Some folks on social media are #NotHappy that Pharrell wears a Native American headdress on the new cover of Elle UK.

You’ll remember that last month, the appropriation of a Native American headdress was at the center of a fight between Flaming Lips leader Wayne Coyne and former drummer Kliph Scurlock.

Pharrell apologized via his publicist earlier today: “I respect and honor every kind of race, background, and culture. I am genuinely sorry.”

In less controversial news, last night the singer/producer performed for American Express’ Unstaged series at NYC’s Apollo Theater. The taping of the performance was directed by Spike Lee and features guest appearances from Busta Rhymes and T.I. It’s now streaming on a loop via YouTube and you can watch it below.

Comments (57)
  1. At this point, either these photoshoot designers are idiots who haven’t figured out that this type of thing makes people angry, or they’re cynically banking on the inevitable outrage. Could go either way, really.

    • I just can’t imagine the thought process that leads to this shit happening.

      Let’s all forget the whole issue of cultural appropriation for a second.

      Does anyone think Pharrell looks cool wearing that? Does it make any *sense* for him to be wearing it? Does his music have any connection to the culture whatosever? Is there some kind of aesthetic that he is trying to convey? Is this his image now?

      Best case scenario: You’re tacky, you’re weird, you look like an idiot.
      Worst case scenario: You’re racist.

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        • Christ, the ellipses.

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        • Kill yourself please

    • In their defense, it is Elle UK and Europe doesn’t really have as much of a history with the Native American stuff. I’m sure some are vaguely aware of it, but not in the way it has been ingrained in Americans. I was in Spain once and saw one living statue dressed in full Native American garb and another in blackface. And people were taking pictures with them. Culturally they didn’t know it was wrong, I guess.

      Not saying Pharrell wasn’t dumb for putting it on, just pointing out that European awareness of this is less than Americans.

  2. He was already going into that directions with 2010s N.E.R.D-album “Nothing”…

  3. If anyone should be upset at Pharrell, it should be the Canadian Mounties. Amirite?

  4. Forgive me for not understanding (I’m not American) but do you people get pissed off about this thing because it reminds you about how the settlers slaughtered the native Americans and took their land?

    • It doesn’t remind of us any of that – that’s exactly the point. Our history with native americans ain’t exactly great, and by doing this we are essentially using an already-marginalized group of people’s history and heritage and reducing it to a mascot/token fashion statement/kitsch without ever thinking about the atrocities committed against them.

  5. No seriously why is everyone so upset about this?

    • Its considered disrespectful towards Native Americans and their culture. Different groups of Native Americans have different feelings about it. I would broadly compare it to if some sort of religious apparel common in the west became secularly fashionable (I.E. a priest collar or yarmulke). It is tricky, honestly, a lot of the fire is fueled by people on social media that get their rocks off feeling self righteous and indignant.

      • Or like…I dunno… a cross, for example?

        • Well, the hilarious part of that example is that it’s principally Christians who feed the commodification of their religious iconography. I can guarantee you it’s not actual Apache’s buying all the “Apache” bullshit at Urban Outfitters.

        • “A lot of Christians wear crosses around their necks. You think when Jesus comes back he ever wants to see a fucking cross? It’s like going up to Jackie Onassis wearing a rifle pendant.” – Bill Hicks

        • I think the main difference is that usually, appropriation of religious Christian symbols are usually perceived as an affirmation of the religion. Most appropriation of Native American cultural and religious icons are done with total ignorance of their cultural significance (although, typically they are celebrating the aesthetic aspect of it).

          • Maybe Christians just want to rep Team Jesus, that’s cool, but I would nonetheless submit that making your holy symbols into tacky, mass-produced accessories is about as far from a position of reverence as you can get. But I think you’re getting at something important, which is that for people who have internalized the values of mass production and consumption, there is no sense that you do any harm to something by making it into a commodity. Nothing is too sacred to be branded and marketed. If anything good comes out of these controversies, it might be a chance for people to learn something from groups, like the American Indians, who live on the periphery of capitalist society and have not fully internalized this spiritually deadening way of life.

            PS: <3 Vonnegut

  6. There goes his drummer.

  7. No one is voicing near the outrage directed at Fallin and Coyne (guess they are easier targets). However, with the recent precedent, Pharrell is clearly being deliberate. And, once again, this should not be a big deal. People make it way too easy for artists to make headlines. OWWWOOOOOOOOO!

  8. At least he acknowledged that it was wrong and apologized, I think Elle magazine should be called out equally on this seeing as how they probably had 1,000 other photos of Pharrell to choose from and picked the one of him not only wearing the headdress, but with his head turned profile mimicking almost every westernized image of Native-Americans in history.

  9. I’m sorry but I have to play devil’s advocate here for a second, because I think it’s all ridiculous and the reactions are a bit overkill. People are just too damned sensitive these days. There’s lots of cultural imagery we assimilate every day. Specific to Native American culture, every hipster douchebag in the world walks around with the same faux-tribal patterns all over their H&M clothes these days. Many of those people are probably the same ones mocking this photoshoot to no end.

