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Celebrities and Culture on the Red Carpet

The red carpet is a perfect opportunity for celebrities to be snapped showcasing the hottest hues and fits of the season. These events provide the perfect platform for stars to showcase their personal styles through their crafted ensemble. It’s also an great opportunity for designers, as newcomers and old-timers can display their creative ability.

These high-profile affairs are ideal as a chance to demonstrate how the boundaries of art and clothing can be blurred. But can ‘red carpet’ events make more powerful statements? Yes, they can.

In recent years, more celebrities have chosen to use the red carpet as a platform to embrace and acknowledge their own cultural identity.

Issues of the past

Some may think that; “yes, this is great, but why is this representation important?”.

Well it is certainly no secret that the microcosm of Hollywood has had a toxic history of pressuring its Western ideals onto celebrities of an ethnic minority background.

A most recent example of this is British-Zimbabwean actress Thandiwe Newton choosing to revert her name back to its original Zimbabwean spelling. As a result of a spelling mistake in her first film credits the more pronounceable version ‘Thandie’ stuck with her until now.

“That’s my name. It’s always been my name. I’m taking back what’s mine.” Newton speaking to Vogue, April 2021

Newton’s powerful statement highlights how the Westernisation of individuals from an ethnic minority background is becoming less acceptable. And now, this is something that can be seen on the red carpet. Celebrities are choosing to displace a simple gown for a traditionally inspired cultural ensemble that reflects their background.

Celebrities and their cultures:

In 2018 Diana Ross’ daughter and ‘Black-ish’ star Tracee Ellis Ross stunned the American Music Awards in a structured dress inspired by bold African colours and prints. Cameroon native Claude Kameni created this dress. Kameni looked to merge her traditional roots with the modern styles of fashion. Ross herself perfectly complemented the culturally inspired dress with her hair styled in neat cornrows.

On the red carpet of the Cannes Film Festival in 2010, Chinese actress Fan Bingbing glowed in the remarkable ‘Dragon Robe’ with Chinese designer Laurence Xu behind the magnificent piece. Xu’s creation had obviously been inspired by the traditional Chinese imagery of dragons and flowers, and he didn’t fail to include the traditional colours of gold and red. Xu cleverly managed to combine all of these aspects of Chinese culture into a modern one-armed, sweetheart neckline design.

Traditional South-Asian inspired sarees have been worn many times on both Hollywood and international red carpets. You’ll never see two exactly the same. Most saree styles are often paired with modern, glamorous accessories such as dangling earrings.

Celebrities’ in the spotlight

No matter how you view the concept of ‘celebrity status’ their position still matters. Celebrities have a space in the global spotlight that some of us could only ever dream of. Therefore, the image of themselves that they choose to put across does matter.

The importance is the act of proudly claiming ones identity. As we’ve seen with Thandiwe Newton, so many identities have been lost in the past. It is a chance for celebrities to feel proud of their roots, and to encourage others to do the same.

It’s important for traditional styles to be re-imagined in modern ways. Younger generations of communities, of an ethnic minority background, might push aside their culture by viewing it as ‘old-fashioned’. However, with innovative designers amalgamating traditional aspects with the modern, proves that ‘tradition’ doesn’t necessarily mean out of date.  

In a growing, modern world cultural preservation is key. Through fashion there is a chance that younger individuals can uphold traditional values of their culture.

Diversifying our designers

The benefits not only reach younger members of ethnic minority communities but also the working and aspiring fashion designers.

If you search ‘famous fashion designers’ on the internet, around 95% of them are white European. And this needs to change. As we’ve seen with previous red carpet looks, individuals from different cultures have so much to offer and should be given a platform that’s right for their talent.

Diversifying the world of designers is necessary because it prevents the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes as well as cultural appropriation. Anishinaabe artist Lesley Hampton created a spectacular dress for Canadian talk show host Lainey Lui that was both beautiful and culturally sensitive to Hampton’s indigenous background.

A change for better

It’s easy to see the importance of these red carpet events other than simply showcasing the Hollywood elite.

It allows celebrities to express themselves and celebrate their culture on a global platform. It leads one to hope the world of Hollywood will cast aside its need for Westernisation and celebrate the benefits of cultural diversity.


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