Katy Perry kicked off Sunday’s American Music Awards ceremony with a performance of her single “Unconditionally,” which immediately prompted the question: Is this racist?
Perry sang while dressed as a geisha — though her costume was really a mixture of the Japanese kimono and a Chinese cheongsam, reports Kotaku — while her back-up dancers were also dressed as geishas and spun paper fans. Other Japanese-influenced aspects to the performance included cherry blossoms, Japanese garden-like sets and The Great Wave off Kanagawa.
Many viewers took to social media to praise the performance, but there were some who quickly dubbed Perry’s performance racist. Psychology Today‘s Ravi Chandra writes why some Asian-Americans were offended by the costumes and sets, noting that, “I’ve watched our cultures misappropriated and commodified time after time. Frankly, many of us feel used as props to glorify White artists.”
While Perry has been known to dress in Japanese-inspired costumes before, the performance did bring to mind another pop star’s award show performance that was accused of cultural appropriation, which we are all still trying to recover from: Miley Cyrus’s now infamous VMAs appearance.