I think we can all agree that cancel culture is ineffective at best. Celebrities faced with legitimate, concerning allegations are usually able to sneak back into public favor after a month or two of laying low followed by a creeping return to public life: Louis C.K. got a standing ovation at a Brooklyn comedy festival in June 2019 less than two years after being accused of sexual misconduct (and later mocking Parkland shooting survivors). Chris Brown won a Grammy a year after skipping the awards show because he beat Rihanna. James Charles has gained back all of the followers he lost after being called out by Tati Westbrook in April 2019. And it seems like nothing has been learned or lost.
At worst, cancel culture is just cyberbullying people for making mistakes instead of taking the time to actually educate them on why what they've done is wrong. As we look back on these offensive Halloween costumes worn by our favorite stars, let's remember that we've all made stupid decisions. Maybe not as stupid as Scott Disick dressing up as a sheik for laughs, but stupid nonetheless. Let's look at these truly ridiculous lapses in judgment as a learning opportunity and never, ever replicate them.
Euphoria's Halloween costumes were almost as epic as the show itself. We immediately recognized Lexi as Bob Ross and Jules's Claire Daines-inspired Romeo + Juliet look, but costumes like Rue's Marlene Dietrich 'fit and Kat's nun from Ms. 45 took cues from Hollywood classics that most of us didn't recognize. True to form, Maddy and Cassie both dressed as iconic sex workers. Cassie was inspired by Quentin Taratino's True Romance, but replicating Maddy's interpretation of Iris from Taxi Driver IRL might be in poor taste. Iris was a fourteen year old sex worker played by a twelve year old Jodie Foster, proving that some characters are best left in the annals of history.
Real Housewives of New York City star Luann de Lesseps is modern camp personified, but that doesn't mean she gets a pass for her racially insensitive Diana Ross costume in 2018. The Marge Simpson-esque afro should have been her first hint that this was more of a horror than an homage, while fans noticed Luann's skin tone seemed intentionally darker than usual. Luann apologized on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, saying she was horrified and never meant to hurt anyone's feelings, but denied she was unnaturally tan for any reason other than her love of bronzer. Sure, Jan. Khloe Kardashian was also called out for her tribute to the disco legend for wearing an oversized, curly wig to Diana's 75th birthday party in March 2019. The moral of the story: Black culture is not a costume.
Khloe isn't the only Kardashian who landed in hot water for dressing as a black musical legend. Kim Kardashian West's theme for Halloween 2017 was icons, paying homage to Cher, Madonna, and the late R&B star Aaliyah. Can you guess which costume was a bad idea? The Aaliyah look was her final outfit of Halloweekend, and Kim was called out for cultural appropriation by fans on Twitter. One user, @LAGrlCrookdSmle, summed up the issue with Kim's look in 140 characters or less: "Legend or not, Aaliyah is a black woman and you're not. It's offensive and you shouldn't push this limit."
If you thought Luann, Khloe, and Kim didn't think their offensive Halloween costumes through, wait until you hear what Julianne Hough wore in 2013. While dressing up as Uzo Aduba's character Crazy Eyes from Orange Is the New Black, Julianne actually sported blackface at a party. According to Us Weekly, Isla Fischer saw the Dancing with the Stars actress, rightfully freaked, and insisted Julianne wipe her makeup off in a bathroom before being photographed. The paparazzi got to Julianne first and although she apologized for the severe oversight, it's still amazing that a public figure in the 21st century was so ignorant to the historical implications of blackface.
Instagram via CBS
We have no idea how Shaun White didn't realize his "Simple Jack" costume would court controversy. If an offensive Halloween costume is so bad that we feel the need to put quotation marks around it for no reason other than pure discomfort, you know it's a doozy. The Tropic Thunder character was the subject of criticism when the film was first released, but this didn't tip the Olympic snowboarder off that doing the same thing again but worse would be a wipeout. Shaun deleted photos of his costume from social media and apologized to the Special Olympics via Twitter, writing that his costume was a last-minute decision and a wrong one.
Heidi Klum is the undisputed queen of Halloween, but her 2008 Kali costume was a rare misstep for the supermodel. Heidi was inspired by a trip to India she took with Seal the year before and an ill-advised suggestion by her assistant to dress as a scary Hindu goddess for her annual bash. The offensive Halloween costume was certainly frightening, but Hindu-American leaders were more horrified that Heidi posed as a sacred figure. Their statement, as reported by Gawker, encouraged Hollywood to explore Hinduism if they're ready to do so respectfully and seriously, not for decoration. "Casual flirting sometimes results in pillaging serious spiritual doctrines and revered symbols and hurting the devotees," they cautioned, adding that Kali is meant to be worshipped in temples, not used for dramatic effect.
