Katy Perry has been accused of cultural appropriation in the past, and on her Witness live-stream this weekend, Perry discussed how she’s tried to learn from that criticism.
In a conversation with activist Deray McKesson for his Pod Save the People podcast, Perry looked back at her “This Is How We Do” music video, where she donned cornrows. She recalled having a conversation with “one of my empowered angels, Cleo,” after the video came out where the pop star asked questions like, “What does it mean? Why can’t I wear my hair that way?”
“And she told me about the power in black women’s hair, and how beautiful it is, and the struggle,” Perry said. “I listened. And I heard. And I didn’t know. And I won’t ever understand some of those things because of who I am — I will never understand, but I can educate myself, and that’s what I’m trying to do along the way.”
Perry also seemingly brought up her much-criticized geisha-themed performance at the 2013 American Music Awards, explaining, “Even in my intention to appreciate Japanese culture, I did it wrong with a performance, and I didn’t know that I did it wrong until I heard people saying I did it wrong.”
She added, “Sometimes that’s what it takes, is it takes someone to say — out of compassion, out of love — ‘This is where the origin is, do you understand?’ And not just like, a clapback. Because it’s hard to hear those clapbacks sometimes. And your ego just wants to turn from them. I’ve been so grateful to have great teachers and great friends who will really hold me accountable, even when I said I wasn’t a feminist because I didn’t know what that word meant.”
After the two-minute clip from the hour-long interview began circulating online, McKesson tweeted that he invited Perry on the podcast because “of her role on the [Hillary Clinton] campaign, how she views her art + activism, & her past re: race.” Although some people on social media applauded Perry for taking ownership of her past mistakes, others criticized the “Swish Swish” singer.
“Katy cozies up to another friendly and well-known Black man who doesn’t challenge her on her cultural appropriation,” activist and editor April Reign tweeted. She went on to suggest that Perry should hire and work with more women of color, and said that “owning up w/o change is worthless.”
In response, McKesson tweeted, “You saw two minutes of an hour long interview. I don’t think it’s fair to say that she wasn’t challenged, yet. We covered a lot.”