Cultural appreciation or appropriation? Utah teen's traditional Chinese prom outfit creates a flutter

A Utah teenager who wore a traditional Chinese dress to prom is speaking out following outrage over what many were calling a “racist” and culturally insensitive choice of attire.

                            Cultural appreciation or appropriation? Utah teen's traditional Chinese prom outfit creates a flutter
(Source: Getty Images)

An Utah teen faced backlash for wearing a traditional Chinese dress to her prom night, with many accusing her of cultural appropriation.

However, 18-year-old Keziah Daum stands by her decision and was supported by many who said there was nothing wrong in it.

Daum was pressurized by many social media users to delete an April 22 tweet in which she posed in a red cheongsam with her prom date, reported Fox News.

On Wednesday morning, Daum appeared on "Fox and Friends" where she asserted that she never intended on "mocking" the Chinese culture but rather chose the attire to celebrate it.

“For prom, I decided to go to a vintage shop in downtown Salt Lake, and I was looking for a dress that had a modest neckline and was unique. And the second I saw this dress I was immediately drawn to it and its beauty, and I bought it,” Daum stated on “Fox and Friends."

She added that until she posted photos from the night on her Twitter, no one took issue with her outfit.

“That’s when I started getting some responses. And I wasn’t expecting it … So it caught me by surprise.”

Soon after Daum posted the photos, she received negative comments from various Twitter users calling her  “ignorant,” “sad,” or simply a “closet racist.” Initially, Daum clarified that she “mean[s] no disrespect to the Chinese culture” and refused to apologize for her decision.

"To everyone causing so much negativity," she tweeted on Saturday. "I mean no disrespect to the Chinese culture. I'm simply showing my appreciation to their culture. I'm not deleting my post because I've done nothing but show my love for the culture. It's a f***ing dress. And it's beautiful."

In a conversation with the Washington Post, Daum said that she found the "absolutely beautiful" dress in a vintage store in Salt Lake City. She added that wearing the dress gave her a  "sense of appreciation and admiration for other cultures and their beauty." 

But many did not approve the dress as Daum did, who is obviously not Chinese.

"My culture is NOT your god**** prom dress," wrote tweeter Jeremy Lam. Added @JeannieBeanie99, "This isn't ok. I wouldn't wear a traditional Korean, Japanese or any other traditional dress and I'm Asian. I wouldn't wear traditional Irish or Swedish or Greek dress either. There's a lot of history behind these clothes."

Daum said that, however, she received immense support from her friends, teachers, and administrators. In fact, social media users from mainland China largely supported her, with one of the calling the move “cultural appreciation” rather than appropriation, reported The South China Morning Post.

On the show, the teenager reaffirmed that she wore the dress simply in admiration of Chinese culture and acknowledged that there is a "difference" between "cultural appropriation" and her actions.

“I feel that there’s a difference between wearing something with a different intent, because I personally, I wore the dress because I really respect the culture, and I believe it is very beautiful. And I wanted to show my respect and love by wearing [the] clothes in admiration of them.”

However, Daum said that she had to accept the fact that “there are going to be people that aren’t always going to be pleased,” while rejoicing that her friends, as well as her school principal, are proud of the way she handled herself.

Hosts of the morning show asked her if she would wear the dress again in the wake of criticism.

“Yes, I would definitely wear it again,” said Daum.

According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, the cheongsam is "a dress of southern Chinese origin with a slit skirt and a mandarin collar." The dress has evolved from the traditional outfit called qipao, which dates back to the Han Dynasty, according to Vogue magazine. Previously, it used to lack shape, but over the years, it has become more form-fitting.

The New York Times reported that reputed designer Ralph Lauren featured a cheongsam in a runway show in 2011. Back in November, First Lady Melania Trump wore one during a visit to Beijing.

Melissa Dawes, Daum's mother, commented on the photo in which the group holds their hands together was a reference to a 'meme' popularized by Ethan Klein, a YouTube sensation.

Although Daum was subjected to a scathing backlash by some individuals calling her out for a  “racist” and culturally insensitive choice of attire, there were quite a few good wishes she received for the dress.

"I am a Chinese woman. I support you." tweeted @msyinseattle. "You rocked that dress!!" @StephanieChan, who said she has Chinese heritage, told Daum, "As Chinese, we are very proud and delighted to share our cultural fashions with anyone around the world. I love how you wear the dress with confidence! You rock!"

Daum repeatedly reassured the public that she meant no harm in donning the Chinese outfit.

"I love and appreciate diversity and other cultures," she tweeted Saturday. "I mean no hate. I love everyone."