Chris Brown's music still bops, but we're starting to suspect the "Freaky Friday" singer might be a terrible person. We're just kidding — we're completely aware Chris Brown is a terrible person. His offensive Halloween costume in 2012, a Taliban fighter, is just further proof that Chris never intended on rehabilitating his image or his soul after his legal troubles began in 2009 when he beat his then-girlfriend Rihanna. Chris responded to the costume backlash by telling people to get over it during an interview with Power 106. Classy, as always.
Honestly, we had no idea who Jemima Khan was before we saw this jarringly offensive Halloween costume in 2016. Jemima, who also goes by her maiden name Jemima Goldsmith, has a few claims to fame. Her ex-husband is currently the Prime Minister of Pakistan, she's Vanity Fair's European editor-at-large, and she's a UNICEF ambassador. We're pretty sure her Melania Trump costume, where she's being groped from behind by a plastic Trump mannequin and carrying a Trump 2016 sign, was meant as an insult to the Presidential candidate. We're all for insulting Donald Trump, the human cloud of noxious gas covering our country, but dressing as a woman being groped is more of a triggering misstep than an empowering political statement.
Tia Mowry told People Magazine about her plans to dress as a geisha for Halloween 2013. Somehow, no one pointed out that dressing in traditional Japanese garb for a costume was cultural appropriation until she posted her offensive Halloween costume on social media a few days later. Her husband joined her as a Samurai while her adorable child was unknowingly roped into the group look as a sushi roll. In the same vein as complaints about people dressing as Native Americans or the Romani, dressing as a cultural stereotype for fun is a Big No.
Instagram via Tumblr
Colton Haynes is best known for roles on Teen Wolf, American Horror Story, and Arrow, but he *should* be known for doing blackface multiple times and getting away with it. Colton has tried to become the new Heidi Klum of Halloween with elaborate and transformative costumes, but as Teen Vogue reported in 2017, Colton dressed up in some of the most shocking blackface we've ever seen for his 2011 Kanye West costume. He followed this performance with a 2013 brownface incident for an ill-advised Gandhi costume, then rounded out the trifecta as a blackface character in a My Chemical Romance music video. Colton has been going through it with addiction struggles, divorce, depression, and alcoholism, but we hope his road to recovery has included a crash course on racial sensitivity.
We're thrilled that Ashley Tisdale and her High School Musical co-star Vanessa Hudgens are still tight. We're less thrilled that Ashley dressed as a Diá de Muertos sugar skull for Baby V's 2016 Halloween party. Day of the Dead is a traditional Mexican celebration in remembrance of deceased family members that happens at the same time as Halloween, but that doesn't mean it's a Hallmark Holiday like its American analogy. We recommend watching Coco if you're unfamiliar with the holiday (or, you know, reading a book) and staying far, far away from other cultures' traditions when considering Halloween looks. We hope that Ashley kept her sheer bodysuit and high-slit skirt for another occasion so we can properly stan the rest of her outfit with impunity in the future.
Instagram via Express
If you're sensing a theme with a lot of these offensive Halloween costumes, you've probably caught on to the fact that a strange number of celebrities never learned that cultural appropriation is generally frowned upon. Ellie Goulding dressed as a sexy Native American chief in 2014, well after we collectively agreed as a culture that Native American headdresses needed to stay far away from Coachella, clubs, and anyone who isn't actually Native American. Express reported that Ellie removed photos of the costume from social media and pledged money to the Running Strong campaign, which supports Native American youths. Hilary Duff faced similar backlash when she attended a Halloween party as part of a Pilgrims and Native Americans couples costume with her then-boyfriend around the 2016 Dakota Pipeline Protests with no mention of the most recent instance of the U.S. screwing over indigenous people, adding injury to insult.
