Kanye West shrugs off ‘White Lives Matter’ shirt criticism

Criticism has descended on rapper-designer Kanye West – legally named Ye – after he and conservative pundit Candace Owens wore White Lives Matter shirts at Paris Fashion Week on Monday.

Now, models Gigi Hadid and Selah Marley, rapper Jaden Smith, fashion editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, and Vogue magazine itself are all caught in the storm.

Then Ye’s former sister-in-law Khloé Kardashian caused a mini-storm after the rapper-entrepreneur all by herself drew her nieces and nephews into the mix.

The WLM shirts were part of Monday’s Yeezy Season 9 fashion show in Paris. The shirts – his black, Owen’s white – had “White Lives Matter” written on the back. Each shirt had a picture of a different pope on the front – Owens’s read Juan Pablo, Ye’s showed Juan Pablo II (John Paul II). The Spanish words “Seguiremos Tu Ejemplo’ emblazoned at the top: ‘We will follow your example.’

The next day, amid an outraged backlash on Twitter, Ye posted on Instagram, “Everyone knows Black Lives Matter was a scam,” apparently referring to reports of alleged financial misconduct by BLM’s nonprofit leaders. “Now it’s over. You’re welcome,” he added.

Commentary on Ye’s decision to publicly flaunt the phrase came quickly.

Rapper-actor Smith, the son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, actually left Yes’s Monday show and then followed suit series from tweets in which he said, “I had to dunk lol. True leaders lead. I don’t care who it is if I don’t feel the message that I’m out. Black Lives Matter. We demand a more progressive future.”

On Tuesday, Smith tweeted in a series, “Think for yourself, have your own opinion. Follow your own morals instead of people. he does not Have the full support of the youth.”

Most notably, Karefa-Johnson, Vogue’s global fashion editor, had posted her thoughts on the show after it happened, saying in part (via ET) that “the t-shirts that this man conceives, produces and interacts with the world shared are pure violence” and “There is no excuse, there is no art here”.

Ye then nudged the bear by posting — according to Billboard and Page Six — a full-length photo of Karefa-Johnson taken during Paris Fashion Week wearing a long brown trench coat, striped knit skirt, yellow graphic tee and a brown lace-up wore boots with a blue Balenciaga handbag.

A woman poses in a bohemian combination of clothing during Paris Fashion Week.

Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, Global Editor at Large for Vogue, during Paris Fashion Week.

(Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

In the caption, he said, “This isn’t a fashion person.” He also posted a shot of him zooming in on the boots and noting, “I KNOW ANNA HAAAATES THESE BOOTS.” (The Anna in question is Anna Wintour, Global Chief Content Officer of Condé Nast and Editor-in-Chief of Vogue.)

Both posts have since been deleted, but the controversy rages on.

Speaking out in defense of Karefa-Johnson, model Hadid addressed Ye in an IG comment: “You wish you had a percentage of her intellect. You have no idea haha… If any of you really have sense, she might be the only person who could save you. As if the ‘honor’ of being invited to your show should stop anyone from voicing their opinion…? lol You are a bully and a joke.”

But it turns out the rapper and the fashion editor met in New York the day after the Yes show. Vogue magazine confirmed the meeting in its Instagram post, in which it defended its editor overall.

“Vogue stands with Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, our global fashion editor and longtime collaborator,” the magazine wrote. “She was personally attacked and bullied. It’s not acceptable. Now voices like hers are needed more than ever, and in a private meeting with Ye today, she once again spoke her truth on how she felt best, on her terms.”

“Gab is my sister,” Ye wrote in capital letters on Instagram on Tuesday, lifting up a photo Karefa-Johnson posted to her own feed. “I don’t let people go to bed because I think I didn’t meet up with Gabrielle for two hours at 5pm today, then we went to Ferdie’s for dinner [restaurant in New York City]. Anna had [‘Elvis’ director] Baz Luhrmann is filming our meeting and we’re editing tonight. We took photos and I was told not to post them.”

He continued, “It felt like she was being used like Trevor Noah and other black people to talk about my facial expression. She explained that her company didn’t tell her to talk about my t-shirt expression. We apologized for making each other feel like we really understand each other and for both having to experience the struggle to be accepted in a world that isn’t our own.

“She disagreed, I disagreed, we disagreed,” he wrote. “At least we both love Ferdie and love fashion.”

A model walks a high fashion catwalk during a show in Paris.

Gigi Hadid walks the runway as Stella McCartney’s Spring/Summer 2023 ready-to-wear collection is presented in Paris on Monday.

