural appropriation?”
“Did Ariana Grande just become a new person?”
“This look is like something out of an early ’90s Japanese fashion magazine.”

“What’s wrong with her liking a style and trying to imitate it?”
“I think it’s interesting that Westerners think this is bad. For me, as an Indonesian, I don’t think it’s a problem.”
“The ones who make a fuss about things like this are the ones who look down on Asians. Most people don’t care.”
“Ariana really loves Japan. Let her do whatever she wants.”
“There are a lot of people in Japan who wear Western-style makeup so…”
“She looks like a Korean Airlines flight attendant.”

That last commenter picked up on the similarities between Grande’s scarf and the scarf worn by Korean Airlines flight attendants.

Reactions in Japan were slightly mixed, but the large majority of commenters didn’t see the problem with the singer’s style in the controversial photos. After all, it’s only natural for stars in the spotlight to try new styles while evolving and playing with their looks, and given the 28-year-old’s very public love for Japan, which even includes studying the language, it’s understandable that she might be influenced by its culture and want to adopt it into her own personal style.

While Grande’s new look may have courted controversy overseas, here in Japan people just don’t seem that fussed by it. If anything, they’re pleased to hear that a famous celebrity might take an interest in Asian culture, and if Grande were to go so far as to wear a kimono, like Russian figure skater Evgenia Medvedeva did in Kyoto, they’d probably welcome that too.

Because what’s seen as cultural appropriation overseas, in terms of styling yourself to look Asian, is often seen as cultural appreciation here. However, if you try to trademark the word “kimono” and profit from it, like Kim Kardashian’s ill-fated “Kimono Shapewear” collection, well, that’s another story.

Source: Jin
Featured image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso

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