Iggy Azalea's "I Am the Stripclub" video controversy is not just about her
Iggy Azalea has been accused of Blackfishing … is anyone surprised?
Iggy Azalea, the Australian rapper who rose to fame with her hit song "Fancy," was unrecognizable in her latest music video. The video for "I Am the Stripclub" was released on July 1 and Iggy immediately came under fire, accused by users across social media of Blackfishing.
Iggy Azalea - I Am The Stripclub [Official Music Video] youtu.be
In a black wig with concerningly darker skin, Azalea rapped and dances in a club surrounded by mostly Black people — very reminiscent of Miley Cyrus using Black people essentially props during her twerking phase. Other scenes in the video also saw her usually-pale complexion transformed into a skin tone shades darker than her natural look.
"I don't care… fuck those ppl babe lol," she also tweeted in response to a fan asking her to address the issue. Her flippancy struck a chord with the Black and Brown users who were pointing out the issue. This response, therefore, garnered further criticism — oh how easy it is, users lamented, for a white woman to perpetuate harmful behaviors and simply … move on.
@softestangel @jimbo_world1 @xo_ctrl I can’t care about something that ridiculous and baseless. I’m wearing a shad… https://t.co/NmEWlnzJlw— IGGY AZALEA (@IGGY AZALEA)1625270700.0
Not one to back down, Azalea quickly dismissed the claims as "ridiculous and baseless," saying her makeup hadn't changed and adding, "Suddenly I wear a black wig in a club scene & its [sic] an issue."
It seems Azalea's conscience is clear. To her, she didn't do anything wrong, so anyone who criticizes her must be wrong. In fact, according to Twitter, her "haters" are just furthering her career.
To everyone showing me love: Thankyou for dedicating your day to me & helping me promote, I love you! To everyo… https://t.co/5vikLQrlUA— IGGY AZALEA (@IGGY AZALEA)1625400190.0
The controversy has not dampened the video's success — it might have even heightened it. By July 6th, the song had received almost 8 million views. This feels par for the course for Iggy Azalea, whose career has always thrived from controversy, specifically about her culture vulture tendencies and lecherous relationship to Blackness.
When "Fancy" first came out and Azalea rose to fame, the rapper was called out for adopting a "blaccent." She responded to these accusations similarly to the Blackfishing claims, saying she is "not trying to sound Black" in her music, just as she wasn't trying to alter her appearance.
Her logic: If she isn't doing it on purpose, then people shouldn't be offended. But does she get to decide?
Azalea's logic falls into the trap of privileging individual responsibility without considering the context. Her dismissive response completely ignores the actual concerns of her critics.
It was never about what Iggy Azalea herself was doing or meant to do — it's about the culture that praises Black and Brown features on white women and dehumanizes marginalized groups by reducing them to aesthetics.
Coined by music journalist Wanna Thompson, Backfishing is when non-Black people "capitalize off of impersonating racially ambiguous/Black women for monetary and social gain." This can happen through makeup choices, body alterations like lip fillers, and excessive tanning.
Purposefully or not, the act of Blackfishing has become common on social media where "Instagram face" has created an ideal which pretty much looks like a racially ambiguous person — picking and choosing so-called "desirable" features from different ethnic groups and combining them like a jigsaw puzzle.
Whether Azalea meant to or not, her appearance in the video played into this aesthetic, one which has also been attributed to the Kardashians (think: Kim's tinted body oils and Kylie's lip kits).
So whether Azalea had a hand in her visibly darker appearance in the video, the finished result was definitely problematic. The combination of lighting and editing culminated in a look informed by the dominant and problematic aesthetics of Blackfishing.
Everyone involved in the video has been, like all of us who doom-scroll through social media and come across influencers with suspicious tans, conditioned to associate that look with what is currently in Vogue.
So although Azalea is not the only one to blame for her Blackfishing, the denial of her culpability speaks to the normalization of Blackfishing — where her visibility darkened skin can be … excusable? — and the death of productive discourse.
All those claims from yesteryear that this would be an era of nuanced, considered discussion about race and racial awareness seem to have been proven false with each and every one of Azalea's "clap backs."
God help us.