Kaunda Selisho
Lifestyle Journalist
2 minute read
14 Nov 2018
2:31 pm

Blackfishing explained

Kaunda Selisho

Various European and American social media influencers have been accused of practising a new-age form of blackface.

Swedish teen Emma Hallberg has been accused of presenting herself as a racially ambiguous women to win more social media followers | Image: Twitter

Swedish teen Emma Hallberg is among the many Instagram users who have been accused of starting and unashamedly taking part in a new phenomenon that has been dubbed “blackfishing” or “n****rfishing.”

What is blackfishing?

Blackfishing refers to the practice of a white person presenting themselves as mixed race or racially ambiguous on social media to pander to a particular aesthetic, and therefore gaining more followers.

It has been viewed as a modern incarnation of blackface – the theatrical makeup used predominantly by non-black performers to represent a caricature of a black person. It is and has been considered a racially insensitive representation of blackness by black people all over the world.

There is no confirmation about who the first culprit of the new wave is or when they were identified but more social media users have been outed as being guilty of this practice in recent days.

The girls in the photos posted and shared numerous times online are significantly darker than they were in old photos, which have been dug up and used as a comparison.

Some of the girls in the photos can also be seen sporting traditionally black hairstyles such as dreadlocks and braids – a practice that has often been dubbed cultural appropriation.

Photos of these girls have been reposted numerous times on accounts aimed at celebrating black women and their hairstyles or makeup looks.

According to their followers, they have never corrected these pages for sharing their images and labelling them black women.


Fans have expressed their disappointment since finding out that their “faves” are not what they have been presenting themselves as. Some even reached out to Hallberg to ask her about her true ethnic background.

Hallberg has denied presenting herself as anything other than white and has claimed the before and after photos of her were merely taken during different times of the year.

When quizzed about her complexion by Buzzfeed, Hallberg attributed her look to “a deep tan naturally from the sun”.

The general consensus about the phenomenon seems to be disappointment in those found guilty of this practice, as many feel they are commodifying blackness as a means of personal gain.

This is due to the fact that the girls identified in the pictures are influencers and performers and earn a living from their appearances and social media feeds.

In addition, they are cashing in on sporting features that naturally occur among black women but are not met with the same level of admiration and enthusiasm.


While there are a few who have come to Hallberg’s defence, the overall consensus is she was wrong and she either needs to stop or face the backlash of a boycott on her social media accounts.

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