At first glance, Emma Hallberg’s Instagram page looks like that of any other young, pretty social-media influencer of a certain age.
Most of her photos are selfies, and nearly all of them see Hallberg pouting provocatively at the camera. In one photo, Hallberg poses in a neon green bodycon dress—her curvy figure, tan skin, and long, straight dark hair clearly the focus. “Neon colors always makes [sic] you look summer tanned,” the caption reads. In another photo, Hallberg crouches in front of a mirror, decked out in in a tube top, jeans, and thigh-high boots from Cardi B-endorsed clothing line Fashion Nova. Her caption, fittingly, seems to have been ripped straight from the Bronx rapper’s own Instagram page: “I could buy designer but this @fashionnova fit !”
There’s just one catch: Hallberg, despite Instagram evidence to the contrary, is white.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Hallberg could be black, or mixed-race, or at the very least a woman of color. Her skin tone and hair seem to suggest a nonwhite background, and her penchant for long nails, hoop earrings, and curve-friendly clothes from the likes of Fashion Nova only further the assumption. In one photo, she also credits a wig/hair extension company, Ali Grace Hair, for her luscious locks—a brand predominately marketed to black women. And even though Hallberg’s bio clearly states “SWEDE | SWEDEN,” she doesn’t appear to be constrained by Scandinavian beauty standards at all. Her 200,000-plus Instagram followers seem to be largely unbothered by the fact that Hallberg presents herself as nonwhite.
Hallberg is merely one of many white or white-passing women on Instagram who’ve gained attention in recent weeks for their controversial styling that mimics the skin tone, hair, and aesthetic of many black women, and their unwillingness to be transparent about their non-black heritage—a practice dubbed “blackfishing” on social media. Most of these white women have significant Instagram followings, and most of them feel immune to criticisms of cultural appropriation—at least until a controversial Twitter thread called them out last week.
Aggregated by a since-suspended account called “NiggerFished,” which pulled most of its content from a previous thread by @Wannasworld, the thread (and account) sought to highlight “white people posing as black people on social media.” The thread quickly went viral before being deleted, and called into question the motivation of many white social-media influencers posing as black online, or at the very least, not immediately quashing assumptions that they were POC.
Instagram user Alicja Brzotowska, called out in the Twitter thread, could fall into the latter category. The 20-year-old, London-based Instagrammer has a staggering 22,000 followers, and frequently posts selfies highlighting her curvy physique. Coupled with her dark hair and tan skin, Brozotowska definitely doesn’t read as Caucasian at first glance. Recent photos and Instagram stories featuring Brzotowska sporting designer durags and box braids do little to dispel the notion that she’s not white.
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