Adele is holding herself accountable for wearing Bantu knots and a Jamaican flag last year, sharing in a new interview that she took in the criticism for cultural appropriation around her controversial Notting Hill Carnival outfit.
The musician opened up about new music, her divorce, and a variety of other topics in two cover interviews for Vogue and British Vogue. Among them was the cultural appropriation incident, which she told writer Giles Hattersley about in the British Vogue cover story.
Last year, she uploaded a picture of herself at a party wearing a bikini top made out of the Jamaican flag and Bantu knots while on holiday in Jamaica. Her intention had been to show support for the Notting Hill Carnival, an annual event in London that celebrates Caribbean culture and is an important event for Black British people. Her post is still up, despite the backlash she received.
“I could see comments being like, ‘the nerve to not take it down,’ which I totally get. But if I take it down, it’s me acting like it never happened,” Adele told British Vogue. “And it did. I totally get why people felt like it was appropriating.” She had believed, “If you don’t go dressed to celebrate the Jamaican culture – and in so many ways we’re so entwined in that part of London [West London] – then it’s a little bit like, ‘What you coming for, then?’” But she admitted, “I didn’t read the f**king room.” Having not heeded the warnings of Black women across the internet, Adele also added, “I was wearing a hairstyle that is actually to protect Afro hair. Ruined mine, obviously.”
Her candor is appreciated, since the moment took many by surprise considering Adele has shown herself to be a person who understands some of the systemic challenges Black people face regularly. In her Vogue interview, she elaborated further on what happened at the 2017 Grammys, when her album 25 won over Beyonce’s Lemonade. Adele expressed in her acceptance speech at the time that she felt the Grammy should have gone to Beyoncé, and she doubled down on those sentiments in the Vogue profile. “My personal opinion is that Beyoncé definitely should have won,” she said, adding that she had just assumed Beyoncé would win until the ceremony started. “I just got this feeling: ‘I f**king won it.’ I got overwhelmed, with, like, ‘I will have to go and tell her how much her record means to me.’ I’m getting a bit emotional.”
So she did — the “Chasing Pavements” singer went to Beyoncé’s dressing room after the ceremony and had a private conversation with the superstar. “I just said to her, like, the way that the Grammys works, and the people who control it at the very, very top—they don’t know what a visual album is,” Adele said. “They don’t want to support the way that she’s moving things forward with her releases and the things that she’s talking about.”
Adele also went on to speak on the impact on Beyonce’s sixth studio album. “For my friends who are women of color, it was such a huge acknowledgment for them, of the sort of undermined grief that they go through,” Adele told Vogue. “For her to nail that on the head, and also bring in the entire globe? I was like, ‘This album is my album, she just knows what I’m going through.’ That album was not written for me. But yet I could still feel like, this is the biggest gift.”
Adele is well aware that Black people have to be extraordinary, sometimes even revolutionizing the industry they work in, to succeed — and even then still won’t gain the rewards they deserve. She has also shown that even allies will make mistakes. However, listening and acknowledging those mistakes is what can make all the difference. And do you know what that is? Growth.
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