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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Chelsea Ritschel

Kanye West accused of ‘misogyny’ after attacking Gabriella Karefa-Johnson over ‘White Lives Matter’ criticism


Fans have come to the defence of fashion editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson after Kanye West singled her out on Instagram for criticising his “White Lives Matter” shirts.

On Monday, West sparked backlash when he appeared at his Yeezy SZN 9 presentation in Paris wearing a shirt emblazoned with the phrase “White Lives Matter.” He later sent models down the runway in shirts bearing the same slogan, before posing for photos with controversial conservative figure Candace Owens, who was also wearing the shirt.

As noted by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), “White Lives Matter” is a “white supremacist phrase that originated in early 2015 as a racist response to the Black Lives Matter movement”. The phrase has also been frequently used by supporters of former president Donald Trump.

Following the show, Karefa-Johnson, the creative director of Garage magazine and a global Vogue contributing editor, condemned West’s use of the phrase on her Instagram Stories. She posted a video of a model walking the runway in the shirt and wrote: “...Here comes the bullsh*t…

“I’m fuming… collecting my thoughts… indefensible behaviour.”

In a follow-up post, Karefa-Johnson included a screenshot of a message she’d sent to a friend about the use of the slogan, in which she claimed that West is “not fully aware of the difference between appropriating BLM [Black Lives Matter] and subverting the ‘Make America Great Again’ hat,” worn by Trump and his supporters.

Gabriella Karefa-Johnson condemned Kanye West for use of ‘White Lives Matter’ slogan (Gabriella Karefa-Johnson)

According to the journalist, she could see how the infamous red hat, when worn by West, became about “liberation”. She also claimed to understand West’s intention with the shirts, noting that he was “trying to illustrate a dystopian world in the future when whiteness might become extinct or at least would be in enough danger to demand defence”.

Gabriella Karefa-Johnson says West’s behaviour was ‘deeply offensive, violent and dangerous’ (Gabriella Karefa-Johnson)

However, she said the concept “didn’t land,” and was “deeply offensive, violent and dangerous”.

Fashion editor reflected on West’s ‘White Lives Matter’ shirts on her Instagram after fashion show (Gabriella Karefa-Johnson )

In a screenshot of additional iMessages she’d sent, Karefa-Johnson also claimed that it was “hugely irresponsible” of West to suggest “the idea that white supremacy is in danger of extinction”.

In a follow-up post on her Instagram Stories, Karefa-Johnson clarified that her thoughts on West’s show weren’t “some sort of distorted justification” of the shirts, before noting that there is “no excuse” for the rapper’s behaviour.

“Please understand: it wasn’t. The T-shirts this man conceived, produced, and shared with the world are pure violence,” she wrote. “There is no excuse, there is no art here.”

Gabriella Karefa-Johnson condemns West as she claims ‘there is no art here’ (Gabriella Karefa-Johnson)

West appeared to react to Karefa-Johnson’s comments on his own Instagram on Tuesday. He shared a screenshot of her Instagram profile on his page and, in another post, the Yeezy designer appeared to mock the journalist’s appearance and fashion sense to his 17.9 million followers. He shared a photo of Karefa-Johnson with the caption: “This is not a fashion person You speak on Ye Ima speak on you Ask Trevor Noah.”

In a third post about Karefa-Johnson, the rapper posted a close-up photo of her shoes, along with a caption that insinuated Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour “hates these boots”.

Notably, Karefa-Johnson became the first Black woman to style a Vogue cover in 2020. She later styled Vice President Kamala Harris for her own cover, as well as Gigi Hadid’s Vogue cover.

West’s posts have been met with mixed reactions, though mostly negative. Many condemned the rapper’s behaviour and accused him of “racism” and misogyny.

“If Gabriella Karefa-Johnson’s outfit was on Bella Hadid he would be claiming that it’s revolutionary. Kanye hates Black people and also fat people. Kanye is a basic racist and fat-phobic misogynist,” one person tweeted.

Another said: “Gabriella gave Kanye far more grace than he deserved in the first place, this is just nasty coming from him.”

“So repulsive to see Kanye West dedicating his time/Instagram to ripping Gabriella Karefa-Johnson to shreds considering how thoughtfully she engaged with the statement he made at his show,” someone else wrote.

West also appeared to face backlash from his peers over his bullying of Karefa-Johnson, sharing a screenshot of a text he seemingly received from fashion designer Mowalola Ogunlesi. In the post, Ogunlesi shared her disapproval over the posts.

“I also don’t think you should insult that writer. You could actually have [a] real conversation about the tee,” the text reads.

Hadid also reportedly condemned the rapper’s behaviour towards Karefa-Johnson, with the supermodel writing in the comments under West’s Instagram post: “You wish you had a per centage of her intellect. You have no idea haha…. If there’s actually a point to any of your sh*t. She might be the only person that could save u. As if the ‘honour’ of being invited to your show should keep someone from giving their opinion? Lol. You’re a bully and a joke,” according to E! News.

Karefa-Johnson was far from the only person to lambast West for his use of the slogan during the Yeezy show. He also faced public backlash from the likes of supermodel Linda Evangelista and actor and rapper Jaden Smith.

West addressed the backlash over the shirts in yet another post shared to his Instagram Story, writing: “Everyone knows that Black Lives Matter was a scam. Now it’s over. You’re welcome.”

The Independent has contacted Karefa-Johnson and a representative for West for comment.

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