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What did Oli London say about the Ariana Grande 'Asian-fishing' backlash?

Yasmine Leung December 8, 2021
oli london ariana grande
Photo credit should read Marcus Cooper / Barcroft Media / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

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Self-described “transracial Korean” influencer Oli London is trending today after sharing his reaction to the recent Ariana Grande “Asian-fishing” debacle. It all started when she shared some recent photos in which, fans claim, her make up closely resembled the features commonly found in people of Asian ethnicity.

Cultural appropriation and fishing are common terms that circulate on social media, and celebs often end up with accusations of trying to look a different ethnicity than their own.

A recent case was singer Jesy Nelson, who was slammed with accusations of blackfishing after her Boyz video showed the singer sporting deeply tanned skin.

Ariana Grande is the latest artist subject to backlash, and it’s not the first time.

In 2019, articles claimed the singer looked a lot darker in her music videos. The same critics looked back on her 2016 MTV Awards performance of Side To Side with Nicki Minaj, where Redditors thought Grande’s skin had the tone as the rapper’s.

Now, the latest debacle involves claims of “Asian-fishing” after a photoshoot sees Ariana Grande sporting an updated makeup look. In response to the backlash, British influencer Oli London, who identifies as a transracial Korean, has shared his reaction by welcoming the singer into what he calls his transracial community.

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Asian-fishing claims and meaning explored

The Thank You, Next singer uploaded pictures of herself cutely posing in an oversized blazer, accessorised with a white bow and scarf. So far so 90s, right?

On to the make-up, the root of the controversy.

Grande had on her famous thick black eyeliner, paired with rosy smudged pink lips and pale pastel pink eyeshadow.

According to some comments on the image, this look was considered a case of “Asian-fishing” because, they said, “she’s trying to look Japanese“. Other commenters thought the look bore a too-striking resemblance to K-pop stars with their pale skin and glossy lip make-up.

Asian-fishing is the term used to describe a non-Asian who attempts to alter their appearance to look of Asian descent, notably east Asian.

According to The Boar, it is mostly seen through photo editing and make-up, where the eyes are made to look as though the eyelid has no prominent crease, common in many people of Asian origin.

The Boar clarifies it’s not gate-keeping the culture’s fashion and make-up techniques but non-east Asians doing it “for their own aesthetic purposes”.

Arianators have blasted the haters in return, claiming it was simply the camera flash that caused her eyes to look ”Asian”.

They’ve also pulled up other photos of Grande in the same outfit to prove their case.

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In response to the backlash, the singer promptly deleted the images in question from her feed, though they still remain on photographer Katia Temkin’s page.

Oli London ‘fully embraces’ Ariana Grande

British online personality Oli London is no stranger to the cultural appropriation backlash.

He gained internet-wide fame for his 20 surgeries meant to make him look like BTS member Jimin. Then, in June 2021, London came out as a non-binary Korean, labelling himself as transracial. Along with the announcement, he shared his pronouns.

More recently, the 31-year-old admitted that after his latest nose job in September 2021, he feels 95% Korean and adopted Jimin as his Korean name.

His transformation and advocacy for people to identify as whatever ethnicity they please has sparked a lot of online shade over the years, and the sentiment seems to be in full force after his series of tweets about Grande.

Although she has never called herself ‘transracial’, nor has she made any other statement regarding the photos, London appeared to praise Grande for “identifying as Asian”.

Whether his support of Grande’s new look can be taken as a tongue-in-cheek jab at London’s own detractors remains to be seen. What’s certain is that Oli seems hyped about it.

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Yasmine is a third-year Anthropology and Media student at Goldsmiths University with a new obsession with League of Legends, despite being really bad. She's always on social media keeping on top of the latest news and trends and is HITC’s expert in Korean pop culture. She also loves music, TV and fashion - her favourite things to write about.