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The Queen of Coachella and Respecting Culture

Shreya Nakkala, Austin, TX


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Once again, Vanessa Hudgens is labeled “Queen of Coachella” as she dresses in bindis and face jewels. The bindi has a spiritual significance in the Hindu culture. The Ajna Chakra is a place on the forehead where the bindi is placed, as it signifies the “Third Eye.” It symbolizes to see through the mind’s eye and realize that the universe is one.

This is not the only thing Hudgens has culturally appropriated in the past. We see her using dream catchers as a hair accessory, whereas its intended purpose in Native American culture is to protect the sleeping individual from negativity in their dreams. She has also worn a sari and head garments and captioned it #arabiannights.

To explain it in simple terms, cultural appropriation is when people of a dominant culture take elements of culture from those systematically oppressed by the dominant group. The main problem in society that we see today is how parts of the culture are chosen and celebrated, but the group of people is still oppressed. When Indian women wear bindis they are seen as too conservative or when black women wear braids they are seen as “ghetto.” There is a pressure to assimilate to white culture; to opt out of wearing our culture with pride just to not stick out.

It’s not just that we don’t want to wear parts of our culture either, but that in society we see instances in which women or men are unjustly judged for their hair, piercings, or anything else that may be.

The history of the culture is also misinterpreted in most cases. The origin of the customs and traditions is well forgotten as it becomes more mainstream. For example, yoga is an ancient Indian spiritual and physical practice, but today we see yoga schools opening up in every corner. In the West, yoga is primarily practiced for physical reasons with the spirituality of it left behind. The true practice of yoga is ceasing to exist as it is being more commercialized.

It’s really easy for people to follow trends and appropriate cultures, but be thoughtful of the different cultures you borrow from, and learn to respect their culture.

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