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Zendaya
Zendaya@zendaya via Instagram

Zendaya schools the world on cultural appropriation

‘You don’t wear something just to wear it – you have to understand the history behind it’

In a new interview Zendaya has weighed in on the heated subject of cultural appropriation. It’s a topic that keeps rearing its head, both in the media and on Twitter – whether it’s a conversation about M.I.A.’s new video or Kylie Jenner’s cornrows. Speaking with Nylon, the 18-year-old singer and actress stressed that there’s a difference between appreciating and appropriating other cultures.

“You can go about it as cultural appreciation or cultural appropriation,” she said. “You have to be very careful. Some things are really sacred and important to other cultures, so you have to be aware, politically, about those things before you just adopt them. In order to appreciate something, you have to know about it and understand. You don’t just wear something just to wear it — you have to understand the history behind it.

“I urge people to take the extra step of knowledge and learn about things,” she continued. “I’m someone who feels uncomfortable with things unless I know (about them). I’m not going to try something unless I’ve taken the time and effort to learn about it. I just think with the internet and the resources we have, you should do a little research.”

It’s not the first time Zendaya – who is of mixed heritage – has entered into the race debate. Earlier this year, she was involved in a racism row after Fashion Police host Giuliana Rancic said her dreadlocks looked like they smell of “weed”. In an impassioned Instagram post, Zendaya dismissed Rancic’s comments as “outrageously offensive” and said that she wore dreadlocks to “remind people of colour that our hair is good enough”.

Like Zendaya, fellow actress Amandla Stenberg has also been outspoken on the subject of cultural appropriation, from calling out Kylie Jenner for wearing cornrows to making a video (aptly titled Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows) which she described as a “crash discourse on black culture”. “What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?” she asked.

See Zendaya’s full response to Giuliana Rancic below: