Polish-born University of Birmingham student Aga Brzostowska has been increasingly branded “a blackfish”, which is a word frequently used in reference to those accused of pretending to be black or half-African on the Internet due to their darker skin, plumper lips, bigger posterior and distinctive hairstyle.
In self-defence, Aga rejected claims when speaking to Radio 1 Newsbeat that she was faking her race, saying she is “not pale” by nature and she obtains her bronze skin colour by natural tanning, which she sees nothing “malicious” in.
"So I don't feel like I need to stop doing something because… why would I stop doing something that's benefitting me or that I enjoy doing?" Aga, who asked to be referred to as Alicja, said. According to her, adopting black people’s looks is not about suggesting that “white privilege is not a thing”, as she pure and simply likes them.
She wants to get across to the general public that the assumptions that some make are not grounded and completely “wrong”. She referred to a collage of two of her pictures circulating online, one of which features her with white complexion, whereas in the second she appears to be wearing a deep bronze tan and mimicking fuller lips.
"I understand why the Twitter thread was made. And it makes sense to use my pictures, because without looking at anything or knowing me, it makes sense to put those two pictures together because obviously you can see a mad difference — a crazy difference”, she said, adding that she is not upset about her pictures being seen by those who don’t know her personally.
She claimed the striking difference between the two images has natural causes– namely tiresome work-outs in the gym and sun bathing having hair braided while on holiday. This is where human stereotypical thinking comes in: people, upon learning that she is Polish, imagine fair skin and are thus surprised to see that she is not that type.
Meanwhile, Swedish girl Emma Hallberg, who boasts an over 260,000-strong army of Instagram subscribers, is the most infamous “blackfish” to date. She similarly stood up in her own defence telling Buzzfeed that the tan she gets is natural, “from the sun”.
"I'm proud to be Polish but I don't know why I look like this — my features are just there. I can't help that I have big lips and not the stereotypical Polish features", she says, adding that she was even told to kill herself after she posted her pictures.
The same vision was shared by another accused girl, 19-year-old Jaiden Gumbayan from Jacksonville, Florida, who said she was not by any means pretending to be a different race and that there is a "fine line between appreciation and appropriation". According to her, reactions vary – from taking the move as an incredible flattery to considering it to be an appropriation of a culture without knowing “the history behind it”.
“Blackfishing” has been on everybody’s lips since writer Wanna Thompson’s Twitter thread, which brought together women accused of imitating black looks, became top trending last month. Responding to people’s questions over the importance of the issue, Dara Thurmond, a nurse from New York told Newsbeat that black people’s self-identity and their attention to it have "always been frowned upon".
She suggested that white women adopting the looks of a black woman don’t have the vaguest idea of "the struggle that black women go through just to be accepted as who they are".
A name which has been often brought up in Twitter threads is that of Kim Kardashian and her trend-setting with regard to her famed mixed-race looks. Dara said that she wasn’t surprised to learn about “blackfishing”, since according to her, “white-presenting people feel like they are not the standard any more”, which prompts them to do things to retain popularity.