Pharrell Apologizes to Natives For Headdress, Why it Was Inappropriate


Pop star, producer/songwriter Pharrell sparked controversy when his Elle UK cover was revealed yesterday. The Voice coach’s choice of headwear–an Indian headdress–sparked anger from some members of the Native American community and their allies who felt it was disrespectful. Tweets expressing displeasure were tagged #NotHappy.

The controversy became so heated, that he released a statement apologizing:

“I respect and honor every kind of race, background and culture. I am genuinely sorry.”

A few of the disappointed comments on Pharrell’s Facebook page include:

Taino Ray: How can you do something so stupid and disrespectfulll.. you are not a Chief Pharrel.. The eagle feathers are sacred… Even if you are part Native the headdress is off limits… Its for Warriors and people of the plains culture.. You don’t have the right to wear that Pharrel… neither does Cher or Emerson Windy… You guys don’t get it…. You will learn the hard way by us Natives telling you so…

Gail Lichtsinn: You have no right to wear a headress that is so sacred to native people..Those headresses are earned and not worn to make a buck or draw attention..They have meaning and are worn by our men with pride and dignity..This is a mockery of a proud people..We are not a joke and take these things very seriously..Go back to wearing your OWN clothes

For those of you wondering what the big deal is, MTV asked Native Americans to explain the significance of the headdress, and why even a somebody, like Pharrell, who has Native heritage isn’t entitled to wear it. It’s a really interesting read. I learned A LOT that I didn’t know before. Here are are a few snips:

“Both feathers and face paint have purpose and often spiritual significance depending on tribal protocol and individual interpretation. In Native cultures, both feathers and face paint are earned through actions and deeds that bring honor to both tribes and nations. Individuals [outside the community] who wear feathers or face paint were not given the rights or permissions to wear them. This is analogous to casually wearing a purple heart or medal of honor that was not earned.” — Dennis Zotigh, Cultural Specialist, National Museum of the American Indian

“First of all, if he is part-Native American — which he very well may be — well maybe then he should know better than to put a war bonnet on. Just because you are part-Native American doesn’t mean you can put a war bonnet on. What do you do for Native Americans? What parts of the culture are you involved in? If the best you could do is say, ‘I am Native American and I can put a war bonnet on,’ that is pretty sad.” — Cliff Matias, Director of Redhawk Native American Arts Council

“[Wearing a headdress] could be similar to if the [shtreimel] became hip. Or the headdress that the pope wears — if [kids] started wearing that, if that became a trend. I am sure any Catholic people might be disrespected. So for our people, it is the same way.” — Cliff Matias, Director of Redhawk Native American Arts Council

About mj santilli 34025 Articles
Founder and editor of, home of the awesomest fan community on the net. I love cheesy singing shows of all kinds, whether reality or scripted. I adore American Idol, but also love The Voice, Glee, X Factor and more!