    Unfortunately, it did upset a few people (probably white) and for that he apologized, which is good on him. I actually like what Mr. Mayo said up top… Elle had to figure this would draw some controversy, and were probably banking on it. But even still, give me a break people. The PC police drive me crazy sometimes. We’re all going to be wearing the same dictated uniforms one day just to keep from offending SOMEBODY.

    • Wearing “Faux-tribal patterns” is different from wearing a headdress. In most Native American cultures, a headdress like that has to be earned. Each feather represents a battle, or a good deed done to the community. Would you be so eager to play devil’s advocate if Pharrell was wearing an unearned purple heart?

      • Yes…….a purple heart means as much as a headdress. They are both man-made objects. It is okay for one man to put value into an object, but do not expect another man to care. They are only objects. It is wonderful for someone to feel reverence, but…….that reverence can quickly turn to hate/disgust when someone else doesn’t recognize/revere that same ideal/idea/object.

        One man declares that a plot of land is holy……..and he feels great reverence/fulfillment worshiping that plot of land……another man wanders onto that plot of land and relieves himself……the first man kills the second because he disrespected the first man’s “holy land”………who is in the wrong?

        • I know you are in defense of my initial comment, but I actually like what doc said about the Purple Heart. That makes sense to me, and I’m willing to admit that.

          Switching to the other side of the argument for a minute, I don’t really agree with what you just said because though you are right that one man’s sacred symbol is another man’s fashion statement, etc., the offense lies in using such a symbol despite it’s importance to someone else. Sometimes it’s simply ignorance, which is unfortunate, and can maybe be forgiven. But just because you don’t believe in something similar doesn’t give a pass to disrespect it without consequence.

          I do think people can be overly sensitive to these kind of things to the point of ridiculousness. I don’t think Pharell meant anything by it and I certainly don’t think Elle UK did either. He’s apologized at least. But upon further thought, I can see why this upsets some people.

          • edit: I can “understand” why this upsets people. The fact that it does upset people doesn’t surprise me, but I’m more willing to accept it as justifiably upsetting after some thought.

          • I agree wholeheartedly that there are consequences to disrespecting someone’s beliefs, but I don’t believe there is any honor in that…or that is even rational/sane. It definitely makes sense in the context of the real, turbulent world that we live in….and the rules of that world which have developed over time…..but in theory and discussion….I see nothing reasonable, and want absolutely nothing to do with the beliefs and politics man has constructed for himself and others. I’m not trying to troll this thread in any way….for me…that way, that path, those ideals are not worthwhile and in too many cases lead ultimately to division/violence/death. Obviously not in all cases, but…history is wrought with examples. No…I think it really bites that one man, let alone many, many men and women can be and are killed over their own/someone else’s beliefs. What a waste. To ever think it is rational to empower an ideology or an object to such an extent that it is worth more to you than your fellow man….is unfortunate in my book. Everyone should be free to THINK and dream whatever they want, but…..if you come to me and expect me to bow down to whatever loony thing you think is important and I don’t care about….you’re wasting your time…and you have now created a barrier between us, which was not there before. I think it is just fine for me to be ignorant of someone else’s beliefs and walk all over them….I wouldn’t want to do so intentionally, in their face, to upset them, because I don’t like making enemies…but if I haphazardly did so…or in my own space…on my own time/dime….that should be my own freedom to do so….and why the $@&! Should they care what I do on my own time/dime. I really love film…I would go so far as to say I believe in film and art….it has the power to move me…it inspires me…I surround myself with it…..if someone else doesn’t care about film….I don’t give a rat’s ass. If someone took a copy of my favorite film…on dvd or whatever…and in public spat on it, set it on fire, and shat all over it……I could care less. Good for you dude….that was your artistic statement…I really liked that film, but…HAH…you didn’t and wanted to spit, shit, and set it on fire. Right on….let’s go watch some other film that we both like together. That’s not unfortunate….that’s just not letting someone’s or your own Ideas/interests/beliefs manifest themselves as anthing more than what they are….concepts/ideas/ethereal mumbo jumbo.

          • Didn’t read all of that………and I’ll be honest….it’s because of your excessive and incorrect use of ellipses.

      • Good point.

      • I imagine if this was Kanye instead of Pharell, people would still be licking his balls and praising him for his controversial edge.

    • I can’t take any argument that begins with “People are too sensitive these days” seriously. Society becoming more sensitive to the concerns and grievances of marginalized cultures and communities can only be a positive thing.

      • I feel what you’re getting at, mayo. And I’m not suggesting we ignore concerns and grievances. But I still think there is such a thing as “too sensitive.” Perhaps this particular instance isn’t necessarily one of them (I like what doc brownout said about the Purple Heart up there), but I was just using it to make a point. I see plenty of overly sensitive stances in varying circumstances that completely stifle rational expression all the time. I think sometimes we just need to chill a bit. Not everything needs to crucified for it’s potential to offend someone somewhere.

