White Swedish model accused of 'blackfishing' to gain more Instagram followers denies she darkened her skin tone
19-year-old Emma Hallberg has been accused of pretending to be black or of a mixed race to inflate her following on Instagram
A 19-year-old white Swedish model and Instagram influencer has found herself the target of the ire of social media users after it emerged that she may have been pretending to be black or of a darker complexion to gain more followers.
Emma Hallberg has cultivated a following of close to 250,000 on Instagram because of her good looks, trendy outfits, and impressive makeup skills. And those who take just a cursory look at the page can't be faulted for concluding that Hallberg is either black or of a mixed race, especially considering how she appears to have a dark complexion and curly hair in a majority of her uploads.
White girls if you want to pass as Black, how about using your platforms to address the injustices and discrimation actual Black people face. Don't just appropriate, Appreciate the people you are imitating #emmahallberg pic.twitter.com/gpmkvB0BZj— Niccole Nero Gaines (@2CsNiccole) 19 November 2018
However, all that came into question when a photo of her with much lighter skin surfaced on the internet, with many then calling the model out for "blackfishing" — a phenomenon, according to Teen Vogue, where white influencers are accused of "cosplaying" blackness by using makeup and hairstyles to look like they are women of color.
The allegation does hold some water, as the Daily Beast pointed out. The website wrote that in one of her uploads, Hallberg credits a wig/hair extension company called Ali Grace Hair for her locks, a brand that is reportedly predominately marketed to black women. It was also noted that despite clearly stating in her bio that she was Swedish, "she doesn't appear to be constrained by Scandinavian beauty standards."
Soon, she was the target of a barrage of criticism on Twitter. One user wrote, "Isn't it ironic how Black women are supposedly the least desired, yet White women are trying so hard to look like us. Check out this Swedish White girl Emma Hallberg trying to pass by darkening her appearance, teasing her hair and filling out her lips. WTF."
The same user continued her rant and posted, "White girls if you want to pass as Black, how about using your platforms to address the injustices and discrimination actual Black people face. Don't just appropriate, Appreciate the people you are imitating," while another tweeted, "Eyerolling at Emma Hallberg who thinks wearing a foundation that's 3 shades darker than her skin tone isn't blackfacing."
There were some that defended the model's actions, though those were few and far between. Eventually, the clamor was deafening enough for Hallberg to respond herself. Speaking to Teen Vogue, she insisted she had never claimed to be black and that she was sad she had offended people.
"My goal and intention is to look like myself and to share my makeup looks and outfits," she said. "My intentions have never been to look like a black woman." She also denied using tanners or tanning salons to darken her skin.
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The 19-year-old also addressed her Instagram followers directly. She first responded to a fan message directly, writing, "Yes I’m white and I’ve never claimed to be anything else. And by no way, there are no “before” pictures, the pictures that have been spread are just two different [sic] pictures taken on two different seasons of the year. [sic]"
Then, she defended herself again in a series of Instagram stories where she once again persisted that the two pictures were taken in two different seasons — the left one before summer and the right one after she had come home from a vacation.
Hallberg also shared a series of recent photos of herself with the darker skin tone and credited the change to spending a lot of time in the sun. For further proof that she wasn't lying, she uploaded pictures of her brother and father — both of whom had deep skin tones — and mother — who she said had naturally curly hair.
"In my YouTube videos, I use a darker foundation than my face only to match it to the rest of my body. Why my face is less tanned than my body is because I have some acne and scar issues so I use a lot of face scrubs, toners and peeling products," she wrote, before finally posting, "I do not get my sponsorships, work opportunities and collaborations because of the color of my skin. I get it because of the way I style my clothes and create makeup looks."