What Ethnicity is Ariana Grande? Whichever One Makes Her the Most Money

credit: @mimicuttrell/Instagram

In recent years, many non-Black celebrities have been accused of Black-fishing to propel their success and stay relevant. And yet, when it comes time to mark major life events, they return to their white aesthetics.

The Kardashians, Bebe Rexha, Bhad Bhabie, Addison Rae, and Ariana Grande are among some notable celebs who have selectively donned visibly darker skin, strategically placed fillers, traditional Black hairstyles, and long pierced acrylic nails.

Black-fishing is defined as a type of interpersonal racism that occurs when a non-Black person co-opts stereotyped Black aesthetics and AAVE, commodifying it to leverage their success and persona, regardless of intention. Typically, these appropriated traits have led to harmful stereotypes, biases, and further ingrained systemic racism for Black people, while affording viral trends and career success to the non-Black appropriators.

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A post shared by Mimi Cuttrell (@mimicuttrell)

With the rise of K-pop, we’ve seen another trend of racial appropriation in the form of Asian-fishing. The traits of Asian-fishing include manipulating one’s makeup to create the appearance of phenotypical East Asian features, fair skin, maintaining a slender physique, and speaking in a high-pitched voice, playing into the stereotype that Asian women are docile and to be fetishized.

No stranger to accusations of Black-fishing, Ariana Grande has recently been called out for Asian-fishing in a recent photoshoot that arguably makes her skin look very fair, with her makeup being done in a way that creates the monolid effect with a fox eye shape. Many have taken to Twitter and Reddit to point out her history of racial ambiguity to build her success and relevance in the spotlight.

Perhaps the most notable tweet about Grande’s newest photoshoot comes from the ultimate Asian-fishing person himself, Oli London who claims to be “transracial” Korean even though he is white and British. In the tweet, he congratulates Ariana for “coming out” as a transracial Asian. If that doesn’t scream Asian-fishing red flags, what does?

It is time for Ariana and her styling team to reassess her aesthetic career choices after years of being called out. In 2019, the “7 Rings” music video by Grande received attention for its appropriation of Black culture, her Black-fishing, and the fetishizing of Asian culture. She performed confidently with dark tanned skin, using AAVE in her lyrics, and then tattooed what she thought was “7 Rings” on the palm of her hand in Japanese (her tattoo actually meant barbeque grill).

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A post shared by Ariana Grande (@arianagrande)

Conversely, at her wedding to Dalton Gomez, Ariana presented in her true form, ditching the skin tanner, and wearing makeup and accessories that did not distort her race or ethnicity.

So why do we see her switching in and out of racial aesthetics at some times and not others? Instagram page The Darkest Hue explored this topic in a post stating that celebrities like Ariana “know when to turn Black aesthetics on and off.”

It is notable that during an event like her wedding, which is the ultimate metaphor for feminine “purity” and white womanhood in the US, she would revert to her natural appearance for her big day. This seemingly sends the message that her fascination with Black and Asian cultures is only for commodification when it’s time for her to make money and build her career. Meanwhile, personal milestones can be represented by her white womanhood.

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A post shared by Ariana Grande (@arianagrande)

Non-black celebrities and entertainers like Ariana Grande know that to stay at the top of the charts and maintain career success, they need to blend into whatever holds the audience’s attention captive in any given social moment. Much of Ariana’s music success can be attributed to the foundations laid by Black music styles and the visual aesthetics to match. With her recent photoshoot and past representation of East Asian culture, we can now presume that she has caught on to the rising trend of the K-pop genre.

There is a reason that when you type “what ethnicity is…” into Google, the first name to come up is Ariana Grande. At what point do celebrities like Grande take accountability for how they’ve built their careers and at whose expense? Her continued lack of understanding about the systemic racism faced by Black people along with the violence experienced by Asian-Americans, all while picking elements of both cultures to leverage her career, is troubling.

It’s time she acknowledges the white privilege that allows her to move through various appearances while avoiding the racism and violence that comes with actually being born Black or Asian in North America.


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Alicia Khan
Alicia (she/her) is passionate about bringing equity to life through a critical and fearless lens, even if it gets uncomfortable (that is where growth happens after all). When she isn't busy writing, working, or studying, she loves to curl up with a good manga, build her Sailor Moon collection, binge-watch Netflix, or catch up with friends over comfort food.