In a recent Instagram post, the Little Women actress opened up about her past, admitting that "the world is trying to make change and I'm learning a tidal wave of information that, frankly, was always there but I was always unaware of."
“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. 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 photo in question featured Pugh as a teen wearing braided cornrows, a style of hair braiding from the Caribbean. It wasn’t until she showed the photo to her friend that she became aware of cultural appropriation and that it was offensive.
“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,” she recalled.
“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.”
When the actress was eight years old she befriended an Indian shop owner who taught her about Indian culture. She recalls learning how to wear a bindi—a coloured dot worn on the centre of your forehead in Hindu culture—and about henna—a natural dye prepared from Lawsonia inermis plants, used in Indian culture for various practices including temporary body art.
The woman was “excited to share her culture with me and I was excited to learn,” she said. And, as Pugh got older, she continued to “henna [her] hands, feet, [her] family’s hands and feet, [her] friends-[she] was obsessed.”
But, in 2017, bindis and henna became a trend within the beauty industry. Large makeup brands that started selling ‘Easy! Quick Dry!’ henna ink pen and stencil kits in commercial chemists and shops were selling reimagined and cheapened versions of this woman’s culture. Pugh admits she thought because she was taught about it differently, she was an exception, but now she acknowledges that that way of thinking is part of the problem.
“I actually wasn’t being respectful in how I was using it,” she said. “I wore this culture on my own terms only, to parties, at dinner. I too was disrespecting the beauty of the religion that had been taught to me those years ago.
“Stupid doesn’t even cut it, I was uneducated,” she continued. “I was unread.”
“I cannot dismiss the actions I bought into years ago, but I believe that we who were blind to such things must acknowledge them and recognise them as our faults, our ignorance and our white privilege and I apologise profusely that it took this long.
Florence Pugh is just one of several celebrities who are addressing their own white fragility and white privilege right now. If you would like to know how to continue confronting your own and being a better ally for BIPOC now and always, our pals at Syrup have made a few guides below.