Academy Award-nominated actress Florence Pugh (“Little Women”) responded to the current woke wave by apologizing for all her past offenses of cultural appropriation, in which she braided her hair into cornrows and painted henna on her hands.
In a lengthy Instagram post, Pugh explains her evolution of thought from when she was a 17-year-old girl braiding her hair into cornrows to her newfound sense of white fragility.
“Like many, I’ve read, listened, signed, donated, read again, sssh’d my white fragility and really wanted to trace instances in my life where I have been guilty,” she wrote in her post. “Whether big actions or small, we have to look at ourselves and see how we were adding to this problem. One part I have identified in my own actions is cultural appropriation, which came to my attention when a fan last year pointed out a picture of me I had posted back when I was 17.”
The picture of Florence featured her hair in cornrows at the age of 17. She recalled the first time she heard the phrase “cultural appropriation” from a friend who informed her how black culture is being exploited.
“I first heard the term cultural appropriation when I was 18. I met my friend Holly who is a photographer for a photoshoot in London,” she explained. “We finished up by having a pint when I proudly pointed to my newly braided cornrows. That summer, red carpets were full of famous, white women with either one side of their hair shaved or braided. I remember in every magazine there was a ‘How To Do It Yourself!’ version. I asked Holly if she liked them, she paused and said, ‘Erm…in my school you’re not allowed to get them anymore.'”
When Florence asked her friend Holly why her school had banned cornrows, Holly replied, “It’s cultural appropriation. The school felt it necessary to ban them.”
“She began to explain to me what cultural appropriation was, the history and heartbreak over how when black girls do it they’re mocked and judged, but when white girls do it, it’s only then perceived as cool,” added Florence. “It was true. I could see how black culture was being so obviously exploited. I was defensive and confused, white fragility coming out plain and simple. I didn’t want to upset anyone and was perplexed as to how I hadn’t heard this term before.”
The cornrows were Florence Pugh’s first culturally insensitive offense. Beyond that, she began donning aspects of Hindu culture after befriending an Indian shopkeeper in her neighborhood.
“And here’s the problem: I actually wasn’t being respectful in how I was using it. I wore this culture on my terms only, to parties, at dinner. I too was disrespecting the beauty of the religion that had been taught to me those years ago,” she said.
Following the appropriation of Hindu culture, Pugh then dove into Rastafarian culture.
“I braided my hair and painted a beanie with the Jamaican flag colours and went to a friend’s house, proud of my Rastafarian creation. I then posted about it the next day with a caption that paraphrased the lyrics to Shaggy’s song ‘Boombastic,'” she said. “I am ashamed of so many things in those few sentences.”
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