Summer Walker accused of appropriating, sexualizing Hmong culture with provocative outfit

R&B artist Summer Walker is facing backlash for wearing an outfit to a performance at the Arena that repurposed a traditional Hmong necklace called a xauv for a revealing two-piece. 

Centuries ago, the Hmong people were enslaved by the Chinese and forced to wear necklaces for identification. After their independence, they designed a necklace called a xauv, meaning “lock,” in remembrance of the hardships of their past. Today, xauvs are worn during traditional celebrations as a poignant symbol of the Hmong identity. 

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Many members of the Hmong community took to social media to voice their frustrations toward Walker and her designer’s alleged appropriation and sexualization of a sacred cultural accessory.

The designer of the outfit, who identified as being of "South Asian and Indian" descent, has since apologized for not crediting Hmong culture in the design of Walker’s outfit.

“We didn’t mean to offend anyone and yes we should have put the right captions and hashtags,” they responded in an Instagram direct message on the account of their design company Laurel Street to an angry netizen. “We have since removed the post because we do not wish to engage in further negativity.”

Still, some remained outraged over Walker and her designer’s alleged lack of cultural awareness.

This is not the first time that Walker’s actions have drawn the ire of the Asian American community. In 2020, Walker was accused of perpetuating xenophobic narratives during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic when she posted a 2-year-old video depicting Chinese civilians and misleadingly captioned “spreading the coronavirus to the public,” which has since been deleted.  

Feature Image via @summerwalker (left) and Jessica Yang (right)

Editor’s Note (6/28/2022): A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that "xauv" translates to "lock" rather than "chain."