When Katy Perry took the stage last night (Nov. 24) for her performance of new single “Unconditionally,” the last thing she thought she’d be called was a racist. Hours before, she tweeted a photo as a clue to the theme of her AMAs performance.
A 🌸clue🌸 to the theme of my AMA performance this evening! I will be OPENING the show & taking you on a trip!!! http://t.co/axoV5COKZV—
Katy Perry (@katyperry) November 24, 2013
Dressed as geisha while tribal drums were heard in the background, it was evident Perry was trying to pay homage to Japanese culture. Giant fans, cherry blossoms, a Shinto shrine and additional props made to look like The Great Wave off Kanagawa set the stage.
A show of her infatuation for the Japanese, Perry has never hidden her appreciation for the culture. Earlier this year, during an interview with Jimmy Kimmel she expressed just this.
“I am obsessed with Japanese people,” Perry said. “I love everything about them and they are so wonderful as human beings.”
What she said next though, raised some eyebrows.
“I’m so obsessed I want to skin you and wear you like Versace,” she joked.
While some saw her comments as admiration, others deemed her performance racist.
Her costume, which is a mix between a kimono and a Chinese cheongsam according to Jezebel, was more revealing than a Chinese woman would wear. Meanwhile, Vulture flagged her performance as racism, titling their post Music Awards Racism Spot-Check: Katy Perry Edition.
“Flanked by women playing the shamisen, Perry came out wearing a kimono and proceeded to throw out a lot of Japanese cultural touchstones,” they wrote.
The imagery and her dance moves only furthered the Japanese detailing as she danced like geisha with socks on her feet, her skin was painted a pale white and backup dancers waved detailed Japanese fans throughout the performance.
Jeff Yang of the Wall Street Journal further added to the conversation, claiming Perry’s performance was demeaning.
“The thing is, while a bucket of toner can strip the geisha makeup off of Perry’s face, nothing can remove the demeaning and harmful iconography of the lotus blossom from the West’s perception of Asian women — a stereotype that presents them as servile, passive, and as Perry would have it, ‘unconditional’ worshippers of their men, willing to pay any price and weather any kind of abuse in order to keep him happy.”
This isn’t the first time an artist has been ridiculed after their performance this year. In April, Selena Gomez angered Hindus during her Billboard Awards performance where she wore a bindi in a seductive performance of “Come & Get It.”
While many urged Gomez to leave the bindi at home for her next performance, some will be saying the same for Perry and her kimono and painted face.