Instagram via Entertainment Tonight
In July 2015, a lion named Cecil wandered out of his sanctuary after being lured into unprotected territory by hunters who beheaded the 13-year-old lion before leaving his corpse rotting in the African sun. The murder sparked international outrage — Jimmy Kimmel even choked up on air recounting the incident for a news segment — but Ashley Benson thought it would be cute to dress as Cecil for her Halloween costume three months after the lion was slain. Spoiler Alert: It wasn't. Ashley changed her Instagram caption from "What do you guys think of this Cecil the Lion costume?" to just "lion" and donated proceeds from her brand deal with the manufacturer to the World Wildlife Fund.
Scott Disick may be a Lord, but he's definitely not a Sheik. The kinda-Kardashian dressed as an Arab Sheik in 2015 with the caption "We getting Arab money tonight," which wasn't funny when Busta Rhymes said it in 2008, either. Khloe Kardashian also shared Scott's costume on her Instagram, posing in a sexy cat costume, captioning it "Sheik Pussy." Buzzfeed reported on the ensuing controversy, with some people calling out Khloe's post specifically and others decrying the offensive Halloween costume as "not cool or funny." Scott is usually lowkey hilarious (and highkey hot), so we're hoping he doesn't make a massive misstep like this again. Although, we're pretty sure he will.
"Comedian" Jeffrey Ross told The Hollywood Reporter that the "P" on his baseball hat stood for "people who can take a joke," but we counter that we'll take his jokes if he ever makes a good one. The middle-aged insult comedian attended Comedy Central's Roast of Roseanne Barr as former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, who covered up evidence of defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky's habitual abuse of children. We'd give Jeffrey credit for not just showing up as Jerry, but considering he arrived flanked by two young men in towels and football helmets, we'd rather just give him the bird. Jokes about sexual abuse are best left in 2006 when Jeffrey was actually relevant.
Kylie Jenner's offensive Halloween costume shows sometimes, it's all about branding. In 2015, Kylie posted two pictures of her deeply cute costume, the first captioned "Eskimo" and the second "Snow Princess." If she had just stuck with "Snow Princess," this 'fit would instead be featured on a list titled Outfits I'm Buying RTFN, but by framing it as an "Eskimo" costume, Kylie has landed squarely in another appropriative costume controversy. Eskimos are indigenous people, not unlike Native Americans, and their culture is not a costume. You have to wonder how the Kardashians haven't hired better PR advisors with their billions of dollars.
As a rule, it's generally best to avoid dressing up as "fat" anyone. Miley Cyrus twerking was the biggest costume of 2013, which is problematic in and of itself, but Joan Rivers characteristically took things a bit too far with her look on Fashion Police. Joan was a controversial comic until the day she died who believed there was never a wrong time to make a joke, as she told New York Magazine, and unlike her male peers, people actually gave her sh*t for being rude while she was alive. Still, the double standards at play don't mean we have to always agree with her punches, and this was both tacky and uncomfortably sizeist.
Prince Harry went hard in his 20s. This was hot most of the time. Getting naked in Vegas and dancing on a pool table? We love it. Hooking up with a Real Housewife? Hilarious. Dressing up as a Nazi? The worst thing Harry's ever done. There's no excuse for making light of the Holocaust, no matter how much you're trying to p*ss off your royal grandparents. A significantly less famous Harry, Harry Hamlin, also wore a Swastika a full decade later for Halloween 2015 as part of a Sid Vicious costume and backlash reinforced that there's no place for that hateful symbol in today's society.
On the bright side, Prince Harry's offensive Halloween costume is proof that men can change! The handsome royal has become a model citizen following his courtship of Meghan Markle, who probably wouldn't tolerate sh*t like that anyway.
Twitter via E! Online
Leann Rimes preempted any backlash by posting her offensive Halloween costume with a Twitter disclaimer that she doesn't condone anything that has to do with her 2011 costume. Leann and her husband Eddie Cibrian dressed as a white trash couple, which is tacky and feels like they're making fun of the poor, but it's refreshing to see white culture be the butt of the joke for once. As Leann said, drinking and smoking during pregnancy isn't something we should be glorifying unless you're 100 percent sure your friends will know you're joking.
Tana Mongeau received enough hate for her JoJo Siwa look in 2018, but a list of offensive Halloween costumes wouldn't be complete without the controversy queen herself. We love Tana, but sexualizing a 15-year-old who publicly acts like a 12-year-old just feels icky. At the end of the day, it was a bad call, even if JoJo was apparently OK with it and the "Mongeau Siwa" pun was straight fire. Tana would've been wise to wait about three years before putting her Tana spin on the Siwa brand.