        Anyway, just thinking outloud. Or online, as it were.

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  11. The popular opinion nazis on here would down vote world peace…..and did, just because they don’t actually comprehend what is being written. So many can only envision a world that is already laid out for them….and not only fail to dream of a better world, but consider it wrong to do so. What a great future we have in store for us….these folks here are sooooo open-minded. Let’s only accept ideas and constructs that have been shoveled into our brains our entire lives…..those are the only ideas that make sense….anything more is just offensive. Knee jerk pop protectors of sacred objects and ideals….go take your down votes to the museum you insist on living in.

    • Completely off-topic, but the French honorific for men is spelled “Monsieur.”

      While we’re discussing your grammar and spelling, I think you need to review chapter 2 in your textbook. The one about punctuation choice.

      • Ha….it was a choice. I wanted to make it a little harder for friends and family to locate my FB, as I use it mainly for my interests…..and didn’t want it flooded with random posts from aunts, mom, etc. Yeah, I get this occasionally from the French……talk about misappropriation! Zing! I considered “Monsewer”, but thought that was a little too crude……that and…..I love Monsieur Hulot……great mind….I don’t want to disrespect his memory.

        I write like I think/talk…….I get it……people don’t like ellipses. Who cares? Some people are obsessive about piddly shit, some people read the content with comprehension and overlook these eccentricities. I get where you’re coming from. I cringe at bad grammar, but….that’s a losing battle…and everyone make’s mistakes from time to time, especially on the internet. I’m not going to hassle someone about it, unless they’re being an arrogant dick (which I do see the irony in that statement….several people on this thread seem to think I’m being a dick for the sake of it…..I was just looking for an interesting/intelligent point/counter-point conversation…..but when semi-radical ideas are presented….sometime people shut you out. Whatcha gonna do? Can’t win ‘em all…….nor do I want/need to.)

        • Fair enough. I hope I didn’t come off as a dick, I’m just so used to seeing unintelligent statements made full of ellipses that I kind of disregard them whenever I see them. I’m picky about grammar, too.

          Since you responded so politely, I actually went back and read through your other comments. I agree with what you’re saying, but I also think it’s perfectly acceptable to allow a people that have been oppressed for centuries to speak out against something they view as offensive. In fairness, though, I never realized that there was anything wrong with wearing a headdress until the Coyne debacle last month.

          Also, you’re completely right about the voting around here. Downvotes are for when someone is being a complete asshole/idiot, not when someone has a different opinion than you.

          • Thanks for the friendly response. I come to Stereogum for the music, but I often leave Stereogum because of the abysmal conversation/interactions….it’s really nice when you can have a discussion with someone on here that doesn’t devolve into a deliberate flame war.

            Definitely agree with your take on oppressed peoples. They should be given a voice in the public quorum. Oppression of any kind is tragic. I don’t want to in any way suggest that I am for marginalizing oppressed people. I do think, in theory, that oppression stems from ideology, though……and man’s nature of wanting to control everything/everyone. I think in the end, that’s my beef…..why try to control what someone else is doing…..or even worry about it. Especially if it was haphazard? I’m guessing that if Pharrell(?) and a few representatives of the offended Native American population sat down and had a concerted conversation…..they would probably find that each party is respectful of the other party…..and might even develop a friendship. If that were to happen……..guess what……all of the power, anger, and disgust that had been imbued into that holy of holy objects….the headdress……would be forgotten and tossed to the side……to be replaced with a very, real human connection. Humanity, and the way we treat each other is very real…….ideology, religion, politics, holy objects/BS are not real in any way, shape, or form…that is all make believe, FACT…until you empower that hocus pocus with real, sometimes dangerous human emotion.

            *Just continuing the conversation. This isn’t meant to be preaching/soapbox rant…apologize if it comes off that way. Once again, thank you for the kind response and tossing a few ideas back and forth.

  12. here’s an idea. how about we get some native american reaction? instead of guilty white people reaction.

  13. Just stick to your ranger hats, Pharrell.

  14. Again, I think the hats are another part of the problem.

    But the biggest problem is Pharrell is re-gurgitating the most simplistic of 70′s BS but because he’s the only one doing it on such a demonstrative level nobody is willing to stand up and say….

    “This shit sucks. I hated this kind of fake funk BS 40 years ago”

  15. Clap along if you feel like misappropriating cultural iconography.

  16. you people sound stupid as fuck, people dress up like indians all the time…so because he is a celebrity he cant wear a indian head piece….you people need to get a fucking life and find something a little more worthy of your time…..@bloched his music has always been of a 70′s feel stfu

    • @Kashaka….I GET that he’s always had a 70′s feel. It’s just the most base and inauthentic 70′s feel. It’s a classic example of people dying of thirst will drink anything. His falsetto is a re-hashed version of everything that’s been done before. And done so much better.

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