• Michelle H

Adele's Rolling In The Deep End Of Cultural Appropriation

Breaking down Adele’s controversial outfit that broke the internet

(@adele / Instagram)

On August 30, British pop singer Adele shook the internet. 


No, it wasn’t another weight-loss post (although we’re definitely proud of her incredible health journey). She didn’t tease a new album. 


She posted an old photo on Instagram, — one of her sporting Bantu knots, a Jamaican flag bikini top and a feathered neckpiece for the Notting Hill Carnival in London —  sparking a massive dialogue on social media on the thin line between cultural appropriation and appreciation



The photo, currently with five million likes, included the caption, “Happy what would be Notting Hill Carnival my beloved London,” referring to the UK’s annual carnival that celebrates Caribbean and Black cultures. This year it was virtual, from August 29 to August 31, due to the pandemic.  


Though the photo might be celebratory in intent, the 32-year-old  received the cold shoulder from critics and some of the Black community. It’s been said her decision to wear such an outfit was tone-deaf, especially at a time when Black people are actively protesting police brutality and other facets of systemic racism, nationally and worldwide. 



Others took Adele’s side, saying her outfit showed appreciation for Black culture. Black celebrities such as Naomi Campbell, Alexandra Burke and Tessa Thompson, showed their support by showering Adele in compliments and heart emojis on her post. Some people praised Adele for acknowledging her hometown Tottenham, London, and strutting a bikini top after an immense weight loss journey. 



(Screenshots of comments from Adele's photo on Instagram, @adele)

Adele’s die-hard stans chimed in to say, she can’t be canceled; She’s Adele. The Rolling in the Deep singer is known to frequently speak up for marginalized voices. As an ally to the Black community and being vocal for the Black Lives Matter movement, some have accepted the post as a form of cultural appreciation. 



So is Adele canceled? Let’s breakdown her outfit and see if and where she went wrong.


Adele’s hair was twisted into Bantu knots

This is the part that got people stirred up. Bantu knots originated from the Zulu people of southern Africa. So naturally, there was a lot of talk on whether or not Adele’s hairstyle constitutes cultural appropriation or cultural appreciation. 



She sported gold chains on her neck and chunky hoops from ears 

The internet didn’t have much to say about these jewels. Hoop earrings and gold chains have historically been a fashion staple amongst Latinx and Black cultures, as a symbol of resistance and identity. But they’ve also become an enthusiastic trend these past few months. 



And we can't forget about the Jamaican-flag bikini top and neckpiece


While Adele may just be flaunting her newly slim figure, the bright green, yellow and black bikini was deemed problematic by many, especially since Adele isn’t Jamaican. Feathered neckpieces are also common in African and Caribbean cultures and considered a staple of Carnival. 


So, should someone like Adele be sporting traditional African hairstyles and fashion? That’s for you to decide. In the meantime, all I have to say is: 



Hello, can you hear me? / 

I was wondering if after all these years, you’d give me a fair warning. /

Next time you try to shake the internet / 

and cause a debate on cultural appreciation









Michelle Holder is an Online and Print Writer at Rowdy Magazine. She is passionate about international affairs and travel. You can typically find her buried in a book or drinking expressos at local coffee shops. Contact her at michellecholder@gmail.com or find her on Twitter @michellecholder.