ella Hadid went sneaker shopping with Complex magazine last week and the results are somehow already the stuff of internet legend. During the nearly eight minute interview, Hadid managed to drop such cringeworthy attempts at urban approximation as "dope," "fresh," and "homeboy", all the while posturing and posing in an outfit that could only be described as knockoff Aaliyah, circa 1999.
So, aside from being terribly awkward, what was so bad about it?
Hadid had attempted to code-switch, and she'd done so in the most awkward way possible. What is code-switching, you ask?
According to NPR (which has an entire blog devoted to the topic), code-switching is “the practice of shifting the languages you use or the way you express yourself in your conversations.”
But... everyone code switches, and yes, that includes you.
If you’ve ever changed the way you talk because you’re in a different context – say, for example, not saying the word “dude”, as in, “dude, killer waves, brah” to your boss, then you have code-switched.
Back to Bella Hadid. Why was her use of code-switching cringeworthy and problematic? Probably because it wasn’t authentic.
Bella Hadid was raised on a ranch in Santa Barbara, California. This is important because Santa Barbara is not a place you typically associate with the words "dope" and "fresh."
Yet, Hadid managed to drop each at least three times during the interview. Importantly, these are all words that are commonly associated with black culture.
Other gems of culturally head-scratching dialogue included her invitation to “let’s get it,” at the beginning of the article, which had people wondering what she, a top model and heir of the Hadid fortune was so eager to get.
There was also the fact that she not-so-casually dropped the word “dope” at least four times during the interview, despite the fact that it did not slip casually off her tongue.
When Hadid uttered the words "If homebody is coming through with these," Twitter gave a collective shudder of embarrassment. Which begged the question, why code switch to a culture that wasn't hers?
Granted Hadid is known for dating such African American celebrities as The Weeknd, but there is a long history of white women (Hadid is Dutch and Palestinian) appropriating black culture to further their ambitions, only to discard it once they’re done.
Hadid’s strange verbiage during the interview seemed performative because it was a performance. She was performing to her perceived audience and that was why people had a problem.
Which brings us back to NPR's explanation of code-switching.
Why do people code-switch? There’s all the usual reasons, like because it’s easy, it’s comfortable, it’s what we’re used to. But there’s another, more insidious reason – because we want something.
As NPR notes, “If you can pull off the right accent in the right context, you can get all kinds of favors.” Like, maybe ingratiating yourself with the black community, or making yourself seem more “down.”
Hadid, unfortunately, couldn’t, which is why she left us with this beautifully awful clip that will live on in internet infamy.