White Instagram model accused of pretending to be black to gain followers

A self-proclaimed Instagram model and influencer is facing criticism after some accused her of pretending to be black to get followers and endorsements.

A Twitter user posted two photos of 19-year-old Emma Hallberg, who is white, comparing her looks. In one photo, she has much lighter skin and straight hair. In another photo, her skin is darker.

Some social media users are accusing Hallberg of "blackfishing," a term used to describe someone who is pretending to be black.

Hallberg denies that. "I haven't done anything to make myself look darker. I get the tan naturally when I've been in the sun," she said.

Many who assume Hallberg was black or biracial allege she darkened her skin and altered her hair and lips in order to capitalize on beauty trends and get endorsements.

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One person wrote online, "Taking deals made for black girls and posing as black to manipulate and boost followers is a big deal. Blackface is a big deal when black people are out here being murdered because of our skin color."

"If a large group of people is telling you that something that you're doing is taking advantage of what is ultimately part of a racist legacy in worldwide and American history, then she should listen," said University of Chicago graduate student Lauren Jackson.

Hallberg said pretending to be black was never her intention and her looks are natural.

"I cannot change the way I was born because the things I've been accused of and the things people are mad about are things that are natural for me, like my hair, my lips, my nose, my face. I've never claimed to be black or biracial or anything else than white," she said.

Last year, Instagram influencer Jaiden Gumbayan received similar criticism about wearing blackface after appearing visibly darker in photographs.

Gumbayan apologized for "perpetuating a culture of appropriation."
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