Rita Ora has been accused of “blackfishing” - this is what that means

The singer has been accused of "blackfishing" on social media (Photo: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)The singer has been accused of "blackfishing" on social media (Photo: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)
The singer has been accused of "blackfishing" on social media (Photo: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

Rita Ora has been accused of “blackfishing” on social media after fans discovered her heritage is white Albanian.

This is everything you need to know about the situation - and what “blackfishing” means.

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What is “Blackfishing”?

The term Catfishing has become well known around the world, thanks to the Catfish documentary and TV show.

Most people now know that catfishing means to pretend to be someone you’re not, usually online.

This could mean using fake pictures, or making up a completely different personality.

The term “Blackfishing” might not be as well known, but it shares a similar meaning to catfish - it refers to someone who uses things like hairstyling and makeup to create and enhance certain features to make it appear as if they have black heritage or are racially ambiguous.

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The term was coined by journalist Wanna Thompson after she saw a Twitter discussion about white women cosplaying as black women.

Blackfishing is an issue because it allows a person to pick and choose the “cool” parts of being black, without facing any of the discrimination that black people do.

Thompson said: “Black is cool, unless you’re actually black.”

Johanna Yaovi, the founder of the Curl Talk Project, told The Guardian: “It’s about picking and choosing common black traits and characteristics for one’s benefit, while we continue to face discrimination on a day to day basis.

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“As black women, we are constantly fighting for clear, authentic representation and diversity and then have to face individuals who do blackfishing, individuals who therefore look ambiguous enough for brands to use them as emblems for diversity.”

Speaking to the Independent, writer Stephanie Yeboah described blackfishing as “a type of blackface”.

What has Rita Ora done?

The singer has been accused of blackfishing following a post on social media platform, Twitter.

It appeared that the discussion around Rita Ora and blackfishing originated when a Twitter user posted a tweet on 9 August saying: “Finding out Rita Ora isn’t black at all and both of her parents are white Albanians is so trippy. The girls BEEN blackfishing.”

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The post included pictures of Ora with her hair styled with box braids and in a blonde afro.

The tweet has garnered nearly 111k likes and over 22k retweets since it was posted.

Ora has never claimed to be black, but the issue that fans have taken, is that she has used the assumption that she is black to her advantage.

“I have never seen any article or interview where she claims to be black. She always said Albanian, even when @WendyWilliams asked her, she never said ‘I’m black’. People assumed so and she took advantage of it,” wrote a Twitter user in response to the original tweet.

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Another Twitter user posted a video of Ora while she was doing a radio interview where she said that she liked people assuming that she was black, saying that “it gets [her] places”.

Have other celebrities been called out for blackfishing?

Rita Ora isn’t the first celebrity to be accused of blackfishing - many celebrities before her have been accused of doing the same.

Most notably, Kim Kardashian-West, and others in the West/Jenner family, have been called out for blackfishing.

In December, Kardashian-West appeared on the cover of 7Hollywood magazine wearing a Diana Ross inspired wig, dress and darker complexion.

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At the time, Karen Attiah, the Washington Post’s global opinions editor, tweeted: “I don’t see it as complicated. Her proximity to and appropriation of blackness has gotten her (and her family) paid. Handsomely.”

Singer Ariana Grande has also been accused of blackfishing due to her use of a tan, which makes her appear much darker than her natural complexion.

Thompson, the journalist behind the term, also wrote an article for Paper Magazine about the phenomenon, titled “How White Women On Instagram Are Profiting Off Black Women”, which named social media influencers taking part in the practice of blackfishing.