A tweet by @jupitersembrace, gathering over 65,000 likes, humorously questions, “Why is that white lady so tan?”
The tweet references a viral image from the 2004 NRJ Music Awards in Cannes, featuring young pop icons Britney Spears, Beyoncé, and a notably tanned Christina Aguilera. This image has reignited discussions about Aguilera’s history of “blackfishing,” a term used to describe when white public figures excessively tan their skin or adopt Black hairstyles and fashion, often to appear racially ambiguous.
The NRJ Music Awards, presented by the French radio station NRJ, honors the best in French and worldwide music. Established in 2000, the award ceremony aligns with the MIDEM, the international music publishing market in Cannes, France. The term “NRJ” stands for “Nouvelle Radio des Jeunes” or “new radio of the young,” emphasizing its focus on youthful energy and contemporary music trends.
Christina Aguilera, the subject of the viral tweet, is an American singer and songwriter, often hailed as the “Voice of a Generation” for her powerful four-octave vocal range. Throughout her career, Aguilera has been known for integrating themes like feminism, sexuality, and LGBTQ culture into her music. Her journey from a star on The All-New Mickey Mouse Club to a global music icon is marked by hits like “Genie in a Bottle” and “Beautiful” and her role in the 2010 film Burlesque. Aguilera’s influence in pop culture extends to her activism, notably as a Disney Legend and a World Food Programme ambassador.
However, Aguilera’s approach to embracing different cultures and aesthetics has long been subject to controversy. The concept of “blackfishing,” highlighted in the tweet, is increasingly scrutinized in the age of social media. Journalist Wanna Thompson, who brought the term to prominence, explains that “blackfishing” is an attempt by white individuals to appear Black through excessive tanning and adopting Black fashion and hairstyles. This phenomenon is criticized for celebrating Black aesthetics selectively, often excluding the systemic discrimination that accompanies Blackness.
In a GIF reply, one woman joked, “Was gonna make a smart remark until I noticed that’s Christina Aguilera and NOT Tamera Mowry.” One stated a similar thought about Tia and Tamera Mowry: “Thought it was one of the twins.” Same with another commenter, writing, “oh god i thought that was tia or tamera.”
One person attempted to defend Aguilera: “You guys, Christina Aguilera’s father is a brown man from Ecuador. She tans really dark; hope that helps.” “Okay, that’s cute,” said the poster. “She’s white, though.”
Though another commenter claimed the photo was photoshopped, a video from the 2004 award ceremony shows Aguilera as noticeably darker than her usual complexion.
This controversial practice raises essential questions about cultural appropriation and the fine line between appreciation and appropriation of Black culture. Critics argue that while embracing different cultures is enriching, it becomes problematic when altering one’s appearance to mimic another race, especially without acknowledging or understanding the experiences and struggles associated with that race.
As conversations about cultural sensitivity and appropriation continue to evolve, Aguilera’s tanned appearance at the 2004 NRJ Music Awards, as pointed out humorously by @jupitersembrace, serves as a reminder of the ongoing dialogue about race, identity, and representation in the media and entertainment industries.
The Daily Dot contacted @jupitersembrace via Twitter comment.