(Vianney Le Caer / Invision / Associated Press)

Karefa-Johnson chimed in just after midnight on Wednesday, writing on her Instagram Stories, “Today I literally said ‘Hiiii-yah’… *Roundhouse kick to the face, very Mortal Kombat.

“Your girl went through it! I’m exhausted but I’m so moved and grateful for the love I’ve received (here and elsewhere) over the past 24 hours,” she continued. “I feel so blessed to be part of a community that shows up like this for me. One thing about me: I will always speak my mind and always try to honor my truth. My thoughts are my own and I stand by them. Thank you all for supporting me in this.”

But model Selah Marley — the child of Lauryn Hill and Rohan Marley, son of reggae legend Bob Marley — sided with Yes after wearing her own White Lives Matter shirt during his show, which was styled as a dress and co-ed with casual oversize models were combined with boots.

On her Instagram Stories early Tuesday, she wrote: “The last 24 hours has allowed me to realize that most of you are stuck in a crush mentality. You do what the group tells you and you think what the group tells you. Seeing someone deviate from the “agenda” gives you all such a panic that you will do anything to put them back in the box you think they should exist in.”

Marley said she cannot be bullied, manipulated or silenced.

She later wrote to Ye in a DM, which the rapper reposted on his Instagram Stories: “You may be sleeping but I think what we did obviously led to a lot of conversations and I want us to have that conversation.” continue and provide the depth & clarity we are both extremely capable of. I love taking risks and embracing freedom, but in this case I think we can further discuss the depth behind our choices to show the purity of our intentions and offer healing to our community. Love you so much. Let’s keep going – in a healthy way.”

One person who took Yes’s t-shirt stunt personally was Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-James, who spoke to Rolling Stone through her attorney. Arbery was the 25-year-old black man who was chased and shot by three white men while jogging in a Brunswick, Georgia neighborhood in February 2020.

“As a result of his portrayal, ‘White Lives Matter’ began to trend in the US, which would directly support and legitimize extremist behavior. [much] like the behavior that took her son’s life,” attorney Lee Merritt said in a statement on behalf of Cooper-James. “That’s the thing Wanda and families like hers continue to fight against.”

Merritt said Yes’s mockery of the BLM movement and denouncing it as “some kind of hoax” was contradictory given the support rapper Cooper-James offered after Arbery was killed.

“It’s confusing for them,” Merritt continued, “it’s confusing for the families to have his support privately but publicly set us all back.”

After all of that — and having recently divorced Kim Kardashian, the mother of his four children — Ye took the public conversation in a different direction early Wednesday.

“Then why did everyone feel so free to attack me for my t-shirt,” he posted on Instagram. “But Candace Owens was the only socialite to say it was wrong for the Kardashians to keep me from seeing my daughter.

“Or we just meddle when we want to take down a black man because he actually has a different political opinion. And for all the viewers who were so outraged by my t-shirt, where were you when I couldn’t see my kids? I went public at the time hoping for public support.”

Khloé Kardashian didn’t have it.

“Yes I love you. I don’t want to do this on social media but YOU keep bringing it here,” she wrote in a comment on Instagram. “You’re the father of my nieces and nephews and I’m trying to be respectful, but please stop tearing Kimberly down and using our family if you want to be a distraction.

“Again with the birthday story. That’s enough. We all know the truth and I think everyone is fed up with it,” she continued. “You know exactly where your children are at all times, and YOU wanted separate birthdays. I’ve seen all the lyrics to prove it. And when you changed your mind and wanted to participate, you came.

“As you pointed out yourself, she’s the one who takes care of your kids 80% of the time. Please let her and the family out of there so that the children can grow up peacefully… Coming from a place of love, I am happy to continue this conversation privately if you wish.”

Ye exploded in response, even after saying last month he apologized to Kim Kardashian “for any stress I’ve caused myself in my frustration because God is calling me to be stronger.”

“You lie and are liars,” he fired back at Khloé in all caps.

On Wednesday, the rapper-designer posted more food for thought on his Instagram page.

“WHO,” he asked, “SHOULD PLAY ME IN A YE FILM?” Then he himself replied in the caption, “My choice is Jamie Foxx. One of the greatest geniuses.”

But he hasn’t flipped over the Paris Fashion Week fiasco just yet. Later Wednesday afternoon he posted a photo showing the back of this White Lives Matter shirt and said:

“Here’s my latest response when people ask me why I made a t-shirt that says white lives matter… THEY DO.”

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2022-10-05/kanye-west-vogue-white-lives-matter-shirts-controversy Kanye West shrugs off ‘White Lives Matter’ shirt criticism

Sarah Ridley

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