Katy Perry has always been a particularly malleable popstar – safe enough to appeal to a mass audience and untied to a particular subgenre of pop. For all its cupcake bralets and firework breastplates, her Teenage Dream era had just the right amount of camp and colour, and for this reason it remains her high watermark image-wise. Her latest incarnation, however, has consistently taken massive leaps across the line of good taste.
Whether she’s dressed as a geisha for the AMA’s or uncomfortably perpetuating stereotypes in the video for ‘Dark Horse’, she’s effectively become a funhouse mirror. True to the title of her latest album, Prism, Perry is now making a career out of taking cultural iconography (not even the emoji is safe) and refracting them as commercial product.
As if winning cultural appropriation bingo wasn’t enough, Perry’s promotional material for new single ‘This Is How We Do’ presents a new set of problems. Notice the similarities between her baby curls and cornrow buns and those of upcoming neo-R&B starlet FKA twigs. Slightly familiar, no?
It’s yet another piece of the discussion regarding mainstream artists digging deep into the underground for inspiration, one that you can clearly see on twitter. On the surface it’s a smart move – FKA twigs has spent the last year as the fashion world’s darling – but as with many of her popstar peers Perry is forgetting one thing: inauthenticity shows.
FKA twigs’ certainly isn’t the first to rock baby curls, but the point is that her look works for her largely because it comes natural to her. Appropriation aside, surely Perry realises that this look is as much a fashion misstep as it is a moral one? Those eyebrows make her look like a sub-par Brooke Candy, and that’s problematic enough.
Thankfully, after years of avant-garde ‘influence’, the originators are finally starting to bite back. With FKA twigs’ album artwork for LP1, noted visual artist Jesse Kanda provides an artistic representation of what happens when pop stars try to jack another’s aesthetic (indeed, the prismatic diva Perry is a funhouse mirror in more ways than one). Some advice for Katy Perry: you really did rock the hell out of a blue wig.